This piece is based on the Proving ROI: Quantitative and Qualitative Measures of a Successful Digital Campaign workshop presented by Devon Hopkins and Leah Stern at NTEN’s 2017 Nonprofit Technology Conference.


So you’ve successfully launched your most recent digital campaign. It’s catchy, it’s meaningful, and it’s got a pretty amazing hashtag. Sounds like you’re on your way to going #IceBucketChallenge-level viral, right? I hope so.


The Ice Bucket Challenge is arguably one of the best grassroots nonprofit social media campaigns that ever was. There were several things that came out of it. Number one: Awareness, which was measured by the number of hits to the ALS Foundation’s website, plus lots of Google searches focused on figuring out what ALS is. Number two: Fundraising. Remember what the deal was? You poured a bucket of icy water on yourself or you donated. Whether it was a $10 donation, or a $100,000 donation, tons and tons of people made donations to the Foundation, and they hit a fundraising high like they never had before. Number three: Activism. Since more people were aware of the horrors of ALS, new activists were born. Whether organizing awareness events, advocating for more research, or just taking on projects that would support patients, people wanted to help.


But when your campaign doesn’t go viral and make your data super easy to find, how do you prove the return on investment? Here are some questions you should answer to make sure you can accurately show your work…and worth:


Proving ROI


What do you want to measure?

It’s incredibly important to think about what you want to measure at the beginning of the project so that you’re not scrambling to find data at the conclusion – or worse – not capturing the right data in the first place. Make an agreement with your board, your leadership, and your team about what information will be captured and try to avoid late additions once the campaign is off the ground.

What impact do you want to make?

Impact can be tough to quantify, but this is what your campaign is all about. Think about what change you want to make and how to approach this change with your audience. And make sure to set the expectation with your team that there may not be any concrete data available to show impact.

What outcomes do you want to see?

This is where you can really use data to gauge your success. Likely, if your outcomes show success, your impact will be apparent. This can be shown through actions taken, new subscribers, new donors, event attendees – really anything that can be measured.

What are we going to create to support the campaign?

What are the elements of your campaign that will help achieve results on your outcomes and impact? What does your messaging look and feel like? How are you speaking to this campaign in all your existing channels (website, social media, direct mail)? What else do you need to do to make sure you’re covering all bases? Make sure you have your campaign spread across all your available resources.

Do you have the right resources in the right places?

Have you prepared your team? Do you have the capacity to give the campaign the attention it needs? Do you have the right people in the right places? No matter how small your team is, you should always evaluate the resources you have before making decisions that require extra budget.

Have you had an incredibly successful campaign? Tell us about your planning strategy in the comments!