Nonprofit Digital Communications

last person joined: 19 hours ago 

For those doing digital strategy work, including written or multimedia content for nonprofit websites, social media, and e-newsletters. This group is for those digital communications folks who create written or multimedia content for websites, social media, and e-newsletters for nonprofits. Members will discuss topics such as social media trends, digital analytics, developing content, storytelling, planning and resources, content strategy, and more.

A strategy for measuring value

  • 1.  A strategy for measuring value

    Posted Jan 12, 2018 14:26
    Edited by Gregg Banse Jan 12, 2018 14:26
    I'm 6 months into a new job at a small museum - Lake Champlain Maritime Museum (LCMM). When I first came on-board there was no marketing infrastructure. Zilch. So I thought it might be fun to share with you how I'm taking them from ground zero to an effective marketing framework that we can use to measure our efforts and make informed decision on where to put our efforts and money.


    I shouldn't say there was no infrastructure - it just wasn't intentional. LCMM was using a variety of tools including social media, Constant Contact, a website, paid advertising in print and digital outlets as well as earned media placement when they could get it. These are all actions to achieve one or more goals. Which is great but there was no cohesive strategy that organized and prioritized their efforts nor a framework in place to measure the value of what they were doing. I'm not being critical of them - it's a common issue for so many. So here's what I've been doing for the past 6 months.


    I knew it would take me some time to get a feel for the organization so I focused on the technology first while I absorbed the dynamics and priorities of the different directors, the office politics, and the culture of the staff in general. The technology was pretty straightforward. Where it got messy is finding out who was in control of what and how many different people and accounts were in play. For example, we have at least 3 different Twitter accounts. All of them were started by someone that was no longer at LCMM. So I located the accounts and systematically gained control of them. Only one account required me to contact Twitter directly and prove who I was to get control. I did this for every single online resource we have - from social media, to website hosting, domain name registrar, and other services like Constant Contact. 


    While I was sifting through the resources we had available, I was listening to our EDs talk about their priorities. The strategic plan is outdated by 2 years or more. The current strategic plan is more like a wink and a nod because it's not written down or formalized in any way. We're all going on what the EDs (we have two of them) have given us as a directive - education. For me as the Dir of Mrktg and Biz Dev I needed something a bit more solid so I began looking for historic data on revenue generation from previous education programs, summer camps, professional development opportunities, and any other related revenue streams.

    With historic data I was able to sit down with the Education Director and talk intelligently about what her revenue projections were for this coming year. We both know some of it is guess work but she's hoping for a 200% increase in revenue over this past year. I think it's doable. Know this I also worked with her to organize the programs by those that would be easiest to sell and another list of those that would be most profitable to sell. Then I began researching our competition for these and came up with a plan for them both.


    I decided I had two primary goals to achieve. 1) I needed a marketing infrastructure that allowed me to push communications out and measure interactions and gather quantitative and qualitative data and 2) I needed to build a marketing plan that leveraged the infrastructure to achieve the projected revenue goals.

    So I've spent a lot of the past 6 months tearing apart the old tools, mining them for data and information then implementing new tools in a cohesive framework. But of course - nothing goes smoothly. I've been able to get our social media, email, payment gateway, website hosting, donations, events calendar, domain name registrar, etc all setup and talking to each other. If there wasn't a direct connector provided by one of the services I used Zapier to help provide the glue. Everything is setup and working with the exception of the website.


    Right now is when I should be advertising for our summer camps and other spring/summer related education and fun programs. But I haven't had time to get the website finished. I am a firm believe in involving stakeholders in the website design process at key points but NOT in design by committee. The problem is I'm the only one working on all of this and nearly killed myself around this past Christmas. Suffice to say I was in the hospital for a week over the Christmas holiday. Soooo, now I'm even further behind on launching the website.

    Why is the website so important? Because it's the crux of everything I'm doing - all of my calls to action need to point to a landing page where the user can take action. I want to know if the user clicked through on this Facebook or that one. I want to know if they visited a few different pages before they took action and if so, which ones. I want to use retargeting in my website framework driven by where they came from to get to our website. There are at least 45 different metrics I am tracking to help me understand who our audience is and what gets them to act. Since I'm spending thousands on advertising I need to know what worked and what doesn't and how I can make it better. So the website is the all important data collector, the cornerstone in the framework.

    But I don't have time to port all of the content from the existing website over to the new website plus I don't want to do a simple copy. All of the evergreen content needs to be reviewed and rewritten, edited, or removed. I know I have new content needs as well. So what I've been pushing for and am in the middle of doing right now is to get a minimal amount of content into the new website so it can go live. This will take some of the pressure off and I can launch the ad buys and email campaigns. Then once the advertising items are in place and working (a few days work) then I can get back to porting content and continuing to build out the website.

    I'm not worried about people seeing our new website without all of the content we have right now. If you look at the site I think you'll understand why. The design is at least a decade old and from the stats I can tell most people arrive then leave. If they do try to navigate they give up in 2.3 pages. There is no search and it is far from intuitive. A user friendly and intuitive website - even if it has minimal content to start - would be far more useful to our membership and stakeholders.

    So that's where I'm at right now. I'm working my way through what I believe is the minimal content and getting key stakeholders involved as I need them. The issue is they're often very slow to respond with what I need so I may have launch with even less than I planned - providing I can convince the EDs. I'll share more as this story unfolds if you find this useful. 


    Gregg Banse
    Director of Marketing & Business Development
    Lake Champlain Maritime Museum
    Vergennes, Vermont

  • 2.  RE: A strategy for measuring value

    Posted Jan 18, 2018 19:09
    Hi Greg
    Sounds like you've really got your hands full. If it's any consolation, I can share an experience with a major website upgrade I managed last year which didn't quite go to plan.

    The content plan we carefully drafted before the migration to a new website CMS included updates to dozens of pages and many new ones, as well as migration of 400 news items and articles. On launch day, we still had many planned updates that were not complete.

    While this was not an ideal situation, I did not let that keep up me at night, nor argue for an extended deadline. If anyone asked, I reasoned that even if everything was not updated as planned, we no worse off when it came to transferring pages that were not edited. The combination of having core information and new features on a modern, mobile friendly website more than outweighed everything not being updated. I kept the focus on what we had achieved, not what was still to do. Eventually we caught up.

    The longer I work in digital publishing, the more I embrace the incremental, formative nature of websites. A neverending work in progress.


    Stephen Blyth
    Communications Manager
    NZ Drug Foundation
    Wellington, New Zealand

  • 3.  RE: A strategy for measuring value

    Posted Jan 22, 2018 16:33
    Hi Stephen,
    Thanks for the sympathy post!

    Closing in on getting the bare minimum content in place. Closer. Closer....

    Gregg Banse
    Director of Marketing & Business Development
    Lake Champlain Maritime Museum
    Vergennes, Vermont

  • 4.  RE: A strategy for measuring value

    Posted Mar 03, 2018 11:27
    Edited by Gregg Banse Mar 03, 2018 11:36


    On Feb. 23, the new website went live. It's not complete - we're porting content from the old website as we can. I prioritize what gets dealt with by watching analytics. When I see one or more pages or resources being requested and I know they haven't been ported yet, I work on them.

    For education related pdf downloads that have been super popular, I've created landing pages requesting an email address which I then use to send the pdf to the person - and add them to the education email list.

    Traffic has been going up - but that's normal for this time of year as people are looking for the summer camps we offer. What's better is that the bounce rate is slowly dropping. Most of last year it was around 75% site-wide. It's now down to 62% and dropping even more as I keep adding content and redirects.

    I've also added an ad system to the framework which allows me to place our own ads. There's only one in place right now - for a summer expedition. But over the next few weeks I'll be adding more and they will be automatically rotated. I can even match ads with content so they're more relevant to the user.

    The team seems to like the changes as we can now produce new content quickly - saving many hours and the long delays between concept and publication. 

    I nearly forgot to mention that I installed Google Tag Manager code and set it up with tags and triggers so I could monitor when key navigation items were clicked as well as when Calls To Action and the ads were clicked on. I have cross-domain tracking enabled so I can see the full path of a visitor that lands on any site within the network and follow their actions right up to conversion (purchase a camp, download a file, submit a contact form). I also established 2 goals for our summer camps & expeditions with dollar amounts. The amounts are an average of the price for each camp or expedition.

    I'm also using Smartsheet to track my ad runs and costs. I now can compare when the ads go live against conversions on the site. I've avoided using unique URLs for now as I want to make it as easy as possible for the user to enter the URL from the ad. Until we have more name recognition and authority in the market space. The comparison of ad runs and conversions is relatively easy now and super useful information for next year's budget planning.

    Gregg Banse
    Director of Marketing & Business Development
    Lake Champlain Maritime Museum
    Vergennes, Vermont

  • 5.  RE: A strategy for measuring value

    Posted Mar 06, 2018 16:23
    Thanks so much for the update, Greg! It sounds like you are making great use of Google tags and analytics. And I like how you serve your community by prioritizing the content they seek.

    BJ Wishinsky
    Mountain View, CA

  • 6.  RE: A strategy for measuring value

    Posted Mar 07, 2018 09:17
    Great stuff Gregg, I hope you continue keeping us posted!

    Emilio Arocho
    Director, Technology and Digital Strategy
    Food and Drug Law Institute

    Community Organizer, NTEN Nonprofits and Data group.

  • 7.  RE: A strategy for measuring value

    Posted Mar 09, 2018 08:33
    A few minor details I neglected to mention. I opted to go with a WordPress Network to support several websites. I also wrapped the whole network with SSL and installed Jetpack and VaultPress on every site.

    In fact, you can read more about the details of the whole project, the tools, choices, strategy and issues I've run into as I continue to put this together, on my website either by eNews updates or read the blog posts. It's all there.

    Gregg Banse
    Director of Marketing & Business Development
    Lake Champlain Maritime Museum
    Vergennes, Vermont