Monday, January 5, 2009

Priorities May Need Adjusting

The American Marketing Association and Lipman Hearne joined forces to produce a report on The State of Nonprofit Marketing. The report, released in July 2008 identified top priorities, strategies that are working, marketing metrics, and a look ahead at the challenges nonprofits face. More than one thousand nonprofit marketers participated in the survey, with a wide representation of various types of nonprofit organizations. The respondents were fairly senior in their roles within the organization.

What strikes me with perennial disappointment is that these marketers self-reported their most effective strategies for achieving their top priorities, but…

“the highest rated metric – event attendance and revenue – scored only average as indicators of success. While considered a top strategy, public relations efforts were not being effectively measured. Print and interactive advertising, often considered essential in brand building, were also among the lowest in being examined for identifiable, measurable results. In many cases, nonprofits were not measuring results at all. More than a quarter of survey participants were not monitoring web activity or public relations responses.”

In fact, when asked to rate their effectiveness in measuring various tactics, only two items earned a score of 3 (with 1 being poor and 4 being very effective). The remaining list of 19 items had scores ranging from 2.8 to 2.1. What seems unconscionable is that these same organizations year-after-year spend scarce resources on the same tactics without any relevant data to suggest if those tactics even work. Then they write their donation letters asking for more money.

Recently on a LinkedIn discussion forum, I defended non profits as being staffed by well-educated leaders who possess a skill-set that easily compares to their for-profit counterparts. And indeed, their sense of accountability is profoundly felt though some may decry poor results. The amazing things these leaders are able to accomplish with limited resources makes them far better managers than many of their budget-rich corporate peers.

But now I wonder if I was right to make such a claim.

Tracking event registrations, overall revenue, and member recruitment are excellent metrics when trying to assess the organization at macro levels, but non profits and cause-related organizations must do a better job of getting into the details such as tracking the effectiveness and impact of their advertising and direct mail. And these organizations must fully embrace digital tools and track and measure their search engine optimization, earned media, Web traffic, and blogs and tweets.

Maybe for 2009, the first priority should be to ensure all marketing is accurately and usefully measured.
-- David Kinard, PCM

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