As a lead consultant in Convio’s strategic services group, Miriam works with clients to embed strategy as a cornerstone of program and campaign management and drive understanding of factors impacting program performance, constituent relationships, as well as overall market trends. Her passion is helping clients use data-driven insight to inform decision-making. Prior to joining Convio, Miriam most recently spent over three years leading strategic agency engagements at a large customer relationship marketing agency. Miriam’s experience spans a broad variety of nonprofit clients, spanning the health, social and human services, and animal welfare verticals.
In her free time, she is also obsessed with everything social media and mobile, and is always wondering: “what’s next” in the marketing and constituent relationships.
Posted by Miriam Kagan at Aug 13, 2012 11:49 AM CDT
Categories: Constituent Empowerment, Email Marketing, Nonprofit Trends, Social Media
...Well actually they do. But lately, I've noticed an interesting trend: I post something on Facebook that I think is fascinating, hilarious, or some deep revelation into the mysterious world of Miriam Kagan, and my social sphere reacts in...dead silence. Failed in my effort to get instantaneous gratification at my own personal awesomeness through likes and comments, I am subsequently delighted and confused by friends who say things like "your Facebook status the other day made me laugh out loud" or "you know, it seems from your Facebook posts like your coworkers are really funny" a few days later, when we are say having coffee.
While my inner social addict silently pouts—"if you liked my status so much, why didn't you actually 'like' it and show the rest of my social universe how awesome you think I am?”— the fundraiser and strategist in me can't help but think how this kind of behavior and interaction applies to ways nonprofits are trying to engage with their constituents.
Advice abounds about tricks and tips for engaging the social sphere. You should use certain key words. Post your comments in the form of a question. Post photos—people like pretty things. Ask for photos – people think they are good at taking them. Respond to comments. Retweet. Pin things. Pin things in a very specific way. Make videos. Annotate them. Animate them. And all of these are certainly appropriate tactics to be found in the social marketing toolkit for constituent engagement.
The part that's still very tricky for most is measuring the impact of these activities. So we start with the industry-wide best practices: How many people like you on Facebook? How many should? Is 10K enough, too little, too many? Not sure?
Try calculating a ratio of how many people comment and/or like and/or share your posts divided by how many like your page. So maybe that gets you an “engagement” ratio. Similarly, how many retweets? Hashtag mentions? Video views? Clicks on embedded links? Conversions? If your embedded donation form isn't getting traffic, does that mean your FB page has no ROI?
A little trickier, but doable, is calculating your most engaged supporters' social media reach: if they repost your post, how big is their network? If they share your video? Retweet you? What is your followers' average Klout score? Metrics, metrics, metrics.
But there is a different kind of reach that is much harder to calculate: the word of mouth/human network reach. How do you measure the impact of motivating and activating your network offline or via word of mouth and the direct or indirect influence social media efforts are having? How do you value the actual impact of your “inactive” social media connections?
Marketers are certainly working hard to figure this out. Media mix attribution models attempt to measure the relative influence of “supporting” channels to ones where an action or purchase is actually made (maybe I saw the promotion on FB but didn't click on anything, then bought an item from the catalog). Social CRM and social media appends attempt to connect social media with constituent and consumer profiles to track integrated interactions (note: this is mostly only possible for consumers with relatively lax profile settings. As in, if you can't find me on Facebook, you can't connect me to the Miriam you have in your CRM).
While measuring the ways humans chose to spread information and WHY on any given day they chose a specific method to do so may never be a 100% data driven, there are some additional approaches to consider in trying evaluating the indirect influence of your social media efforts:
And PS: not that you asked, but my most popular Facebook post ever (generating over 30 comments and a subsequent 5 hour debate over dinner with some friends), was from a question I remembered a professor asked us during an ethics and values class in college: “If someone handed you an envelope that had your entire future written down in it, would you open it and read it?” Would you?
Posted by Miriam Kagan at May 16, 2012 06:35 AM CDT
Budgets. The mere mention of them can cause entire departments to suddenly come down with the flu. It can sometimes feel like we are on one endless budget cycle—one that starts 6 months in advance (hey, we need a draft lots of folks can provide input on), goes through 900,000 revisions and scenarios, and then at some point, leads into potentially monthly reforecasts when cash flow doesn't line up to within 3% of initial forecast... No wonder everyone gets so sick!
Many of us may be in budget season as we speak. It's now almost the exception to the rule that someone actually lives on a calendar year. Trying to keep track of clients’ fiscal years can be a fun mental exercise for some of us consultants to stay alert…
But I digress. The thing about budgets is that as they keep getting more complicated—integrated programs, cross-department planning, multiple vendors, hundreds of affiliates with revenue share to be accounted for, and all sorts of big unknowns like “the economy”, can make for one complicated spreadsheet (with multiple tabs mind you). And that's just version 1, scenario 1, baseline growth rate, pilot affiliate roll up.
As we swim in the complexities, I thought it might be useful to point to some of the less complicated details that can be easy to overlook, but, when not accounted for, can make a pretty big impact to the bottom line, especially the expense side of things, that, frankly, no one wants to have to explain to the Board. If you're going to have to build a 97 page deck, you don't want it to be because:
Confession time: when I am not thinking about everything fundraising, I am a part-time energy economy dork. Meaning, I spend a lot of time thinking about carbon consumption, energy mix, whether it will be resource scarcity or technological progress that might one day wean humanity from carbon…
As a direct marketer, I’ve spent a large portion of my career in traditional marketing (Direct Mail (DM), Telemarketing (TM), and a little direct response TV). Early on, my inner tree hugger had to reconcile the millions of trees that it took to get DM campaigns with 5% response rates out the door with the cold reality that it was this sort of marketing that was the lifeline of many organizations’ revenue. I secretly hoped that at least those other 95% recycled….And I couldn't help but draw parallels in my mind about marketing channel mix and energy.
In my mind, the comparison works this way:
In the energy marketplace, coal and gas are still king. Get rid of either one of these and most of our houses won't have electricity, most of our cars won't drive. Over the years, both energy sources have become more efficient—gas mileage for cars has improved, coal power plants have been forced to implement all sorts of clean coal technology, but we may at some point run out of both while complete non-reliance is years, and likely decades away. Sure, there are the outliers: people living “off the grid”, whole villages in Africa using solar cookers, but largely, we all sigh and agree that while progress is made toward other forms of energy, coal and oil are in our lives.
Starting to sound pretty familiar? So direct mail and telemarketing (offline) for the large part rule the roost. Perhaps not the cleanest or most glamorous, but they power the revenue engine. And sure, there are also the nuclear believers—folks who've made DRTV work on a sustainable basis, but like the Frances of the world, they tend to be the outliers in the traditional revenue power equation.
And then there is the current energy industry darling, email, ahem, I mean natural gas…. The cleaner, cheaper, newer kid on the block, with the potential to replace some of the older sources, and in some instances, doing so quickly. It is also the one folks who are used to coal and gas are most comfortable with. Traditional marketers have for the large part embraced email as part of their marketing mix and are recognizing this channel as increasingly the driver of growth in revenue, donors, and reach for organizations.
What about solar, wind, and hydrogen? They are the energy gold rushes of the modern century, with folks thinking there are millions to be made, but turning out to be more complicated, slower to take off, and requiring huge economies of scale. And the reality of these industries is even they will never be truly independent--we need to account for what might happen on non-windy days, or cloudy ones. Under the right circumstances (disaster fundraising for example) there is money to be made, and the technologies are evolving, but for most organizations they still constitute a very small percentage of the revenue mix and are mainly a constituent engagement tool for now.
How do countries (and organizations) approach energy (channel) mix in an environment that seems more in flux than ever? I am not going to claim to have the answer, especially because for the largest countries (organizations), this is the more difficult to navigate with so many stakeholders involved. But a few thoughts:
Bottom Line: Not everyone (or organization) has the same access to, or need of, the various fuel types (channel types). So it is important to understand what is necessary and achievable within your own environment, and not rushing to be a fast follower just because everyone else is doing it. In the end, it will take a blending of each to establish energy (fundraising) equilibrium, and the recipe could be quite different from one nation (organization) to the next.
Why do we all do what we do every day? That seems like it should be easy to answer: depending on the mission of our organization, it might be because we care about animals, want to cure a certain disease, or depending on your role, maybe because you want to be the standard-bearer in the industry around social media, or fundraising, etc.
Often, it seems, however, we forget what we believe in as the minutia of what it takes to get things done every day takes over. We start to campaign for campaign's sakes. We worry about not meeting budgets because Boards will get upset. We think of donors in terms of when was the last time they gave us a gift, rather than WHY they gave it to us in the first place. And so the why we do what we do every day gets muddied.
I have been thinking about this since I watched an awesome TED talk by Simon Sinek about what he calls “the Golden Circle.” His premise is beautifully simple: companies, individuals, and organizations that succeed lead with what they believe in and why they do what they do, rather than selling products, chasing glory, etc. His examples are mostly commercial: why does Apple succeed over say, Dell or HP? Why did the Wright Brothers win the flight race when so many others were better positioned to take flight?
Simon's talk got me thinking about what we (the collective nonprofit space), do every day. We certainly give a lot of homage to mission, but how well are we communicating what we believe in a way that appeals to the WHY not the HOW? Donors and constituents may seem fickle. It's hard to tell what motivates them, so we like to throw the entire kitchen sink at them. How much we've invested in XYZ, how many people/animals we've helped, what our 5-10-15 year annual fund goal is…but how much of that do you, as a donor or constituent of your favorite organization, actually remember?
Compare this to the campaigns/causes that seem to come out of nowhere and explode, go viral, start a whole movement…and we all wonder: why? What is their secret sauce?
Listening to Simon's talk, it seemed to me that answer was clear. These campaigns communicate, with little effort and little need for explanation, what they believe in, and in a way that connects with those who believe in the same thing in a most fundamental way.
Think about some of the iconic or fastest spreading campaigns and causes of our industry:
Beat Cancer. Enough said right? We believe cancer can be beaten. (No note of how, where, what, just that it CAN be). How much more do you need to know (put your constituent hat, not your “behind the scenes marketer” hat on)?
The pink ribbon. Anyone wearing a pink ribbon communicates a simple message (regardless of which organization's pink ribbon they are wearing): Breast cancer is bad. I believe in curing it.
Charity: water. Why the success? Because the founder fundamentally believes in his ability to make a difference and his network believes in him.
This kind of “belief” messaging is even more important for social media: there are short attention spans, limited characters, competing media, and so much clamor. Communicating WHY you believe rather than what and how you are going to go about doing about it can be the key to capturing someone's attention.
So what do you believe? And, more importantly, how many times a day do you, your co-workers, your organization, say that out loud, post it in the office, start meetings with this in mind?
Posted by Miriam Kagan at Feb 02, 2012 09:00 AM CST
Categories: Constituent Empowerment, Nonprofit Trends, Technology
Did you really just read that?? Is this woman crazy? While I do admit to being a little nuts at times (my mother would say all the time), on this point you gotta trust me.
When it comes to becoming an organization focused on delighting constituents (i.e. constituent engagement), implementing and optimizing CRM (a constituent relationship management system), is the easy part if you work at an organization whose culture isn't constituent centric. And chances are that if you work at a nonprofit that's been around 10+ years, has 10+ employees, and 10+ constituents, that's you.
Organizational change and evolution from a business unit, process, and progran-centered culture to one that revolves around the constituent and donor experience is a hot topic, with lots of advice being dispensed from very reputable sources. Consultants like myself are full of helpful advice on just how to do that. “Pivot toward constituent engagement,” we like to tell you. Or, “management must embrace and imbue a constituent centric attitude throughout the organization.” Last time you were at the pharmacy, did you pick up the constituent engagement attitude dispenser in the specialty item aisle?
My point here is not to down my own kind. Rather, I want to acknowledge that the change required by an organization to transform to make meaningful use of CRM is more difficult than we'd often care to admit.
Here are a few observations on ways to start thinking about how to make that change.
So, step 1: figure out who at your organization is in a position to say “we are doing this and that's that.” See what you can to get them on board. Use case studies, board members, major donors, promises of home-baked goods, to champion your cause.
Could be. But look at your internal structure and ask yourself: how are my employees incentivized? Does our culture and reward structure support collaborating to engage constituents?
Let's say your development director owns offline marketing and your director of communications owns online marketing and online giving. How would you behave if you were the development director with $100K lying around as the fiscal year winds down? Would you give it to the marketing person to use for an online stewardship effort that they could claim the “benefit” of in their bottom line, or would you pre-pay some of your future production costs to make your own future bottom line look better? I bet the answer would depend on how your performance would be measured.
So step 2: Ask yourself: How do we measure staff performance? Do they each have a number to meet? Or, are they collaborating toward an organization-wide goal and everyone wins if the goals are met?
So Step 3: Change what you can.
In fact, even if you don't have that problem, you probably don't want to swallow the whole constituent engagement cake whole. Start with digestible bites. That's how we do it when we're working with our customers to move to CRM – in phases.
Maybe you can bring together the events and advocacy folks, and get them to create a combined calendar--sort out the “this name is mine” business (let's say we can all agree that during a legislative session, advocacy wins if someone has to).
Or, bring together your communications and development teams to align offline production schedules with online message planning. Yes, your offline folks need to know 4-6 months in advance. How do you make that happen?
Your daily affirmation:
A final point here, and I want everyone to look in the mirror and repeat this until you believe it:
Unless you've never heard the word CRM, you are not behind yet.
Constituent-engagement is the holy grail of our industry. Yes, there are the leaders and the laggards, but, if you are thinking about it, dreaming about it, trying it, you're in the race. Don't feel like you are lagging behind because everyone else has it figured out. They don't. Even the fancy pants commercial folks don't have it all figured out. For proof, ask one of their CMOs or CTOs about social media interaction attribution (and duck).
Interested to see how fellow nonprofit are measuring up (and rating themselves) in the CRM race? Check out Convio's Integrated Multi-Channel Marketing Report.
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