Note from Beth: I’m working on the sequel to the Networked Nonprofit – it is a book about using measurement to prove and improve results with the Measurement Goddess KD Paine. (Her recent book, Measuring What Matters, is a must read.)
So, lately, I’ve been on the hunt for good nonprofit measurement stories. Last week, I read Jocelyn Harmon’s post about Nonprofit Facebook Fail and in the comments, Petri Darby refers to the dramatic increase of visits to his nonprofit’s Make-A-Wish Foundation Web site. He goes onto say how they focusing their integrated strategy on a metric that matters: conversions.
This resonated after reading KD Paine’s “Social Media Measurement Meets Sex in the City” that talks about the importance of tracking your strategy to understand how to get people to become life long supporters. The goal is not exposure.
Petri’s post shares a few thoughts about how his organization is focusing on the relationships through connection, not just traffic.
Guest Post by Petri Darby, Make-A-Wish Foundation
Make-A-Wish Foundation monitors analytics, does tests, and tweaks its website (www.wish.org). For many years, wish.org primarily served as a direct response promotional channel, with every change designed to shorten the path to a transactional relationship. Our homepage reflected that theme, always displaying 10 or 12 ways to donate dollars or air miles, buy products to support wish granting, or launch fundraisers on our behalf.
Our website was performing respectably. Average online donations hovered at an attractive level. Our data showed that those coming with the specific intent of giving were able to complete that task with ease. However, conversion rates were flat.
Recently, we adopted a new vision for wish.org and our online channels, including social networks. Our focus has shifted from transactional to connecting and engaging key constituencies over the long-term, and empowering them as brand ambassadors and advocates.
Here’s how we’re doing it:
1. First-Person Storytelling
For 30 years, the Make-A-Wish Foundation has recounted wish stories from our own perspective. We typically wrote and packaged wish stories for the website, sponsor and development campaigns, corporate communications, and other channels. Rhrough our social media channels, we learned that families wanted to share their wish experiences, and we were not giving them an outlet to do that.
In late 2010, we started soliciting stories and associated multimedia from wish kids, wish parents, volunteers, medical professionals, donors, celebrities, and general Make-A-Wish fans and began presenting those stories – in their own words – on wish.org. We are working to develop a system that syndicates fresh content to chapter websites, delivers search engine optimization benefits, and facilitates the marketing of first-person wish stories in social channels.
2. Content Curation
We also are monitoring online and social media channels to identify existing online content – including news, videos, and blog posts – created by those who have personally experienced the power of a wish and present those items on wish.org. We showcase and link to this content on our homepage and social properties.
3. Active Social Engagement/Sharing Channels
Given that most brand discussions are taking place outside of our website, and that the number of Make-A-Wish fans and followers far outnumber the number of monthly visitors to wish.org, we know that we cannot simply focus on driving traffic to our website and recruiting visitors to join our social networks. We must find and meet our stakeholders where they already are. And, we must provide ways for visitors to connect with us, and each other, to contribute to the site, and to spread content, as well as opportunities to help grant wishes.
We introduced an option for visitors to log into their preferred social networks, “Like” and share content to their social networks, and see what others are doing and sharing on the site. We also added reaction buttons to wish stories, giving site visitors an ability to choose whether a story made them feel Hopeful, Reflective, or Inspired, and to share that emotion and story link on their preferred social sites. Eventually, we anticipate adding these tools to our chapter websites as well.
We also are adding incremental giving and symbolic giving modules within wish stories, to test whether offering the ability to fund specific elements reflective of aspects of a wish can help reinforce how every donation plays an important role in making wishes come true.
4. Design Flexibility to Support Seasonal/Topical Campaigns
As our online model shifts to engagement first, conversion second, the wish.org homepage and chapter template homepages need to become more active, with a fresh look and feel according to our different marketing and fundraising campaigns at different times of the year. By integrating campaign themes, designs, and calls-to-action into our homepages, we are reducing the knee-jerk tendency to create a landing page, micro-site, and URL for every program. These direct response tactics have their place, but when allowed to go unbridled they can quickly dilute your long-term interests.
We identified elements of our homepage and interior pages we can “reskin” to reflect particular campaign themes. We also offer chapters a la carte backgrounds, images, and other multimedia elements for each major campaign that can be applied to their local websites.
5. More Multimedia
Video has exploded in terms of online consumption, influence on search engine results, viral potential, and brand storytelling possibilities. We added video to our homepage, started integrating video into content throughout the site, and overhauled the video section to present content by featured, most recent, most popular, and categorized videos. We also added social sharing options within the content well along with videos.
6. Optimization for Mobile Platforms
Wish.org saw a doubling of site traffic coming from mobile phones in 2010, with upwards of 10 percent of site traffic coming from handhelds.
While there is an increasing interest in developing mobile apps, the Foundation first recognized the need to develop a mobile-optimized website that delivers an appropriate and consistent browsing experience to meet the growing interests of our mobile audiences.
The first Make-A-Wish mobile optimized website launched in early April 2011. It is a streamlined version of the traditional site, complete with mission-centric content up front, an optimized donation flow and frequent flier miles donation form, social connection and sharing modules, and clean crisp navigation. Mobile users are automatically directed to the mobile site, rather than having to type in a separate web address on their handhelds.
We also have been testing different types of 2d barcodes (JagTags and QR Codes) for point-of-impulse engagement in outdoor and print arenas, and are planning a lot more mobile integration on that level.
While we continue to make short-term changes to enhance and test different approaches on wish.org, it seems that the shelf-life of our website designs is about five years – and the last time we revisited our site design and CMS platform in tandem was … you guessed it, around five years ago.
So, we currently are gearing up for the complete overhaul of our national website and the website templates for our 64 chapters. And that is the subject of another blog post – next year.
How are you rethinking your digital strategy to encourage visitors from social networks and other channels to create a deeper relationship with your organization?
Petri Darby, APR, is the director of brand marketing & digital strategy for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of America. He is @darbyDarnit on Twitter or you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He blogs at www.darbyDARNIT.com.