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Saturday, May 09, 2009

The value of polling & surveys in delivering high quality communications

Keeping abreast of the needs and wants of your membership, donors, and potential supporters is vital to a non-profit’s objectives and overall success. Ensuring that you are providing exactly what your audiences want, can seem like a never-ending battle but in fact, it's the life blood of build effective communication.

While most NPO (non-profit organization) staff are in touch with their members and supporters, the temptation to assume they know what they want needs to be resisted. Without truly understanding your supporters and evaluating the efforts to reach them, more time is spent on generic marketing with often withered results. Consequently, as you may have guessed, is a mixed bag of results. Without measuring marketing and advocacy efforts, non-profits throw money and time out the window.

The Case for Polling/ Surveys

Market research is essential in ensuring that your message is effectively targeted to the targets you are trying to reach. With a plethora of media for dissemination of key messages, it is imperative to sustain your advocacy efforts by thinking with a clear line towards understanding what motivates your audiences and stakeholders. Strategic communication planning begins with a concrete foundation of audience research, and then effectively applies that research to targeted messaging.

So, the obvious question is: how do I effectively measure my marketing efforts? How do I know if the messages are inspiring my membership to act, interact, or donate? By knowing exactly, what it is your audiences are looking for on a majority level, you can provide it; and re-strategize your advocacy plans accordingly.

Here are some of the best ways and tips for analyzing your PR and marketing efforts for the future success of your organization.

1. Polling/ Surveys: One of the most obvious answers is polling/ surveying your members, donors or target audiences. But how do you best go about that? Though many people are too busy to leave feedback and comments for a service or program, if you approach them in the correct way, they will be more likely to do so. One good way is to ask for feedback and comments on your email notices and newsletters. Another is to address them from your website for general or specific feedback.

2. Specific and General Feedback: Make sure when reaching out to your membership that you ask for both general feedback as well as specific. For example, if you are trying to determine if a specific program is effective in generating support, ask a specific question to that end. If, on the contrary, you are just beginning to gather responses on your business, ask for general feedback. Depending on the general response of this collection, you’ll see a pattern in the elements that your membership like and dislike about your organization.

3. Just Ask: Simply asking your membership at programs, events, and the like; can garnish a lot more information that you might expect. Not only does it make your customers feel like their opinion matters and that they are part of your organization’s mission, but it also gives them the opportunity to candidly express their opinions on general and specific matters at your nonprofit. Remember it is vital that non-profit and association executives keep their finger on the pulse of their organization. The best way to do this is through face-to-face networking.

4. Record: Most importantly, do not think that you can keep a running memory bank on all the different feedback you receive. With all the short and long term happenings of a non-profit, it is impossible to keep every opinion coherent and unblemished in your mind. Find a way to effectively record these responses. This can as simple and as cost-free as a variety of excel spreadsheets on your laptop.

5. Analyze: It should go without saying, finding a set time and manner to analyze all these results is just as important as collecting the information. Set time aside regularly to review each means of response, dividing the responses according to question and topic.

6. Poll and Analyze Often: Polling and doing customer research once in awhile is a good start, but the more you can enact this sort of response system, the better you can stay on top of what your membership wants from you in relation to your non-profit’s mission, goals, and community action.

7. Devise a Plan and Act: After gathering the information, devising a short and long term plan to optimize your nonprofit’s initiatives and overall scope is crucial. While it’s good to know what you customers want, it is more important to offer them the actual solution. Even if the answer is expensive or will require more than what you have in resources, manpower, and/or funds; developing a plan to reach that goal and taking small, measurable though realistic steps towards it, will make your membership feel connected to your non-profit and also that their voice counts for something.

These are all simple ways that organizations can keep tabs on the effectiveness of their marketing strategies. It is always beneficial to perform a communications or marketing audit through a third party. The help of a professional specialized in non-profit advocacy can assist your organization in an exhaustive analysis of your marketing efforts and as a result, carry out your objectives.
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Mark Buzan is Principal and Chief Magnifier in Action Strategies, a full service Strategic Communications, Public Relations and Public Affairs Consultancy for non-profits and associations. Make sure to contact him for advice on reaching audiences you may or may not have yet considered in your marketing communications and PR campaigns. Drop him a line if you are looking for help in developing a public relations campaign. You can view his website at www.actionstrategies.ca.

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