The Hopeful Blog: Tell More Compelling Stories Using Data

How can data help non-profits make marketing decisions?

16-Sep-2019 9:49:00 AM / by John Paul de Silva

[ 3.5 minute read ]

For awhile now, there's been a lot of talk about "big data", but mostly in the private sector. "Big data" is the drive to collect and analyze massive amounts of information on pretty much everything and anything with the ultimate goal of uncovering actionable insights for an organization. The field has become so important, that business schools have developed graduate degrees on the subject matter.

Data Helps with Marketing Decisions

Why the need for "big data", or any data, though? Non-profits have survived, grown, and thrived throughout the years before the advent of "big data", so why should we care? Well, the world is changing...rapidly. As the world's population grows, so too has the number of non-profit organizations along with businesses and individuals with personal brands. Each entity is given the opportunity to establish presences on any number of marketing platforms including websites, blogs, podcasts, and social media. Through these efforts, comes increased "noise" and consumers are overwhelmed with messages from all sources, through all channels, all the time.

What that means for your non-profit organization is more effort and more time spent on creating the right message, for the right audience, through the right channel, at the right time, to cut through all the noise. How do you know though what is "right"? This is one area where data helps. Data collection and analysis can help uncover which of your marketing and fundraising campaigns are getting the most views and engagement, helping you to make more effective, more cost-efficient, decisions in the future.

Case Study of How Data Analytics Helps with Marketing Decisions

Let's look at an example. XYZ Children's Charity is a small Ontario-based non-profit that has an annual operating budget of less than $500,000 and has been incorporated almost 10 years. Its mission is to support children who are undergoing cancer treatment. XYZ has a website, Twitter account, and LinkedIn account. On Twitter, the charity has just over 200 followers and is following just over 300 accounts. XYZ has been tweeting several times a week for almost 5 years, but is unsure of how the account has led to more donations, if at all. "We created the account because other children's charities were tweeting and we didn't want to be left out", said XYZ's Executive Director, Michelle. 

Joanna, a professional business consultant and new board member, offered to help. First, she worked with Michelle to understand the goal of the Twitter account which she later determined was to raise general awareness of XYZ and to direct traffic to the website. Michelle wasn't too familiar with Google Analytics nor did she have the time to explore it, but with the help of Joanna, they determined that less than 10% of the traffic to the website was coming from Twitter. 

Joanna dug deeper and noticed that most of the tweets didn't have a call-to-action, particularly, one that would generate website visits. Here's an example tweet:

Example of a tweet that needs improvement: "Kids undergoing cancer treatment are missing out on just being a kid!"

Joanna recommended a tweak that included a call-to-action to visit the website, a website link, as well as hashtags to draw more attention and cut through the Twitter noise:


Example of an improved tweet: "Kids undergoing cancer treatment are missing out on just being a kid! Visit  to learn how you can help #XYZ4Kids #kidswithcancer #cancer"

The Executive Director can easily compare the two tweets just by looking at simple metrics such as number of replies, re-tweets, and likes. In this case, the improved tweet generated more engagement and certainly led to more website visits with a direct linked included in the message. With that best practice in mind, Michelle could use a similar messaging structure in future tweets to drive more website traffic.

Imagine, however, doing a rudimentary manual comparison for every tweet and for every social media post EVERY day?! It would soon become very time consuming! Further, what if it wasn't so clear what needed improvement and how it needed to be improved? This is where more advanced forms of data analytics become useful and something we'll explore in a future blog post. 

In the meanwhile, we trust that you can clearly see the importance of data for non-profit decision making. What are your thoughts on this topic? Comment below - we'd love to hear from you!

Tags: AI, nonprofits, dataanalytics, social media, #4minuteread, marketing strategy, big data

John Paul de Silva

Written by John Paul de Silva

Hopeful Inc.'s Director of Marketing