Both for-profit and non-profit executives are seeking to maximize engagement by their constituents. In the 21st century, Nonprofit executives need to be able to monitor everything from social media, loyalty, & other factors to measure engagement. In this article, we discuss the challenge with measuring the metrics of engagement.
The Challenge with Engagement Metrics
There are all kinds of ways to engage your members and donors. Unlike revenue, expenses, and member count, there is no standard, quantifiable method for measuring engagement in nonprofits today ( 501(c) 3 or associations). As a result, this critical aspect of many nonprofits is generally unmeasured, and those few who do attempt to measure engagement often rely on a multitude of inconsistently tabulated metrics.
Is it by Facebook likes or Twitter followers? Is it one to one calls or communications with your members? Is it meetings participated in?
While these hard metrics are easy to count, the more valuable metric of consumer buy-in is the most important. For that reason, many agencies and associations are using CRM database software to map engagement and track growing influence. In my mind, a unified database software will assist executives but certainly it’s difficult to do.
Tracking Transactions With Your Database
The easiest way to track engagement is usually via the measurement of transactions such as sales, dues paid, renewals, events attended, donations, or even things like emails sent/opened etc. When more customers are demanding your product or service, you know that your engagement is increasing. Right? Armed with this knowledge, your association can begin to use that data to pin point where to spend more money etc. But, that’s only the tip of the ice berg. Most associations have been able to do this for years.
Beyond sales, billing, events or donation transactions etc., I believe measuring your communications is important too. It is difficult to measure because many nonprofits (501 (c) 3 and Associations) have to rely on a third party email tool or an email marketing system that is not integrated within their member or donor database. E-mail can use be used for so much more than newsletters which certainly can be tracked in bulk to gain insights with regards to opens, clicks, etc. But, I think a miss is keeping track of the personal one to one communications too. Your staff gets in touch with a lot of members and donors and even reach out quite a bit to various committees.
A miss in measuring metrics is not having email activity recorded within the member database. Certainly, you can record the metrics of bulk emails, but as important is tracking the one to one relationships that are often not recorded in your membership, donor, or CRM database. Those quick follow ups and say hello are important engagement interactions which are valuable to record too!
The Value of Knowledge in Measuring Engagement
Another metric difficult to measure is simply knowledge about what your members, donors, or constituents care about. It’s hard to believe that even today some commercial off the shelf databases limit the attributes you can store on individuals and organizations in a database.
Take for example, volunteerism or committee participation. There are a number of ways a Nonprofits leverage their constituents for volunteerism, and each forms a possible engagement metric. Do you store information about what your volunteers did or can do for your organization? Number of hours participated? How many assignments they agreed to do? It’s hard to do for many.
Besides the attributes which can and should be stored, your constituents that exchange information with your nonprofit are more engaged. Social media engagement is huge. And, this is where your members, donors, and constituents already are. If you find that you can reach many of them on Twitter, go there! From a numerical perspective, how do you measure this? I suppose you could look at your followers, likes, and RT’s. But, is that enough? I believe that everyone on your staff needs to be curating knowledge about your members and donors. But, it should not be stored in a vacuum where the data is not apart of the organizations domain. Social metrics are important to monitor and measure. It’s valuable knowledge which is elusive but with the proper software tools you can do it!
The Elusive Metrics Of Engagement
Curated knowledge is certainly important, but perhaps try to measure something like loyalty and a sense of belonging. Sometimes the best insights into loyalty come at the sidelines of a conference or through the spontaneous interactions on the web. In most instances, this unstructured data rests in “notes” fields within the CRM database but for many this is tough to find and certainly even more difficult to measure.
For many associations and not-for-profits, a social media strategy begins and ends with Facebook, Twitter, and other public sites. Sure, recognizing loyalty and engagement may be found in public communities such as LinkedIn or Facebook. However, what I see in the membership community is the process of pulling members back into the organizations domain so that they can provide members a vehicle to collaborate inside the confines of their organization.
I believe that this is one of the best ways for membership organizations to drive satisfaction, sense of belonging and ultimately engagement. This helps the organization control and monitor how your constituents communicate, collaborate, and share their expertise with one another in a secure setting they trust. Further, if the community is integrated with your back-end member database, you can join in and help guide discussions, create exclusive members-only access to certain resources, deliver more personalized content, and provide an exclusive networking environment they can’t find elsewhere. While these metrics are harder to measure, they are crucial to the perpetuation of the firm.
In the future, another way to measure the intangibles may be through the use of advocate marketing software tools.
Your Key Metrics Should be Found in Your Database
Member engagement is at the heart of each of your organizational goals, and to successfully meet your strategic objectives, you need to scrutinize whether your current system is helping you meet the latest member demands — or just holding you back. The old legacy systems that may have worked in the past could now be creating additional obstacles and impacting your ability to move forward.
To successfully engage your members, you need to start with centralized database system. When evaluating a central database, it is critical to look for software with an established track record that make it easy for constituents to connect, communicate, collaborate online and participate anywhere on mobile devices. I can’t emphasize enough the last point of mobility which I believe is so important to engagement moving forward in the years to come.
Do you think you’re ready to measure engagement? Not yet? We help executives select database software that maximizes engagement, both for hard and tangible metrics and intangible ones. For more information, please contact us.