nonprofit PR measurement roadblocksWhile nonprofit organizations often face PR measurement roadblocks, a path lays open for improving their measurement and evaluation results, according to new research. Although most nonprofit PR departments lack the resources of for-profit businesses, most enjoy support from leadership. They also have sophisticated  PR measurement methods and tools at their disposal, concludes research from the Institute for Public Relations.

The research synthesized existing findings from five recent surveys and analyzed content of 15 years of nonprofits’ reports. These are some of the key findings:

PR Measurement Practices of Nonprofits

Nonprofit organizations understand the importance of measurement and evaluation: However, while 92% measure their work, fewer (71%) measure their communications.

Communication professionals at nonprofits tend to measure metrics that focus on output, or how many mentions they achieved, rather than attitude changes, or their impact on financial and strategic results. Favorite metrics include social media engagement (retweets, likes), website activity, social media mentions, and traditional media placements

Nonprofits conduct more quantitative research than qualitative research, while the bigger the organization is, the more qualitative and quantitative research organization conducts.

Most nonprofit organizations (84%) spend less than the recommended amount of 5% to 10% of their budgets on measurement and evaluation.

Nonprofits cite several barriers to evaluating their communications, especially lack of staff/people time, budget limitations and lack of time.

Nonprofits Appreciate the Value of Measurement

Most CEO and chairman (80%) say they believe that communications measurement is important, and most top leaders (70%) rely on communications measurement when deciding how to allocate funds. Most nonprofits say the executive leadership or program staff are primarily responsible for conducting evaluations; only 6% have internal evaluation staff and just 2% rely on an external evaluator. Top leadership appears to supportive communications measurement, but expect their employees to conduct the measurement, the report concludes.

Nonprofits have Hope for Measurement Improvement

Despite nonprofits’ limited PR measurement, PR scholars and professionals have developed cutting-edge methods to measure the impact of PR and to use measurement findings to improve messages and channels, writes report author Jungkyu Rhys Lim, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Maryland studying public relations and strategic communication.

“The potential of measuring public relations’ impacts have not fully realized. It is future nonprofit public relations professionals and scholars’ roles to work together with measurement specialists to develop rigorous measurement and innovate use,” Lim states.

Other PR experts point out that nonprofits can gain substantial benefits from media monitoring and social media listening. Save the Children Action Network (SCAN), credits social media listening for one of its most successful email campaigns ever.

“Time and again, social listening has provided us with compelling information to speak with our supporters about issues they care about, when they care about them,” says SCAN Director Diana Onken.

Nonprofits can control costs by working with a monitoring service that offers month-to-month agreements rather than one that binds them into long-term contracts. In addition, selecting vendors that can customize their services to the nonprofit’s needs can help the organization avoid paying for unneeded services.

Bottom Line: Nonprofit leaders recognize the importance of communications measurement, but their employees often face difficulties finding the time and funding necessary to complete PR measurement tasks. Tapping cost-effective media monitoring and measurement services can help them overcome that challenge.