2012 will be a big year for the expansion of the social business and business intelligence. It’s equally true for corporations as it is nonprofits. Are you prepared to tackle either?
Brian Sollis wrote a few weeks ago that “No organization, no matter how large or small, is ready for big data from a process, collaboration and innovation perspective.” This might be true at the macro level, but the organizations and corporations that are already moving in this direction, and those that make significant gains in both categories (more networked, more data savvy) will stand apart at the end of the year.
Networked to a new level
The “networked nonprofit” is Beth Kanter’s way of talking about nonprofits as social businesses. (Side note: her blog is a testament to the innovation, progress, and challenges in the field for non profits, and to her credit, brings a much needed emphasis on analysis and measurement to the topic.) What is a networked nonprofit anyway?
If you haven’t heard of Charity: water yet, a visit to their website will likely change your thinking about what your average nonprofit website should look like and possibly even how your online interaction with a nonprofit should be. More importantly, there are several elements of their web presence that stand out:
- Clear multi (literally) media strategy: the organization I work at, with 1,500 employees and a “network” of over 30,000 (not including the same number of donors) has about 30,000 likes on Facebook. This is huge progress from where we were a year ago, but when you then look at Water’s 200k likes you get a different sense of scale. Facebook is just part of their media arsenal, matched with what I would call a best-in-class blog and more. They’ve invested heavily in their web and social media presence, and it’s paying off. They also understand how important digital is to their financial success – just look at the description for the Director of Development’s role.
- Innovative web page: lots of organizations are revamping their webpages these days, and it’s badly needed. Yet, with all the work that goes into them, I think they’re missing the boat. Water nailed it on the head: what they do, their impact, and why they’re different. Their ability to get all of that on about 2000 pixels is just staggering. It’s beautiful, it presents a clear brand, and it makes good use of a mix of text, data, and mixed media.
- Engaged online community: the “mywater” section is on par with Obama’s grassroots online fundraising community. There are groups, friends, campaigns, all built right into the infrastructure of the site. It’s the best of this class that I’ve seen, and the early phase of a trend that 2012 will see a lot more of. If you’ve been to Fundly or Causes, you know crowd-sourced fundraising is only picking up speed and more orgs will try to do this in house than with Fundly if they’re smart (all about doing more with the data).
Make-A-Wish (MAW) Foundation’s website doesn’t look like your average nonprofit landing page either. It’s got social built in deeply, is heavy on the multi-media, and is pretty crisp. That said, it wouldn’t surprise me if they get an overhaul in the next year as well. However, I’m spotlighting them here because of something I’ve read about the analytics strategy behind MAW’s digital team. If these two quotes don’t make you want to read on, then you’re in the wrong place.
Make-A-Wish Foundation monitors analytics, does tests, and tweaks its website (www.wish.org). For many years, wish.org primarily served as a direct response promotional channel, with every change designed to shorten the path to a transactional relationship. Our homepage reflected that theme, always displaying 10 or 12 ways to donate dollars or air miles, buy products to support wish granting, or launch fundraisers on our behalf….
Recently, we adopted a new vision for wish.org and our online channels, including social networks. Our focus has shifted from transactional to connecting and engaging key constituencies over the long-term, and empowering them as brand ambassadors and advocates.
Read the full story over at Beth’s blog.
The key takeaway is that they were able to follow through on a strategic and vision shift because of their understanding of digital insights and willingness to test, iterate, and improve. Making over your website is nice. Knowing that it led to more donations, more volunteers, more whatever is the key.
I’d like to see these numbers double by the end of the year, and with mycharity, I feel pretty good about that prediction. Successfully networked non-profits will take full advantage of the rise of web 2.0 and lead the pack throughout the year. Traditional fundraising will still be very important (large gifts don’t come from online donors), but there’s a nearly untapped resource out there, and the orgs to figure out it best will reap the rewards.
Are you ready for big data?
Yes! This needs to be your answer for several reasons:
- The era of digital marketing means guess-marketing isn’t allowed. It’s inefficient, ineffective, and donors and boards will expect more. Marketing analytics is a big part of the era of big data, and it’s getting more sophisticated with more inputs from mobile and social media (or mobile social media!). Furthermore, you owe it to your donors and stakeholders not to send untested generalized junk. You wouldn’t do it for a teammate, so don’t do it for the people who keep you in business.
- Donors expect more than token thank you letters. They expect to be a part of a community. Sure, it’s easy to donate a few dollars here, or “like” something and vote for something online, but increasingly donors want to be engaged in the mission as well. We’re not just talking volunteerism here. Smart CRMs will help you understand your donor base better and make the connections they need to stay involved and become your champions and advocates.
- Your biggest supporters have a shifting paradigm for what engagement and money can and should do. The Arab spring, the “Occupy” movement, the takedown of Verizon’s $2 fee and BOA’s fees all point to the power of passionate and collective action. Your donors are going to want to know how your building a movement, not just an organization, and your ability to measure that and tell a clear narrative matters more.
- Overhead is becoming less taboo. This is so great for so many reasons, but it means you’ll still need to be able to better understand how your work in every business unit is creating value.
- 2012 will be the year of data. Data-driven decision making, data-driven marketing and fundraising, and the need to better communicate data. Where do you fall on the spectrum for each?
This is going to be an exciting year for the non-profit sector. My favorite quotes from the Philanthropy article above just reinforce these points:
“Stop referring to our industry by what we don’t do. Not-for-profit is a tax status, not an operating model. We are social-benefit organizations that produce significant value.”
— Howard Kucher, executive director, the Evergreen Project, a health-care advocacy group in Baltimore
“2012 must mark the year we get in front of technology, instead of behind it. Let’s resolve to unleash the full potential of social media and Internet marketing for fund raising, community organizing, and advocacy.”
— Darian Rodriguez Heyman, author of Nonprofit Management 101