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Marketing Dashboards for NGOs in Three Easy Steps

by Darren Barefoot, Co-founder, Capulet Communications
This guest post by Darren Barefoot is an excerpt from the free e-book he recently co-authored: The Noble Arsonist: Tips for stoking fires and igniting movements for NGOs.

"I know half of my advertising works. I just don't know which half."

That quip is attributed to John Wanamaker, a department store owner in the early part of the last century. It highlights an issue that's still relevant a hundred years later: how do we know our marketing and communications efforts are actually making a difference?

"If it doesn't have a dial and a needle, then it doesn't count."

That's what I tell NGOs when we're planning marketing strategy. There are, in truth, always exceptions to this rule, but we should be as scientific and clinical as possible in our communications work.

So, how do we measure success? The concept of a marketing dashboard likely isn't new to you, but I still find that they're rarely implemented in organizations (both not-for-profits and for-profit companies). To act thoughtfully and responsibly you’ll need an accurate snapshot of the health of your online communities and you must know which marketing activities have been successful (or not successful) in growing your movement.

Let’s discuss four steps for putting an effective measurement process in place.

Step 1: Match Goals with Measurable Online Actions

With goals clearly defined and front of mind, determine which online actions will bring you closer to achieving big, audacious goals.

Let’s imagine that you’re an environmental organization with a goal to protect wild spaces as parkland. Convincing governments to conserve wild spaces is a big, audacious goal. So, what are some online actions that will get you closer to achieving that goal? How about these?

  • Petition signatures. If collecting signatures is a way your organization can put pressure on governments to make change, then the number of signatures you collect moves the needle on your ultimate goal.
  • Events. Perhaps rallies and protests play a role in how you can influence political leaders. If getting supporters out to real-world events attracts greater attention for your cause, then using online tools to help get your community out to events will impact your success.
  • Donations. Maybe your strategy is to raise enough money to purchase tracts of wilderness to ensure their protection. If so, funds raised through online donations become another action to measure.

These are some online performance indicators that relate directly to a big goal. Now that you’ve aligned your goals with measurable online actions you’re ready to build a dashboard.

Step 2: Build Your Dashboard

When it comes to constructing a dashboard, less is more. Try to keep your dashboard to a few key metrics that will indicate whether or not you’re on the road to achieving your goals. To be effective, a dashboard need only answer these three questions:

  • Are key performance indicators (KPIs) represented on the dashboard related to online activities that directly affect your ultimate goal?
  • Based on results and analytics, can you tell whether or not online marketing activities are “moving the needle” for your cause?
  • Can you draw actionable conclusions from the data?

Key performance indicators should reveal specific conclusions. In other words, do the metrics reported on your marketing dashboard bring issues to the surface that may impact strategy and future activities? They should.

While using Google Analytics and a spreadsheet is a perfectly effective way to create a dashboard, there are also online tools that make the process easier and display results a little more clearly. You might want to check out Klipfolio or simplekpi.

Step 3: Check Your Dials

You wouldn’t set off on the freeway with the fuel gauge hovering on empty. It doesn’t make sense to blindly sink budget and resources into online activities that aren’t getting you anywhere. Your dashboard shows performance and will help you decide if the time and money you’re putting into online campaigns are worth the effort.

Each month we gauge online movement health by checking the dials and either staying the course or tweaking activities or methods accordingly.

Revisit your KPI dashboard on a regular basis to make sure the metrics you are tracking are helping you ask the right questions and facilitate both small campaign tweaks and strategic decisions.

Measurement is a key part of any NGO communications program. If you’re ready to get serious about measurement and figuring out which half of your marketing works, start with a dashboard.

Download Your Free Copy of The Noble Arsonist: Tips for Stoking Fires and Igniting Movements for NGOs.


Topics: Strategy Advocacy