About Himanshu Sareen

Himanshu Sareen is the CEO of Icreon Tech, a global technology firm that has worked strategically with multiple not-for-profits, including the New York Road Runners, the International Labor Organization, the MLB Players Association and Columbia University.

The Three-Pronged Approach for Tracking Your Marketing Efforts

Marketing AdviceWhile good storytelling is the baseline attribute of quality non-profit marketing, it’s important to remember that good storytelling doesn’t occur in a vacuum. When you use your story to draw in more constituents and donors, you’re only taking the first step. Beyond that, you need to refine your storytelling efforts through careful tracking that allows you to iterate and improve your current approach. But how do you determine what’s worth tracking, and how should you go about tracking it?

Every non-profit digital marketing campaign needs to implement metrics if they’re to measure and refine their approach. Whether it involves search results, email marketing or social media, there are many areas that allow organizations to gain insights into their efforts—provided they know how to read the signs.

But first things first—before you’ve determined your marketing performance indicators, the first order of business is to map out your game plan. For this, it helps to look at your marketing goals on a macro and micro level. From a wide perspective, you should determine a few overarching marketing goals that you’d like to accomplish over the course of a year. Whether this involves increasing donor retention rates, cultivating partnerships with other organizations, or expanding your volunteer base, it’s important to put your foot down on specific, achievable milestones so that you can measure your success and make future improvements.

From here, you’ll need to take a closer look at your goals and then determine the specifics of how you’ll be measuring their success. This is a two-part process, which requires both the right metrics, as well as the right tools to measure them. These vary based on where the tracking is taking place, and below we’ll cover three approaches: Social, Email, and Search.

Search

When it comes to nonprofit metrics, the website is your prime domain, and the one you’ll want to be keeping closest track of. By keeping tabs on the details of your search traffic, you’ll be able to find out more about your website and learn whether your efforts are working in other areas as well, including those in the Social sphere. From referrers, to poorly-performing pages, user location and user habits, search analytics tools allow you to take a deep dive into how people are interfacing with your organization.

Google Analytics is the be-all end-all of search analytics tools, but the struggle comes in using it effectively. The brunt of this work is done in the planning process we discussed earlier: While Analytics will provide you with a wealth of information, the best thing you can do is find the statistics that are most relevant to your goals, and try to improve those accordingly. Luckily, Google offers discounts for nonprofit users – something that can prove very handy for any organization.

Possible Metrics to Track and Improve:

  • Total Site Traffic
  • New Vs. Returning Visitors
  • Referral Sources
  • Donation Conversion Rate (Unique Monthly Visitors divided by Total Monthly Conversions)
  • Donation Page Bounce Rate

Social

Because non-profit organizations have such enticing stories to offer their audiences, follower numbers, page “Likes” and +1’s can be satisfying to track. But keep in mind that social benchmarks can often be deceitful, as followers don’t necessarily equate to increased conversions, and vice versa. We suggest tracking social metrics on less of an independent basis, instead working to determine how your social efforts are affecting your other efforts. However, it’s still very important to get a baseline idea of your audience’s social participation, and always worth it to try and grow these efforts.

When it comes to social tracking tools, try free options like Facebook Insights and Twitter Analytics. Offering engagement numbers, reach statistics, and information about visits, these integrated tracking tools allow you to learn more about your audience, as well as how they’re deciding to engage with your content.

For a more in-depth approach, try implementing tools like Radian6 or Sysomos. While these solutions will cost you more than the free options of Facebook Insights and Twitter Analytics, they act as more generalized tools for developing a social intelligence around your organization. We recommend these for larger nonprofits who need to be able to view all aspects of their constituency’s social involvement.

Possible Metrics:

  • Likes
  • Retweets
  • Comments
  • @Replies
  • Shares
  • Sentiment

Email

Email is one of the most effective ways that nonprofits can reach out to their constituencies. Compared with other methods, it’s quick, it’s inexpensive, and it yields a high return on investment. One of email’s other big strengths is that it’s easy to make adjustments in comparison to, say, a website.

Most of the tools you’ll use for tracking email will come built-in with your existing software. Most Constituent Relationship Management platforms like Salesforce, Zoho, and Raiser’s Edge, for instance, all have integrated email tracking options. However, you may also opt for a different service to send and track emails, like MailChimp, Constant Contact or iContact. These tools will all help you to keep track of all your email tracking needs, resulting in better a more guided overall effort.

Possible Metrics to Track and Improve:

  • Delivery Rate (Amount of emails sent – Amount of email bouncebacks)
  • Clickthrough Rate (Amount of emails sent / Number of users who have clicked an included link)
  • Unsubscribe Rate
  • Open Rate



Back to Basics: Improving Your Nonprofit’s Online Presence at the Strategic Level

Back to Basics: Improving Your Nonprofit’s Online Presence at the Strategic LevelI’ve worked with all types of organizations across multiple industries, helping to provide technological guidance and to build up sturdy infrastructures that will improve digital presences. One of the most rewarding consulting experiences of all, though, has been working with nonprofits. There’s passion behind every nonprofit organization, and it extends to the donors and volunteers as much as it applies to the employees.

In my experience, there has been one main challenge that confronts any nonprofit digital strategy: How do we take advantage of the goodwill and passion toward a nonprofit organization using digital strategy? It’s not an easy question. Most nonprofits have limited resources, and with literally thousands of strategic options at your disposal, it can be extremely difficult to find an approach that best suits your organization.

The People Element: Planning for the Future

The digital planning process starts with people, and sometimes the act of swaying their opinions can be your biggest hurdle. Oftentimes, decision-makers at nonprofits don’t view digital strategy as the optimal route for improving their organizations. The line of logic is as follows: If direct mail and phone calls are working, why should we try to fix what isn’t broken?

The problem with this idea is that someday very soon, any strategy which doesn’t implement a digital approach will be broken. Statistics show that online giving is increasing dramatically on a year-over-year basis, and that mobile presences are becoming absolutely essential across the board.

To convince decision-makers on the importance of digital strategy, open up an honest dialogue with them. Most of the time it’s not new dollars that need to be spent, it’s just a matter of moving the money from one place to another. Provide statistics, metrics, and infographics that show them the facts. You’ll do best to keep the conversation in the fiscal space, since this is where their motivations tend to dwell. Once they’re on your side, one of the most difficult parts of the process is over and you can get started on planning in earnest.

Digital Strategy for Longevity

If you’re thinking of upgrading your digital strategy, the odds are that your old approach is either dated, in need of a few tweaks, or completely non-existent. Whatever your situation, always keep the long-term in mind as you build a new plan. Don’t ask what you want your online presence to look like today, think three years, five years down the road. You want to make sure your digital strategy is improving your nonprofit from top to bottom. Brand leadership, customer service, revenue generation—think of how your digital tools will help to achieve these overarching goals, and plan around that.

One great way to boost your digital longevity is to leverage your organization’s human capital. You might have an IT staffer or consultant to map out and create your online presence, but in the end, your employees are going to be the ones creating content and interfacing with the software. Use your consultant or in-house IT professional as a mentor. Ask them questions and learn the technology as best as you can, because in the end, education and user adoption is the best way to create a lasting online presence.

Digital Strategy for Value

As a nonprofit, there are certain realities you’ll have to face as you begin looking for new tech to better your company. The biggest reality—and the one we’re all probably most familiar with—is the issue of budgeting. Whatever you choose, it needs to be essential, it needs to be effective, and most of all, it needs to be affordable. But before you go out searching for the least pricey options to fulfill your basic needs, remember: The product that comes cheapest is not necessarily the product that’s the most valuable. In technology especially, you get what you pay for.

Strategizing for value takes research and time. Another approach to take when planning for value is to look at the latest trends in the market to create an informed and insightful strategy. There is a wealth of data available, and most of it is extremely helpful, for instance:

  • Monthly donors give 42% more in year than donors who provide one-time gifts.
  • For every 1,000 fundraising emails sent a nonprofit raises $17.
  • Custom-branded donate pages raise 6x more money than generic giving pages.

In addition to new trends, try to leverage new technologies for your purposes as well. Most of these technologies were created with the express purpose of making your life easier, and they can provide efficiency and value in ways that older products weren’t capable of.

One of the most prevalent new web technologies is responsive web design. RWD typically requires good designers and good developers to produce, but it looks spectacular when accessed on both desktop and mobile. What’s more, RWD has been shown to actually double giving on mobile devices. This is one example of great value in nonprofit digital strategy: It fulfills multiple functions, and it leads to better results along the way.

Improving digital strategy and online presence begins with planning and relies on an active, devoted user base. By seeking out technologies that will that provide your organization with longevity and value, you can develop high-quality digital presences that are truly suited for the nonprofit space

 

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