Today is Giving Tuesday, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. It’s timely think about the impact that a non-profit is able create and communicate . With 1.5 Million non-profits in the US, it’s hard for both beneficiaries and donors to find the non-profit that will actually make a difference. Most beneficiaries are incapable (eg too sick or too poor) or unaware (eg US opiate epidemic) that there are helping hands around.
Governments worldwide award non-profit status (in the US 501 (c) 3) to spur civil society engagement in social service. The non-profit status gives a tax break to the non-profit and also give some kind of a tax break to the donor. Governments hope that non-profits will take charge of the many social challenges of the time.
If you think about it, the only difference between non-profits and for-profits (businesses) is the tax break. Otherwise, both sets of organizations are trying to serve a customer or beneficiary. Businesses are more accountable because if customers don’t buy, lower profits turn off investors. Hence Wall Street earning calls are stressful for company leaderships.
Non-profit donors do not have the benefit of all the data that business investors have. For larger non-profits there are rating agencies like GuideStar and Charity Navigator who value things like low overheads vs impact. If you are a non profit and have high administrative costs, you can expect to get a poor rating despite the excellent impact you may have. This traditional rating approach leads to two problems:
- Non-profits can’t pay employees as well as private business- for the same skills.
- Results or impact is poorly managed. Most non-profits will not be able to tell you how many beneficiaries they touched in the last week. You can be sure that the smallest business will have a good idea of their recent sales and revenue.
So it was nice to see that a new start-up “Impact Matters” is trying to measure non-profits by impact. Adding to the existing methods of rating charities the start-up focuses on efficiency. So as a donor you know exactly what impact your individual donation would have. The methodology relies on a variety of data sources and the larger charities should be able to take advantage of this new service. But it is a great start. Check out Impact Matters.
Charity rating agencies like Charity Navigator are able to rate less than 10,000 of the 1.5 million US Charities. So for the rest of almost 1.5 million charities they need to get the word out about the impact they have. Here are some suggestions on how to do so:
- Do you have a prospective beneficiary list? This is the target market you are trying to serve. Developing a list is a great way to start as any B2B marketer will tell you. Once a beneficiary starts receiving your services – you now have a data point and – a story of your impact to share.
- Make sure you have your website up and running. If you have a website – check that is mobile friendly. Create a non-profit Facebook and Instagram business page. We notice that it’s hard to make quick changes on a website but easy to make changes on a Facebook business page.
- Empower your field staff to post on social media. It is your field staff who works with your target beneficiary. Most of your field staff are on Facebook already. Encouraging them to post impact stories on your non-profit Facebook web-page on a daily basis can help. Check with your legal folks if you need a waiver from your beneficiary. Think of sales and service people in business who have to file a daily report. Wouldn’t it be great if non-profit field staff filed their daily report on social media?
- The Google for Non-Profits grant is great. It gives you $10,000 ad money to spend a month to spread your message.
- Spend on marketing. Be bold in making marketing investments. If you can hire in-house marketing staff who can manage communications with beneficiaries as well as donors, do so. A good model to manage your digital outreach is to hire a competent agency. The agency should work with your field staff to to fine tune your outreach to both beneficiaries and donors. So long as you spend 65% or more of your budget on programs that help your target beneficiary, you would be considered an “effective” non-profit. By consistently investing in your marketing efforts you can ensure that you have a growing budget for the important work you do.