Does Your Nonprofit Organization Have Measurement Malaise?.   A reposting from the fabulous Beth’s Blog

Malaise is a feeling of general discomfort or uneasiness, of being “out of sorts.” Lately, I’ve been hearing about “measurement malaise” infecting nonprofits and not just social media measurement. Maybe it is the feeling that measurement requires data collection and that will cause even more information overload and why we put the task on the organizational back burner.

Can you be an effective grassroots nonprofit organization in 21st century without a robust integrated social media and mobile strategy and measurement strategy? Idealware looked into this question about nonprofits and Facebook as well as other questions in its recent research study, Using Facebook to Meet Your Mission: Results of a Survey, available for free download with registration and discussed at free webinar on June 16 at 1 PM PST.. The survey looked at nonprofit’s self-reported results, goals, time investment, and measurement approaches for Facebook, although I wonder if you can really answer the big picture question without looking at how nonprofits use Facebook in the context of an integrated strategy and good measurement practice benchmarking study.

Idealware Study

The Idealware survey asked participants if they measure results from Facebook. Their categories were based on whether or not the respondent was using a specific measurement tool like Facebook Insights or Google Analytics. Respondents that names tools were labled as “substantial.’ However it is hard to know whether or not if someone simply mentions the name of a tool whether or not they are using it appropriately to measure their results. The telling statistic is here is that 47% are not doing any measurement! More than half (53 percent) of survey respondents indicated measurement of some kind, while just 26 percent reported a “substantial” measurement plan. Of those respondents who reported a substantial measurement plan, almost 40 percent also reported some kind of tangible positive outcome of using Facebook, compared to less than 25 percent of those who were not measuring at all.

The survey also reports that over 60 percent of respondents who reported “substantial measurement” were still not seeing a positive impact from Facebook. This has more to do with their specific strategy and measurement practice rather than their use of the measurement tools. As measurement guru KD Paine says, you need the right measurement tool for the job – identify SMART objectives, pick metrics, and then your tool.

It made me curious about what keeps nonprofits from measuring integrated social media campaigns and why measurement often gets pushed to the backburner. Here’s a summary a responses from my Facebook Page.

1. Doing or Creating is More Fun Than Measurement: People are more likely to build instead of measure even if they are building on a fault line. Creating is more appealing then analysis to most. How can create a culture of fun around measurement so that we can’t keep ourselves from doing it from the beginning of a project.

2. Measurement Analytics Paralysis: There so much out there – from infographics to factoids to market research studies to endless tools we could use to measure our social media that we’ve become junkies of consuming analytics data for the sake of consuming analytics and playing with analytics tools. The line between where the data analysis stops and the real work begins gets blurry. Do we stop and ask if it is useful? Do we try to get data in small, digestible bytes and reflect on what it means? Maybe it is more fun to get lost in the lastest chart and graph we can generate in our social media analytics tool, but how can we harness our addiction to data to create more insight? One solution is to set aside a small block of time to think about the data, maybe a “Metrics Monday” as my colleagues at Momsrising do. We all need to be curators of our analytics data.

3. Fear: What We Might Learn: What if we discover that our campaign didn’t get the results we thought it would or even worse, that our precious time was wasted. Many nonprofit social media mavens are proud of their work, may be challanged to find things that truly capture the impact. Are we afraid that measurement will provide data for someone in our organization to say “social media is waste of time.” Or maybe we just don’t want to learn from failure and are not prepared to give something a joyful funeral or tweak it for success. Learning from failure is like compost – while it might stink at first, it gets valuable over time. It is also important to also learn from our successes in the event they happened by accident.

4. Rational Expections for Outcomes: It is more than setting SMART objectives which takes some focus. You have to put a flag in the sand and articulate what your outcome will be, whether grand or modest. You also have step away from your overloaded to do list and clarify. I’m also reminded of a quote from Michelangelo, “The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it but that it is too low and we reach it.” SMART objectives and a measurement plan are not a report card! They are guide posts for improvement.

5. Picking the Right Metrics: Understanding the right metrics to use to measure your results, without defaulting to “measure everything” because more data is better or getting distracted by bogus and meaningless metrics. Here’s where I think the AMEC Valid Metrics Grids will be very useful. And, we have to be comfortable to just saying now and understand that we can measure to our capacity! Why not think about scaffolding what you measure? Strategically add metrics to your dashboard — sort of like trainng for marathon. Less is more.

6. Balance of Reflection and Action: Taking the time to clarify what you’re measuring might kill the excitement of experimentation and doing it – and that initial learning. But you can only dabble for so long – and to get to real results, you need a game plan for measuring. The problem is using measurement planning as an excuse not to experiment and learn with social media or mobile or as Jessica Dailey says, “If you are spending more time quantifying your relationships then you’re spending nurturing your relationships you’re doing it wrong in both life and social media.” There is the fun wild experimentation phase, but as practice matures you need a measurement strategy.

7. Measurement Is Expensive and Exhausting: The notion that the only valid measurement is done by highly trained specialists or that for the data to be valid it takes a lot of data collection and time – that many nonprofits simply don’t have. IF done in-house, staff view it as more work and the results of measuring is only as good as the input and if there’s no input, or sparse input it won’t tell us anything.

Does your organization have measurement malaise? What does it look like? More importantly, what’s the cure?

Games for Change

Posted: June 12, 2011 in Uncategorized

One of my favorite websites right now is Games for Change http://www.gamesforchange.org/ I don’t know if my review of this sight is very objective because I love all things gaming. But I believe that there is a great opportunity for using a computer/video game model for teaching about larger social issues. And Games for Change, through the services it offers to nonprofits and game designers, its annual designers contest and Festival, and conferences and seminars, does just that. It also offers a free toolkit that helps individuals and nonprofits outline their game ideas, learning goals and planning and implementation tools.

Games for Change Arcade – Games for Change houses over 70 games that address current social issues that have been designed by individuals, students, nonprofits and international relief agencies. The website game channels include human rights, economics, public policy, public health, poverty and environment.

Some of my favorite games:

Against All Odds: Against All Odds lets players experience what it’s like for people who have to leave their home country and start life in a new country. The game shows the difficulties navigating the international re-settlement experience. http://www.playagainstallodds.com/

Executive Command: I like this game, especially as we watch our first African American President struggle with his legacy as he deals with one economic crisis after another and military intervention in multiple countries. This game gives you the opportunity to try your hand at being President, with all the power and pitfalls. http://www.filamentgames.com/node/463

InterroBang?!: I really like this game because it gives students around the world the a real mission to accomplish. Their participation in this problem-solving game can lead to winning prizes and challenges them to make positive improvements in their communities. http://playinterrobang.com/

World Food Programme Games – As an international social justice organization, World Food Programme has been in the forefront of using games to increase awareness of hunger throughout the world. One of the first games I became aware of was Free Rice. In this game, with every quiz question you answer correctly, 10 grains of rice are donated to fight hunger. Other games are also available for students and teachers to learn more about the issues of hunger. http://www.wfp.org/students-and-teachers/students/fun-and-learn

 

As I have been spending some time writing about online collective community action, when I received the lastest from Beth’s Blog, I just knew I had to repost the content here….

Can Collective Community Action Lead To Fundraising Success? | Beth’s Blog.

In April, the Knight Foundation and Monitor Institute published a new report called “Connected Citizens” that looks at the impact of networks on communities, and asks, what do these emerging networks mean for community change?

The report was filled with examples, but more and more are coming to life everyday. And, with resources like “Like Minded” that facilitate the fast sharing of best practices, we’re bound to see more.

Here’s one:

ACTion Alexandria is an online civic engagement initiative with three main goals

Create a vibrant online platform that inspires offline action, where challenges are posted, solutions are debated, successes and failures are archived, data is both disseminated and captured, stories are shared, and essential civic relationships developed.
Improve the quality of life for our most vulnerable residents in a cost-efficient manner through a platform that provides everyone a voice and the opportunity to identify problems and offer solutions.
Engage residents and business people in problem solving to strengthen community ties and increase each individual’s stake in creating positive outcomes for specific community problems.
But, what happens when you pair a connected citizenry with social fundraising?

ACTion Alexandria’s social fundraising initiative, “Spring2ACTion,” raised $104,156 in donations and matching grants for 47 participating nonprofits. The effort, held May 5-7 encouraged Alexandria citizens to donate using a variety of Razoo’s social fundraising tools from Facebook and Twitter outreach to emails and website widgets. (Disclaimer: Razoo is a Zoetica client)

Social fundraising is the practice of using person to person online media to solicit online donations. In all, 1265 citizens donated to the causes during Spring2ACTion, almost one percent of Alexandria City’s 150,000 person population. The average donation was $59, and the frequency of donations increased each day of the initiative. Twenty five percent of the donations were $10 gifts.

Does a fundraising campaign simply happen by itself or are there core organizers who help with lift off? How much collective fundraising is magic or just happens versus having a strong group of organizers behind it? I’m also curious about the role of Free Agent fundraisers or in this context “Militant Optimists” what does it take to be successful?

What you think?

In a previous posting about Social Justice Networks, I profiled NetSquared, a nonprofit helping community organizers improve their communities through technology. NetSquared had coordinated a world-wide network of local groups organized around the idea of Internet-based meet-ups…using online social media to connect people with common community concerns. I attempted to join and participate in my local community’s group, however, even after reaching out to them multiple times…I have never been contacted back.

I am happy to see, however, that NetSquared has recognized the intrinsic difficulties in online organizing and recently released an open letter to their organizing groups. To read this letter and learn more about NetSquared, go to Open Letter at http://netsquared.org/blog/vanessa-rhinesmith/open-letter-netsquared-local-organizers-0

A few posts ago I started writing about several websites that were designed to create opportunities for people interested in social justice causes to become more organized through online connections. I signed up for my community’s NetSquared group and emailed the group leaders to become more involved. Unfortunately, I have not had any communication with this group and it seems that most of NetSquared’s current activity is in one city and in a few international locations. So I am not very excited about the impact of this project. Also, I’m signed up for email alerts and newsletters but I haven’t received any real consistent communication.

 

Another project that I would like to profile is the new site created by Craigslist Foundation called LikeMinded. The website is easily navigated with a topic page covering issues such as arts, health, education, safety and environment. I initially thought that this site was designed to bring like-minded people together to address community issues. However, the website is really set up to share resources, information and projects. For the first month or so the database was filled with information that was obviously entered by the designers. Now there are many more projects and resources entered by the actual providers or people actually involved in the project. However, there currently is not an opportunity to engage in discussion on the website. You can contact people involved in the project directly, however, you have to use an anonymous email system so it doesn’t really promote community connections and openness. I will keep watching the site and review it again as it evolves.

For over 20 years, my work has focused on helping agencies evaluate the effect of their social change programs. From substance abuse and teen pregnancy prevention programs to crime victim services, it has been critical for these organizations to identify broad community outcomes and immediate and measureable outcomes for their programs. As important today as it was 20 years ago, funding for social change programs is reliant upon proving your success through measurable outcomes.

But what if your agency doesn’t have funds to provide you with training and resources on outcome development planning? How do you know if you are truly making a difference?

One outstanding organization, Innovation Network, is an expert in providing online resources on program planning and evaluation. They build capacity in nonprofits by making the principles and techniques of evaluation understandable and easy to use. Their tools help nonprofits learn about the successes and problems in a program’s practice and, by using very clear terms and methods, keeps the nonprofit moving forward in the cycle of work, evaluation, change.

One of the most valuable products offered by Innovation Network, is Point K. Point K is an online program that nonprofits can use to assess their organization, create program plans and evaluate those programs to make positive changes in their communities. This program allows the nonprofit to create their entire logic model online and is very thorough. It also provides clear instructions on each stage of building a logic model. Their Evaluation Plan Builder takes all of the information from your logic model and helps you identify measurement indicators and teaches you what type of information you need to collect for your indicators. Point K also has an extensive database of resource materials, all free for you to use. It also allows for your entire planning team to access your planning documents and participate in the process.

As part of my ongoing research into useful Internet Resources for social justice organizations, I have found lots of websites for people across the nation, in communities and in neighborhoods to find each other. These sites cover the spectrum from being very organized online networks to very loose associations of people who support a common cause.

Many of the relationship-building sites, like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, we were already using as part of our personal social network and quickly realized that they could be used to advance our social justice causes. In the last few years, several national foundations/nonprofits, attempted to create opportunities for social justice causes to use web-based organizing as a model for creating social change. I would like to profile a few of those on this blog.

Each one has faces a challenge in 1 key area: keeping the momentum going. Web-based organizing does not seem to change what organizers and fundraisers have faced for generations: 10% of the people do 90% of the work/giving. So it’s difficult to measure just how active the NetSquared groups are and what the actual impact of the network is on these groups.

NetSquared

Most of us in the nonprofit world are already familiar with the good works of TechSoup, who provides low cost and no cost donations of software in addition to free tech how-to’s on social media, marketing and fundraising. Their parent non-profit, TechSoup Global, also coordinates the NetSquared Initiative, an international network of individuals in over 79 cities that empowers individuals to create solutions to their communities’ social challenges. Through online communication and coordination, communities have access to resources, meet and define answers to their challenges. NetSquared provides significant educational support and connection to these groups through Tweet feeds, Blogs and online communities. For the last 4 years, they have provided international challenges competitions addressing social justice issues, provide a Community Organizers Handbook and a database and evaluation of global projects. There are many very active groups including the Baltimore, MD meet up group and a group providing micro credit loans to women in Uganda. I also attempted to connect to the group in Twin Cities MN where I live, however this group hasn’t met or communicated much winter 2010. I emailed the group leaders and have yet to hear back from them on the group’s status. I will report back on how successful I am at networking with these folks. Photo by devois