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DISRUPTION: Evolving Models of Engagement and Support

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DISRUPTION: Evolving Models of Engagement and Support

  1. 1. Disruption is a national study of member-based advocacy organizations conducted by theMonitor Institute and funded by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, The John S. andJames L. Knight Foundation, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. In lieu of thetraditional white paper, we are presenting a set of tools for engagement around the issuesraised by the study. We do this for two reasons:(1) The findings point to multiple dynamic tensions. Nothing is settled about how even the most relevant and impactful advocacy organizations engage constituencies or attracts resources. A conventional report – presenting data from a moment in time – would be immediately out of date and easily dismissed; and,(2) Since the story is unfolding rapidly, we want the organizations and their funders to be apart of its telling.This slide deck pulls together some of the most provocative findings of the study and ismeant to be a tool for discussion and dialogue. Feel free to use it to frame a discussionwith colleagues, your board, your constituents and/or your members. Participate in ourWorking Wikily Blog on the topic.Complete findings – along with the research instruments – can be found on the MonitorInstitute website at 1
  2. 2. This brief deck is organized into three parts. In part one, we briefly review the genesis andgoals of the project and we discuss our approach to the research. In part two, we highlightsome of the more provocative findings. Part three includes a set of conclusions andpreliminary recommendations – for funders and for member-based advocacy organizationsthemselves. 2
  3. 3. This project was initiated by Chris DeCardy, Vice President of the Packard Foundation. Hewas concerned about the sustainability of member-based advocacy organizations,historically supported by large numbers of loyal, annual donors. Are they making thetransition into our Web 2.0 world? What are the new models for sustainable advocacyefforts? How might foundations like Packard best support and encourage importantadvocacy work going forward?The study design combined in-depth interviews with a census of national member-basedadvocacy organizations with annual budgets of over $1 million. 3
  4. 4. We began with 15 in-depth interviews, using a detailed protocol. These interviews helped the studyteam begin to understand the current stresses and challenges facing established member-basedadvocacy organizations. We also heard from some young and growing organizations about theirnewly developed approaches to engaging constituents and garnering support.In the interviews, we asked leaders of marketing and development efforts at a range of both smalland large organizations about what they were experiencing -- the challenges of recruiting newmembers, of developing new revenues, and about their experiments with new media. Theinterviews hinted at trends and helped the study team design the survey.At the outset, we intended to field a survey to a diverse and stratified sample of 60 organizations.Once we did a preliminary look at the number of advocacy organizations nationally with budgets ofover $1 million we realized that, without great expense, we could do a proper census. Referencingthe national taxonomy of nonprofits, our research team combed through the list of registerednonprofits for all those that categorized themselves as advocacy organizations. We supplementedthis list with qualifying grantees of each of the study’s funders.You can find the interview protocol and survey instrument as well as a comprehensive report on itsfindings at with a broad definition of “member,” we started out with 537 candidate organizations.The list was culled to a total of 443 qualifying organizations )e.g. organizations engaged in advocacythat had a membership base and a budget of $1 million or more.) Of those organizations, 259responded making our total response rate close to 40%. Since the sampling fraction of the targetpopulation was so large, we have confidence in the robustness and generalizability of the results. 4
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  6. 6. Going in, we had some working hypotheses about drivers of change in approaches toengagement and models of support among advocacy organizations. Interview and surveyfindings confirmed many of our hypotheses. At the forefront are technology changes andthe social networking enabled by Web 2.0 technology and tools and embraced by Millenialsand Gen Y-ers.Web 2.0 technologies are giving people new vehicles for self-organizing around social andpolitical issues and causes – both within organizations and outside traditional forms andstructures. In addition, there are profound demographic and generational changes linkedto and leveraged by the new technologies. Millenials (born in 1981 and after) have adoptednew technologies as their own. They apply FaceBook, Twitter and more to self-organizingand to their participation in the causes they care about. They are simply not as interestedin joining established member-based organizations like the Sierra Club or PlannedParenthood. Their participation is more sporadic and activity or event-based. As aconsequence, traditional nonprofits are struggling to recruit and retain a new generation ofsupporters as their staunchest members (Boomers) become grayer. The recent economicdownturn put all of this into stark relief. 6
  7. 7. There’s no quid pro quo with the new generations—the value proposition is not quite clear.These younger people are motivated more towards one-time gifts, activities, and events.Whereas with the traditional membership organization of the past the members countedon the organization to take action Millenials and Gen Y-ers want to influence and to act.Study participants reflected on these changes. Many voiced concern and confusion aboutwhere to go from here but few are responding to the shifts they observe with a truly newapproach. 7
  8. 8. Overall, member-based advocacy organizations are adding experiments with new socialmedia to all of what they already do through their Websites, Email, Op Eds, Direct Mail andListserves.For member-based advocacy organizations, the complexity of managing communicationswith constituents and donors is increasing. 8
  9. 9. These organizations recognize the need to innovate and experiment with new social mediabut direct mail, email, and website remain the most effective tools for fundraising. Theexpense of direct mail is going up, the yield rate is going down, but there is no replacementstrategy. 9
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  11. 11. The eNonprofit Benchmarks Study, published annually by NTEN provides an interestingperspective on email advocacy and fundraising. The 2011 report looked at 40 organizations.There is some good news about online fundraising, it’s on the rise but most online gifts arecoming as one-time donations. This is consistent with what we heard and saw about theengagement of Boomers vs Millennials. Boomers are more likely to give you an annual gift;the younger activists are very engaged and committed but do so more in response to anevent or issue.And, it’s not that the percent return on email is so much higher than direct mail but theincremental costs of direct mail fundraising are minor when set against the rising costs ofprinting and postage for direct mail.Email doesn’t actually give you better yield – at least not yet, but it is less expensive. Andno one yet knows what to replace direct mail with. New social media is still an emergentstrategy. 11
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  13. 13. The relative rankings here are similar to what we saw before, with a continued reliance onold media. Direct mail is a little lower on the list here, since this is more about takingaction, where online engagement is more effective. And also, all of these tools have beenrated as a 2 or above in effectiveness out of 4. So they are ascribing higher effectiveness forthese tools for engagement than for fundraising.Several study participants articulated the big challenge around engagement to beintegrating online and offline activities to get the kind of engagement they want. 13
  14. 14. One of the most startling findings of our census was that 10% of respondents had justbegun to experiment with new social media in the last year, and another 53% had juststarted in the last two years.The model is inevitably shifting but it’s moving more slowly than we thought it could orshould.Few have mastered the new model. Our conclusion: This is a time of disruption andexperimentation, and the best way to get through it would be to accelerate theexperimentation and diffuse the learning from experiments. 14
  15. 15. One in five respondents said their revenues decreased over the last 5 years, 5% saw nochange in overall revenues, and ¾ reported increased revenues from 2005 to 2010. Giventhe degree of anxiety about what the next model will be, combined with the relativelyrecent advent of new social media and uncertainty about how to best use it, you’d expectmember-based advocacy organizations to be worried about their financial future. Oddlyenough, they’re not. And they’re optimistic because they have continued high expectationsof foundations.Looking ahead to 2012, three-quarters expect continued increased in revenues and only10% expect to lose ground. We asked survey respondents to project the sources andpercentages of revenue for 2012. And the largest share of their budgets is expected tocome from foundations. 15
  16. 16. The two case studies briefly presented here were chosen because they were frequentlycited in interviews and noted by survey respondents as models of effective use of newsocial media.And the two examples offer a nice contrast. MomsRising is using new media to create anew value proposition, and EDF has used it to refresh their existing efforts.MomsRising is similar to the model. They are reaching out to a wide variety ofparticipants through emails and social networks. But instead of providing an advocacy“benefit,” (e.g. If you support us, we will fight for… on your behalf.) they principally provideopportunities for their members to act. Their goal is to build a movement for a morefamily-friendly America. They use new social media tools to facilitate and inspire theirconstituents rather than to broadcast to them. 16
  17. 17. EDF provides an interesting contrast to MomsRising. It has a longer history and a largermembership – which can make it challenging to change or to adopt new approaches.They’ve started experimenting with all forms of new media, increasingly using new socialmedia as a platform not only to broadcast but also to engage constituencies, allowingmembers to affect EDF’s evolving agenda.They have used two tools with great success. One is a network of educational blogs. Peoplerecognize the relevance of the information provided and how and smoothly they are run.The other is their Innovation Exchange, which is a networked approach to engagingmembers.EDF is starting to behave like MomsRising but they had the added challenge of needing tore-tool their operations to integrate and take advantage of the power of new socialmedia.They have integrated their marketing efforts so that their director of marketing is incharge of both online and offline. And EDF is also using research to understand how toreach the younger demographic. 17
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  20. 20. This is an inflection point for member-based advocacy organizations as they try newapproaches and test their relevance for a new time and a new demographic. 20
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  23. 23. Discussion questions:1. Is it better to distribute the responsibility for social media or to centralize leadership within an organization? What are the arguments pro and con?2. As organizations experiment with new social media, we are beginning to see the rise of the “Chief Learning Officer.” What role could/should such a person play?3. What can be done to accelerate experimentation and to diffuse learning about the use and potential efficacy of new social media for fundraising and engagement?4. What does a strong and continued reliance on foundation funding mean for the relevance of advocacy organizations?5. How will the evolving external context (advances in technology, aging Boomers, economic volatility, etc.) affect the ability of member-based advocacy organizations to be effective and garner needed support? 23
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