As a Development Director, I used to hate this time of year! Armed with social impact data, photos and testimonials, I would attempt to convince our corporate funders not only to renew our funding, but expand it. Each year, I felt vastly under-equipped, like I was headed to the Daytona 500 with a borrowed go-kart. While other funded partners approached their end-of-year discussions touting metrics demonstrating a causal effect on business growth, I relied on a few choice photos to intuitively demonstrate a business return on investment (ROI) that I was unable to quantitatively track.
This holiday season, the Shared Value Media (SVM) team offers two New Year’s resolutions to help quantify the ROI for your corporate partners in 2015. Like any New Year’s resolution, if you accomplish one by the end of 2015, you will be well ahead of the game! We hope they bring some value.
Resolution #1: Help Solve the Employee Engagement Quagmire
A potentially familiar scenario: Company A calls and would like to participate in a “Day of Volunteering.” They would like an interactive and fun activity for their employees that has a meaningful impact on the community… but that is also highly visible and requires no longer than an afternoon to complete. You leverage your relationship with the local school or park and arrange a beautification project. The hard costs are $5,000 for the materials and food, and the company offers you a $5,000 donation. When the event is over, you wait by the phone, anticipating the start of a meaningful, lucrative partnership with Company A. The phone never rings.
Often these employee engagement programs, at a local level, are evaluated by a survey sent at the end of the campaign measuring whether the participants enjoyed the activity. Though interesting, this collected information rarely aligns with senior management’s objectives for the volunteer program, including skill-building, recruitment, engagement, and retention. This dissonance poses a problem and may explain why that phone is not ringing.
As development directors, we often need to lead the process of data collection and reporting rather than leaving it to the discretion of our funders. In this way, we can ensure that we have the data needed to demonstrate a clear return on our funders’ investments.
When engaging in an employee volunteer program, we recommend sitting down with your corporate partner before the program starts to outline a pre- and post-survey given to all participating employees. Use the white paper introduced in 2011 by Starbucks and Mission Measurement as your framework.
Model the questions around the corporate benefits outlined in this white paper, considering specifically how the program might “improve development of professional skills, increase positive attitude/outlook/point of view, increase employee engagement, increase employee skills, increase teamwork, and increase interaction between junior and senior employees.” The study also offers metrics that can be used to benchmark these objectives.
Structure the program to best deliver on the metrics you’ve agreed upon and hold your partner accountable to conducting the post-survey and sharing the results. When both surveys are complete, organize the results into a clean dashboard and present them back to your client.
Walking into your 2015 meeting, armed with this dashboard, you will have achieved three things:
- If you have conclusive data that your partnership affects these HR goals, your war is won. HR will be fighting it on your behalf from this point forward.
- If the data doesn’t demonstrate anything conclusive, you at least have proven to your partner that you are a data-driven organization. That in and of itself may open doors.
- Finally, you have a differentiating case study that shows how your volunteer programs align and track back to senior-level HR objectives.
If you are interested in learning more, read our blog post that dives a bit deeper into the subject.
Resolution #2: Report on Reach and Engagement Outcomes
Before I began my career as a development director, I worked at a global media company as part of the event marketing team. We coordinated mobile tours, brand ambassador programs, sampler campaigns, etc. In a nutshell, we would go into a city and engage people in some form of face-to-face interaction. And at the conclusion of that interaction, we hoped they would leave with a positive perception of the brand and eventually purchase the brand’s product. Our clients would pay us A LOT to do this.
Behind closed doors, we as event marketers had no idea how to justify the ROI for these high-priced engagements. So, we would do our best to quantify the outcomes, counting how many people we interacted with, how many people saw us at the event, how many people saw the sponsored promotions for the event, and how many people took action as a result of our campaign. The analytics always consisted of relatively basic stuff, and the numbers were never spectacular. And, again we got paid A LOT to do this.
If you think about sponsored nonprofit programs, often they are structured in a similar way. A brand pays us to leverage the face-to-face interactions we have within a community. Using techniques similar to measurement in event marketing, we can track our interactions, how many people attend our events or programs, how many people we reach promoting the event, and how many people take an action as a result of the event or program. It is a very similar model for a fraction of the cost.
I would suggest to all you development directors that the platform of event marketing becomes your white whale. You can match or beat event marketing’s metrics, and there are huge budgets to be had. Here are a few tips for how to collect apples-to-apples data with this media platform.
Prior to the start of next year, sit down and strategize with your team on how you can collect some of the following data categories:
- Attendance / Interactions: How many people attended events or programs sponsored by our partner?
- Emails: How many people received our emails that promoted the partnership? How many opened and clicked through from these emails?
- Social Media: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram impressions, followers, interactions, and “likes” or “retweets.”
- Earned Media: Take an hour or two to cross-check the media outlets covering your programs with how many people they reach, information that is often publicly available. This cumulative number is very important to your partner’s PR team.
- Engagement: Did you offer your constituents an opportunity to measurably engage with your brand sponsor? If not, figure out how to do so. Find the point of shared value and build engagement around it, tracking engagement points meticulously!
- Demographics: What is the makeup of your participant group?
- Brand Perception Change: A simple qualitative survey directed at a predetermined sample size measuring whether people knew that the brand supported you and whether that changed their perception of your corporate sponsor.
- Purchase Intent Change: A simple qualitative survey measuring whether those people who knew about your brand’s support are more likely to purchase that brand as a result.
- Sales (if relevant).
If you can aggregate this data and present it back to your client in the form of a dashboard, you will have a leg up on most other grantees. And, more importantly, you will have the metrics to fight competitively for marketing and media dollars. Chances are, when compared to event marketing, your cost-per-engagement will be pretty competitive.
If learning how to target media dollars interests you, you can read further in our blog.
Good luck with your resolutions, and remember that it’s always easiest to commit in December!