With a new year almost upon us, it’s time to take digital stock. Whenever I begin working with a new organization, I start by evaluating where they’re at digitally. I’ve walked into a campaign before to find out that email signups on the website are going nowhere! Or that fundraising is a separate system and online donors are not integrated into your mass email stream. Perhaps the campaign has an old Twitter handle from four years ago, and nobody knows the password anymore. Or somebody is squatting on the domain name of your organization because nobody renewed it. Without taking a thorough top-down look, it’s easy for things to slip through the cracks – especially if the organization or campaign has been on digital autopilot for awhile.
So how do you get started in evaluating your organization’s digital program, and planning for the future? Begin by cataloguing all your digital assets, and making sure you have passwords to everything (or start reaching out to Facebook, Twitter etc. to try to get access back to old social media properties).
Here’s some basic questions to ask to help build that digital inventory.
Does your campaign or organization have a website? What technology is it using – it is using one of the popular CMSs (content management system, a la WordPress or Joomla or NationBuilder) or is it custom-coded? How easy is it to manage and update? Is it mobile responsive? Is your website meeting your needs: who is your intended audience, and can they easily do the things they need and want to do? How much are you paying for regular maintenance, and web hosting? What does your typical amount of traffic look like, and are you prepared for surges? Do you have full admin access to the site, or are you dependent on outside consultants? What domain names do you have registered, are they under your name, and how long is the registration good until? Does the website include an easy way to sign up for email updates, make a donation, and find your social media accounts?
CRM (Mass email, online donations, online activism)
Do you have an email list or lists? What CRM are you using, if any (a la ActionKit, Action Network, BlueUtopia, Convio, NationBuilder, NGP VAN, Salsa)? What does your contract and costs look like? Does your CRM meet your advocacy and donation needs? Do you have full admin access to the list? What’s the size of your list today, and how does your email list perform over time? When’s the last time an email was sent to the list? (If it’s more than a month or so, expect a pretty large drop-off from bounces/unsubscribes the next time you do an email). Do you have orphan lists, left in non-integrated donation systems such as ActBlue or an old NGP account, on paper (such as volunteer sign in sheets or meeting attendance sheets), or in old CRMs?
What social media properties do you have? Do you have passwords and full admin access to everything? Do any names of pages or accounts need to be changed or updated? What do your audiences look like in terms of raw numbers, and in terms of engagement level? Are there duplicate Facebook pages out there, personal Facebook profiles instead of pages and so on?
Once you’ve taken stock of where you at, and noted what needs improving, you can start to set numeric goals (benchmark average website traffic, email list size and open/click rate, social media followers and engagement rate, average amount of donations per email etc.).
If you’re wondering how your numbers compare to other non-profits, check out M&R benchmarks, the latest benchmarks study comparing online fundraising, advocacy and organizing for 105 nonprofits around the country. There isn’t anything so transparent for political campaigns, but you can observe your opponents’ social media counts and engagement levels (and their campaign finance filings) to get a sense of how their digital operation is running.
If you’re trying to figure out what are realistic goals on how big you can get, Facebook advertising can be a good tool for this: you can pull counts of how many people across the country are interested in your issue, or how many voters of your party live in your city, region or state. What % of your target audience have you already engaged with?
Once you have an idea of how big you could realistically get, you’re probably wondering how to get there. For your reading pleasure: how to grow your email list.