Return on Relationship: One Way to Measure Social Media ROI for Non-Profits

by Joe Garecht

Computer Fundraising

Guest Post by Joe Magee from Rallybound

Many have said that we are in the midst of a “Renaissance of Marketing,” and by in large that is a reference to two points: Real-time Interconnectedness and Big Data/Analytics.  A significant part of this “revolution” is social media, a powerful tool that allows a marketer or fundraiser (in our case) to connect and gather information in real time.

In the past, marketing has been a department that is seen as fluffy, not serious. Full of creative individuals, it was a cost center not a profit center. Now, successful organizations are able to quantify their marketing expense and results in the common ROI (Return on Investment) metric with ease. Ted Rubin, a social media thought leader, has taken this a step further and has identified that social media’s ROI is not only in viewers, clicks or revenue growth, but also lies primarily with the strength of the customer, or in our case, the supporter/advocate. He has dubbed this: Return-on-Relationship or #RonR.

“Relationships are the new currency-honor them, invest in them …” (Rubin, returnonrelationship.com) is his refrain. When I think logically about how I advise our clients to engage on social media, I am always focused on the full-circle benefit. If we take this notion outside of the nonprofit space and into the job search process, we notice that most of us now a days acquire jobs via relationships or connections. We all know the saying, “It’s all about who you know”. That’s #RonR.

Another way to frame it is: ”The Donor First Perspective”. If it doesn’t make sense for the supporter; if it fails to ease the burden of donating or investing in the organization, don’t do it. Social media is your quickest indication of those pain points.

Hopefully, as you’ve been gliding down this post, you’ve begun to see how #RonR can easily be identified as a needed metric. In my experience, the relationships developed in the nonprofit space are what help missions grow. Missions in my opinion have 2 critical components that attribute to success: Fundraising and Engagement.  If we assume engagement drives fundraising, wouldn’t that lead us to believe that relationships have a significant monetary effect? Those connections equal dollars. Cultivating relationships is how you increase yield.

There is a tendency for nonprofits (and in general those using social media) to always promote themselves. Certainly, a critical mass is moving away from constant self promotion as practitioners are not seeing the benefits or return. More and more organizations are starting to create relationships with their followers and seeing them as possible long term donors. What’s a quick test to see if you suffer from an overly promotional social stream? Scroll through your feed on any social outlet and see how often your handle/name appears. If it’s often and you don’t have any retweets or shares incorporated, you are not cultivating relationships.

The above is a great retweet from the American Red Cross. Nothing about this tweet is self-promoting, but what it is doing is building relationships. Associating yourself with your followers as the provider of news or the driver of conversations between communities, in a nonprofit’s case, is something that allows the connection to deepen. It’s trust.

What I always explain is that by operating in this fashion, you will begin to see an increase in your followers (and quite possibly fundraising dollars) as you grow your community.

So, how is #RonR measured? The best way is to watch direct and indirect connection to your social channels. While people are beginning to donate via social channels, there is some opposition to doing so, but relationships allow you to increase clicks towards fundraising efforts: this is a metric. Activity and buzz about your nonprofit will increase: this is a metric. Retweets and shares will increase: this is a metric. Followers and likes will jump: this is a metric.

My belief is that Mr. Rubin is establishing a mantra for the “Connected World” that has been around for years: The customer is always right. Only now, the interaction can be more interesting, fun, crafted and curated from a variety of angles and truly measurable when a nonprofit needs it to be. Investing in #RonR allows nonprofits to stop focusing on retention or acquisition because now they can corral both, without even crafting an alternate strategy. Again, those connections equal dollars. Cultivating relationships is how you increase their yield!

Joe Magee is the Vice President of Marketing at RallyBound, which provides social fundraising software to nonprofits. Joe has worked with leading brands like TED, Kaiser Permanente and AOL to create digital platforms that aim to make a social impact. 

Photo Credit: Thomas Brownell

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Steve December 11, 2013 at 2:53 pm

I like what you say about having a donor-first perspective. This can also be a good touchstone to judge whether strategies make sense or are worthwhile.

Ted Rubin February 8, 2014 at 9:30 pm

Well done Joe… perfectly stated and explained. Welcome to the ‘Age of Influence,’ where anyone can build an audience and effect change, advocate brands, build relationships and make a difference.

Remember… Relationships are like muscle tissue, the more they are engaged, the stronger and more valuable they become.

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