When do you make member research a priority? When you are stuck. When the not knowing the answer to a question is holding your organization back. — Amanda Kaiser
The best nonprofit or association rebranding projects (and other larger marketing, strategy and innovation projects) start with member, donor or community research. This is the conversation that I have with Beth Brodovsky on the Driving Participation podcast.
We start with the marketing problem smaller organizations acutely experience today. Namely trying to get the word out in a very noisy environment with little to no budget. The big corporations force attention because they can afford to pay millions and billions of dollars in advertising and like tactics. What about the rest of us? The tactics of the mass marketers don’t work for nearly all nonprofits. The key then is to figure out how to tell the brand stories that your community needs to hear. You learn which stories to tell by having conversations with your community. Preferably qualitative phone interview style conversations.
I say “preferably qualitative phone interview style conversations” because we tend to assume that surveys are the research method of choice. While cheap and fast, surveys can be highly inaccurate. Additionally surveys are very limited in the type of answers they reveal. Surveys are great for demographic questions (how long have you been a member) or even behavioral questions (which social media platforms do you participate in). But these are not the kinds of questions that can help us in branding, or with innovation, or with informing our strategy. The questions we really need to answer are questions like this:
- Why are you involved with us?
- What are your challenges and why?
- What value does the organization provide and why?
- Why are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future?
During the first section of the podcast Beth and I cover what makes qualitative phone interview style conversations the methodology of choice for associations and nonprofits. Then we dive into the process itself:
- What questions should we ask members?
- How do we correctly ask follow up questions?
- What are the mistakes first-timers make?
- Who should be recruited and how many interviews should we have?
- How do we get prepared for a project like this?
We walked thorough the process in detail to give you a good sense of what you can learn as well how how it works.
I hope you enjoy the conversation as much as I did. Many thanks to Beth Brodovsky for inviting me to participate, I thoroughly enjoyed being a guest!