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NTEN Tech Conference Gives Insights into Expanding Engagement

The NTEN Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC) 2013 was once again a great chance to catch up with nonprofit peers and colleagues focused on the digital side of things.  The keynote this year was from Dan Pallota who has been on a personal journey to change the way the world evaluates nonprofits.  Here is his recent TED talk on the topic (the NTC presentation was similar but is not yet available electronically).  Certainly Dan has a point that nonprofits evaluated on “cost of fundraising” as the primary mechanism to judge their effectiveness are being held back.  Dan has kicked off several initiatives to find a better solution.  I support these efforts, and encourage everyone in the nonprofit sector to get involved.

I had the chance to participate in a session led by Robert Rosenthal (VolunteerMatch) called “How Many Rungs: Social Change and the Expanding Engagement Ladder.”   The panel presented a nice cross-section of engagement paths experienced by visitors to Change.org, Razoo.com, and a nonprofit called GiveMN.org.  Razoo’s and GiveMN.org’s new model for a state-wide “charity day” raised $64 million in a single day and educated countless numbers of small nonprofits about effective online fundraising.  It looks like Razoo will be replicating this model in other states and with community foundations.  I’m interested to see if this new concept catches on.  The combined benefits of connecting small nonprofits with successful best practices, supporting them with a strong broader promotional wave, and the online technology to smoothly facilitate it all is a new and innovative addition to our sector.

My own contribution to the presentation was on analytics and engagement, laying out the fundamentals of predictive modeling and demonstrating the value via a case study with a membership organization of 137,000 members who asked Merkle for help in sorting out how to target their membership and marketing budget to maximize member renewals.  In the presentation I prompted the audience to consider the many variables – magazine subscriptions, committee membership, store purchase, prior membership renewal, age and others – that most influence whether a member would renew their membership.  Much thoughtful evaluation ensued, with many ideas floated.  In the end, using Merkle’s regression analysis we were able to demonstrate that, in fact, we could most lift the likelihood of an individual to renew by attending a “special event”.  The interesting aspect here is that none of the audience nor the client originally identified this as a key variable that impacted loyalty and likelihood to renew.  The explanation is that these events are NOT included in the organizations standard membership package, and they are dedicated to specific subject areas.  It appears that special event attendees are “raising their hand” when attending to signal that they are more engaged then their peers, and likely the content is further enhancing their loyalty through education. 

Predictive modeling does such a nice job of setting aside opinion and educated guessing to provide a scientific approach to sorting through targeting while optimizing budget expenditure and resulting revenue. Click here to view my presentation.

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