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The Math and Science of Social and Mobile Media: A Spreadsheet to Track Your Fundraising Success

June 13, 2013

Spreadsheet-Social-Media-ROThere absolutely is a math to social and mobile media. If your nonprofit has a good content strategy in place and understands the power of integrating all your nonprofit’s communications channels (website, email, Facebook, texting, etc.), then as your numbers grow on social networks so will your e-newsletter and mobile lists which in turn significantly increases your fundraising success. It’s a strategy that I have been using, testing, and adapting since @NonprofitOrgs first launched on Myspace in 2006 and now there’s an ever-increasing flow of data being released that proves that social and mobile media are, in fact, powerful fundraising tools.

There is also a science to social and mobile media. After 10 years of experimentation, nonprofits are learning that there are correct (and incorrect) ways to post on Facebook, format a tweet, upload a photo, and send a text alert, but if your nonprofit doesn’t know the science, then math isn’t going to work.

For those of you who have read Social Media for Social Good and have taken my webinar on how to launch a social and mobile media strategy for your nonprofit, you know that the core of the strategy that I advocate for is tracking and proving your success. This is most easily done through a Social and Mobile Media Fundraising Success Spreadsheet.

[Download Spreadsheet Template]

Of course, a lot of factors can affect your success such as staff capacity and budget, the design of your online and mobile campaigns, and the skill set of your social and mobile media manager, but if your nonprofit has yet to start tracking your success (or lack thereof), download the spreadsheet, pick one day a month to enter your data, and begin to track your metrics. If your numbers do not grow from month to month, then something is terribly wrong with your content strategy (posting/sharing/sending the wrong content) and fundraising campaigns (not publishing an e-newsletter or using the wrong “Donate Now” service). That said, below is selection of metrics to track and a brief explanation as to why.

1. Website Unique Visitors

The foundation upon which all successful social and mobile campaigns are built is a well-designed, mobile compatible website.

2. eNewsletter Subscribers

Email is still a very powerful tool for fundraising and the likely reason why donor conversion rates dropped in 2012 is because nonprofit e-newsletters are still formatted to primarily be read on desktop and laptop computers. The number one activity on smartphones is reading email, so for your nonprofit to continue to be successful using email fundraising, a mobile compatible redesign of your e-newsletter should be at the top of your to do list.

3. Online Donations

Track the number of monthly donations and the total given. Understand that giving is higher in some months than others. November and December are the highest months and thus you will have to compare November 2013 to November to 2014, for example, to get the full picture of your fundraising success. As far as selecting the right “Donate Now” service, if the donation process occurs inside of your website and doesn’t send your donors to a third-party website, then you’re likely on the right path.

4. Blog Unique Visitors

Nonprofits that blog have a great advantage on social and mobile media because blogging allows your nonprofit to easily create a constant stream of fresh content that can be shared on social networks, incorporated into your e-newsletter, and texted to your mobile subscribers.

5. Social Network Followers

The brutal truth is that if your nonprofit posts boring content that does not inspire activity on social networks i.e., likes, shares, retweets, repins, and +1s, then your communities will grow very slowly. If you post too often or at the wrong times, then you’ll likely lose as many followers as you gain and your social networks will stagnate. This is especially true for small to medium-sized nonprofits.

As social media science clearly indicates, there is a right way to post and share content on social networks and a wrong way to post and share content on social networks. Silence speaks volumes on the Social Web and if your followers are saying little to nothing and are not liking, sharing, retweeting, repinning, or +1ing your content, then you’re are most likely doing it wrong. Rather than waste your time, get some good training and learn how to do it right.

6. Text Alerts Subscribers

Very few nonprofits are utilizing text alerts. Texting can be a powerful tool if it is done well, but annoying to supporters if it is not. However, unlike social media, pioneering mobile communications and fundraising is not “free” and over the last five years nonprofits have become very accustomed to free services. For those nonprofits wisely investing in the future, using social media and your website, e-newsletter, and print materials to build your mobile list is crucial.

7. Text-to-Give and/or Mobile Wallet Donors

Mobile fundraising is in its infancy and we’ve yet to see which tool will go mainstream, but my bet is on mobile wallet apps that are also web-based, such as Google Wallet. Google Wallet is currently only available to Android users, but if Apple launches an iOS wallet app that is also web-based, then that is the day that fundraising as the nonprofit sector has known it for 20 years instantly changes. Those nonprofits that pioneer mobile now will of course be in the best position to reap the benefits when mobile giving goes mainstream.

8. Other Metrics

Again, if your nonprofit has a good content strategy in place and understands the power of integrating all your nonprofit’s communications channels, then social and mobile media will also increase your success at recruiting volunteers, downloads of annual reports and case studies, online store sales, and online petitions.

How the Spreadsheet Works:

Spreadsheet Social Media ROI

1. Create 13 columns of which 12 are for the 12 months of your fiscal year.
2. In the far left column, add the metrics you want to track. Under the green row, add your fundraising metrics.
3. At the beginning of each month, plot your metrics.
4. SUM your totals for monthly columns and annual rows.
5. On the far right hand column, plot your annual goals based on the first month’s metrics. A 25% increase is recommended for your first year.
6. If your social and mobile strategy is sound, then you should see an increase in your totals from month-to-month for website and blog traffic, e-newsletter and text alerts subscribers, and social network followers. However, because fundraising is seasonal, you won’t get a full picture of your fundraising success until you have tracked two years of metrics.
7. At the end of each year, revise your metrics and your goals. It’s that simple. 🙂

Related Links:
12 Must-Know Stats About Social Media, Fundraising, and Cause Awareness
11 Obvious Signs Your Nonprofit Needs Social Media Training
Social and Mobile Media Webinars for Nonprofits

8 Comments leave one →
  1. June 18, 2013 6:48 am

    Great start! I prefer to list the beginning of the year totals and then to list the growth (or reduction) in numbers for each month, rather than a new total. It still totals up at the far right for a Year-To-Date total, but it helps to track growth.

  2. June 25, 2013 6:40 am

    Good post and good starting template. I think it’s valuable to plot these methods against each other to determine effectiveness of one medium over the other. Also, it helps to add in value, or estimated value of each method. For example, You have 5,000 facebook likes, and 100 people who saw your page on facebook donated $25 each (total of $2500) you can reasonably assume that each Facebook “Like” is worth $0.50 for your organization. If you had 1,000 twitter followers and tracked 10 donations of $100 each from twitter ($1000 total), that means your twitter followers are worth $1 per new follower. It would seem at face value that facebook might be the bigger money winner, but twitter is actually more effective in that situation. Knowing those numbers can help you plan where you should spend your time engaging.

  3. June 28, 2013 11:30 am

    Heather, I agree with you that tracking those metrics is important, but I don’t see how one would determine the ROI of social media from the methods described in this article.

    Just because money is donated online doesn’t mean those donations are a direct or indirect result of social media. Someone could go to a nonprofits website from an online search, link in a news article or a mailing and make a donation.

    On the flip side, someone could connect with a nonprofit through social media and then mail a check rather than give online.

    How do you address these issues and accurately measure the amount of revenue generated through social media?

    • June 28, 2013 11:44 am

      There’s no way to track your last point unless the nonprofit asks their donors during the online donation process what tool promoted them to give… which no nonprofits do. That said, if you’ve read my book or taken my webinars, you know the strategy that I practice… the larger your communities, the more website and blog traffic you get, thus the more e-newsletter subscribers you get… thus the more online donations you get… if the content you post is good and integrates all communications channels.

      For example, if I take a week off from social media… my communities stagnate, web and blog traffic screeches to a halt, thus no new e-newsletter subscribers… thus no new clients or webinar attendees…. thus no money comes in. And if I don’t an e-newsletter for two weeks, @NonprofitOrgs goes out of business. It’s a strategy that works and tracking it in this format the easiest way to prove it. Of course, it doesn’t work if your content is boring and doesn’t inspire likes, shares, +1s.

      • June 28, 2013 12:01 pm

        @paul – One way we’ve done this is to include codes on mail pieces that are entered in online forms, or vice versa – asking someone to include a code on a check. That’s a great way to track the cross platform engagement, and this can be done in creative ways if an org puts some time and thought into it.

        But I agree with Heather to the point that very few (if any) nonprofits track social methods and offline engagement relationships. Especially the smaller orgs, because they’re happy when a dollar comes in they dont care where it came from. But that’s an easy trap to fall into. Measure, measure, measure, test, analyze, etc. That’s the only way to improve your communications, either online or off.

        In addition to reading this blog and heather’s amazing articles, I would checkout Katie Delahaye Paine. She is, in my opinion, the best statistician when it comes to tracking ROI on social media methods, as she’s one of the only people who address offline results in combination with online as well. Her book measure what matters is the best book on the subject, in my opinion. and I’ve read many of them. She recently wrote something with beth kanter too, that is specific for nonprofits, but it’s more fluff than measure what matters. The original has more analysis and hard core practical uses.

        Hope that helps.

      • June 28, 2013 12:07 pm

        Interesting. Thanks. I’ll check out Katie. Got to love the social media scientists and statisticians. 🙂


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