Monday, August 8, 2011

Experimenting With Your Small Nonprofit

In the world of social media, very often what we hear about new tools or platforms is like a politician's version of science: here's the conclusion, what facts can we find to support it?

As a small nonprofit, you probably read about these debuts and their numbers (Google+ with 10-18 million subscribers) and you wonder if you should exert the effort to get an invitation and set up an account. But here's the thing: you have no idea whether your effort will return much of use to you. After all, a tool or platform is only as good as its results and like mileage, your results may vary. So, what to do?

Design a Small Experiment

Pick a tool for your experiment. For the purposes of this post, I'll recommend two that deal with smartphones:

The first tool is kind of an easy pic if you don't already have a mobile version of your website. If you do, you could choose qurify! and generate a QR code that simply resolves to your website, but I'd suggest you stretch a little more and figure out something to do with the QR code. Perhaps you have a campaign or an event or even a meeting coming up. If you're sending out an email about it, why not include a QR code with the details of location, time, etc.?

From Science Buddies
Or pick another tool that you've been interested in and haven't tried yet. Now apply the Scientific Method:

The Scientific Method*

The question is, will this tool work for my small nonprofit (and define work as measurable good results)?

For the purpose of this post, we'll assume you've done the background research by coming up with the tool you want to try.

In constructing the hypothesis, you could go lots of ways, but I'm sticking with a simple it does (or doesn't) work for my small nonprofit.

Design Your Experiment

Decide how long or how much to use the social media tool and what data you will gather to be analyzed later. DO NOT design the experiment with a particular result in mind, but rather with the object of gathering the most information possible. Once you're satisfied with the design, perform the experiment.

Analyze the Results

Look at all of the data you've gathered and see in which direction it leads you. Does it support your original idea that, for example, your small nonprofit's base are not smartphone owners? Maybe the results are inconclusive or turn out to be partially supportive of your hypothesis.

Document the Conclusion

And form a new (and hopefully better) hypothesis to experiment with.

In these small steps you can try something new without fully committing your limited resources. Plus, you'll have hard data that you can use with future experiments with other tools. And when you finally go to the Board with a strategy, you won't be guessing at all.

So, experiment with your small nonprofit, you'll learn what works and you won't be jumping to anyone else's conclusions.

*Definition of the steps for the Scientific Method can vary (try Googling it in images), but this one seemed most appropriate for this post.

Tool of the Week:

The favicon is the tiny picture next to the site name on a browser tab (mine is a red robin head). A lot of sites don't take advantage of this opportunity for branding, even when the platform they're using (like Blogger or WP) allow them to and provide instructions for how to do it. But first you've got to have the picture and it has to be in the .ico format - you can't just rename a .jpg or .png., which doesn't require registration, lets you turn a picture into a favicon and save it in the .ico format. Tip: the simpler the pic, the better.

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