Measuring Matters | npENGAGE

Measuring Matters

By on Apr 13, 2010


There is a continuous discussion going on in the nonprofit space that’s centered on measurement. We all know that measurement and determining return on investment (ROI) is important so we’re thinking about how to determine what success looks like in the social media world. Over the years nonprofits have figure out how to measure a lot of things. Direct mail and email are at the top of that list.

Measuring Matters in Social MediaAs you read this you’re probably thinking about some of the things you currently measure to determine if you’re being successful in your area of focus. Let’s look at a few of the big ones for nonprofits.

Direct Mail

A tried and true way of communication and fundraising. Direct mail has been around since the invention of the modern address from what I can tell and it’s a huge part of most nonprofit fundraising programs. There are countless nonprofits, consultants and companies who know how to create a successful direct mail program.

We are sophisticated enough to know what metrics to measure, what tactics to deploy and how to apply many different “formulas” to the data (see something like RFM: A Formula for Greater Direct Mail Success by Blackbaud). This allows nonprofits to look at the data in a way similar to the below …

“If you have 1 million names in your mailing list and a variable mailing cost of 50 cents per piece. You typically get a respectable 1.6 percent response rate and a $32 average gift. So each time you mail, you spend $500,000 and bring in $512,000, for net revenue of $12,000.”

That’s measurable.


Email marketing is also fairly “baked” in that it’s been around since the 80‘s. The nonprofit space sees the value and has figure out what to measure and how to take appropriate action based on the metrics being captured.

We’ve tinkered enough to know that our list size and the number of emails we send  matter. We also know that we should be tracking the number of people emailed and measuring the number of bounce backs, unsubscribes, opens, click throughs and response rates (i.e. donations).

There’s reports like the NTEN 2009 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study that help us track industry trends over the past few years. (p.s Their 2010 version hits the web near you on April 29th. Check for more details.)

Again, that’s measurable.

Social Media

Next, insert social media as a communication and fundraising channel. Web sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, MySpace, and others are fairly new, but they are powerful. They are changing the game.

Social networking now accounts for 11 percent of all time spent online in the US. A total of 234 million people age 13 and older in the U.S. used mobile devices in December 2009. Twitter processed more than one billion tweets in December 2009 and averages almost 40 million tweets per day. Over 25% of U.S. internet page views occurred at one of the top social networking sites in December 2009, up from 13.8% a year before.” (Wikipedia social media stats)

As with any new medium, nonprofit organizations are in the early stages of figuring out how to use the new tools effectively, measure the right things and determine what success looks like.

Questions like “How do I figure out who’s active on Facebook and exists on my direct mail or email list?” or “How do I capture social networking data about my donors?” come to mind. (see Do You Know Your Supporters)?

We’re in the stage of the game where tools matter. Measuring is tough to do because there are dozens of prominent social web sites and the tools are always changing. Not to mention the fact that the tools are even less mature than the social sites which make capturing and mining the data that much more difficult. Social media is like the online version of the wild wild west.

To that end we’ve started capturing and measuring for our customer. It’s early, but we’re seeing some interesting and exciting results. Check out Making Event Participants More Successful with Social Media Tools.

What questions do you have? What type of measuring tools are you using to figure out if your efforts with social media and social networking are paying off?

Photo by Tom M. Schenkenberg


Frank Barry, formerly worked at Blackbaud helping nonprofits use the Internet for digital communication, social media, and fundraising. He’s worked with a diverse group of organizations including LIVESTRONG, United Methodist Church, American Heart Association, Big Brothers Big Sisters, ChildFund Int’l, InTouch Ministries, Heifer Int’l, University of Notre Dame and University of Richmond. Along with writing for industry publications like Mashable and Social Media Today, Frank facilitates discussions, presents solo sessions and organizes panels for industry conferences such as NTC, SXSW, BBCon and numerous others. When he’s out and about he enjoys talking to interesting people about how they are changing the world – check out his interviews. Say Hi on Twitter – @franswaa or Google+

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