How to read "Measuring the Networked Nonprofit"

How to read “Measuring the Networked Nonprofit”

I just finished “Measuring the Networked Nonprofit” by Beth Kanter and Katie Paine. Now, I realize that making this my choice of bedtime reading makes me a total nerd, but if you geek out on social media and have been wanting to learn more about measurement, it’s a great read. Still, I thought I’d offer a few simple tips to make your read more enjoyable and maybe even help your career.

1. Get over the fact that it’s a book about social media

15070576-an-older-man-squints-at-his-glassesLook, I’m with ya. Most books written about *the internet* are just ploys to rip off old people. Frankly, the fact that there’s a “Facebook for Dummies” book makes my skin crawl.

Luckily, the Networked Nonprofit books (yes, there’s another one) are written by people who actually understand social media and use it regularly. So, while they do offer up some good suggestions of tools to use, they don’t waste your time describing what buttons to click to get your facebook stats, because they know you’re a big kid who can Google it yourself, and besides it’ll change by the time the book is published.

Instead, they do a deep dive into what Social Media means for nonprofits, a subject I feel is sorely lacking in publications about social media, which is mostly focused on how to drive sales. Donations are a key metric for many NPO’s, but they’re different from sales, and  Measuring will force you to take a step back and think about how your metrics drive your mission, not the other way around. After all, it’s the power of your mission that’s bringing in your donors, or volunteers, or shares, or votes, or whatever you thought you wanted. They do a great job of driving this home and giving great examples of metrics that are actually reasonable to measure on a low (okay, no) budget and that make sense in a nonprofit context.

2. Buy the hard copy, not the e-book

netnon2This shouldn’t be a hard decision because the e-book costs more than the paper copy, but I’m impatient, so I made this mistake. Don’t.

Why not? Well for starters, the book has a ton of great charts and images that don’t really come across well in the e-reader version. I found myself struggling to enlarge them enough so I could see them, often to no avail, so I wound up squinting at the pages. Also, at least with the Kindle version, it is awkwardly typefaced, so all the subheadings show up as giant main chapter headings and all the chapters seem like they’re 1.5 pages long. And the sidebars jump into the middle of paragraphs. Just don’t do it.

Also, the e-reader would prevent you from engaging in the rather unorthodox strategy I’m proposing:

3. Tear the book into three pieces

I don’t advocate defacing literature, but this is basically a how-to book, so I figure any DIY solution that gets you to the goal is fair game. Plus you work for a nonprofit, so I know you can’t afford to buy 3 copies and that you’re handy with craft supplies.

So here’s what you do: take an X-Acto Knife and some electrical tape, and carefully slice the book up into sections at the 3 section breaks. Tape the bindings to keep it classy and look a little less like a crazy person.

4. Give Part 1 to your Executive Director

Frankly, if you were enough of a nerd to buy the book with your own money you can probably skip part 1 because you already know it: Social media is cool and all, but it’s only really useful if you MEASURE IT. Measurement sounds scary, but it doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. You just need to decide what’s most important to you and only measure that.

The next step is key: you have to ACT on your measurements. This means you need to use measurement to answer questions that are actionable (like, what words are most effective in our e-blast subject lines? or, what types of posts actually get people to click through and donate?)

Your Executive Director, on the other hand, probably hasn’t given this much thought. He or she may not realize that measurement can help you increase donations, recruit volunteers or look great in your grant reports. But part 1 makes the case and gives some awesome case studies to drive it home (plus, let’s be honest, he/she will not read anything longer.) Convincing him/her of the importance of measurement is going to be useful later, when you want to dedicate a staff meeting to deciding key metrics or (God forbid) spend a little money on tools (don’t worry, Kanter & Paine also point you to plenty of free ones.)

5. Read part 2, then hand it to your development director or program staff

Part 2 is really the meat of the book, and for me, it drove home the point that measurement shouldn’t be a proect onto itself, but part of your daily/weekly routine. It talks about finding metrics everyone can agree on, or the famous “One Metric That Matters” and keeping everyone informed of it – every staff meeting, or maybe in a weekly email.

It also gives examples of how to use social media to engage your most interested users as fundraisers or volunteer recruiters for your organization, which is why I suggest that after you read it you hand it off to a program staffer, development person, or someone else who interacts regularly with your biggest fans.

One great example of regular measurement was at my former employer Free The Children, a Canadian children’s charity with a theme of “children helping children”. They started incorporating metrics into their work by sending a weekly email we called “The Matrix,” which had 5 or 6 metrics in it (# new donors, # new kids’ groups started, # people signed up for international volunteer trips, # people who have heard a speaker from our organization). Each department would send their updates in for The Matrix and it was emailed to all staff every Monday, helping interdepartmental communication and letting us know what parts of the organization needed attention that week.

6. Keep part 3 and all the appendices

checkmarkPart 3, “Advanced Measurement Concepts” is all yours. It deals a lot with transparency, like putting all your financial information online, and a little bit with handling crises. I wouldn’t show this to your ED, for example, until you’re so good at measurement that you’re ready for the big guns.

The appendices, though, are the really valuable part. Hold onto those and use them in meetings so people think you’re smart.

7. Follow Beth’s blog

So, remember in #1, when I said the authors actually understood social media? Well, like good content marketers, Beth Kanter shares most of the great, nitty-gritty details of how to measure nonprofit impact on her blog. This is where you can get into the deep dive on material—like what to actually DO with those facebook stats once you download them.

She’s also on twitter at @kanter and you can check out #netnon or #nptech too.

Anyway, thanks Beth and Katie! This was a great resource and I’m looking forward to trying out some of your techniques!