Winning the Internet

The semiannual report—an enlightening experience

After a great run, the Winning the Internet blog has been retired. However, you can still keep in touch with New Media Mentors here.

EnlightenmentWhen it comes to measuring success, most of us mean well but struggle to consistently find time to look at results or have trouble bringing fresh eyes to the reports we review regularly. This is why I am a firm believer in the semiannual report.

A semiannual report is essentially a big report that looks at everything you are doing with new media (and beyond if you’re feeling ambitious). It’s a document full of measures and metrics—and more importantly—observations and analysis.

Why you should do it

For New Media Mentors, we kick-off every mentorship with a version of this report (we call it a New Media Assessment). In the last year I’ve created these reports for seven organizations. I’m happy to report that every single organization got something out of the report.

In many cases the report led to big discoveries and recommendations that dramatically boosted results. We discovered that one organization had code on their site that was preventing it from being indexed by Google. Removing the code resulted in an over 50% increase in traffic to the site. We found that another organization’s email clickthrough rate was surprisingly low. By implementing email best practices, we were able to nearly double their clickthrough rate.

In addition to surprising the folks that manage the new media work, the executive directors were often shocked by the results. Many of them had never actually taken the time to look at the organization’s new media work in this way.

What to report on

Normally I would suggest that the measures you report on flow directly from your goals (check out this post for more info about that). After all, if your measures aren’t tied directly to your goals, they’re basically meaningless, right?

This is the one exception. Yes, you should absolutely include the measures you report on regularly—the ones that link back to your goals. However, I encourage you to push beyond that and experiment with other measures too. This is not a report that you put together often, so the extra time and effort isn’t too much of a burden. Also, reporting on additional measures forces you to look at your data in new ways, which can lead to surprising discoveries.

When deciding what to report on, the eNonprofit Benchmarks Study is a great place to start for inspiration. The metrics I use regularly range from number of Facebook fans to most popular website pages to the action rate for email campaigns.

Don’t forget the analysis

Be sure to include analysis too! Data is great, but analysis is a critical part of making it actionable. If you notice that something looks low or high, include suggestions for improving it. This piece takes time, but it is totally worth it. This is what makes the report worthwhile.

Do it and do it again

For New Media Mentors, we conduct this assessment again after six months and calculate the change for each metric. This is not only enlightening, but can also be great fodder for your resume or your organization’s annual report.

Conducting one of these reports for the first time can be a bit intimidating. If you have any questions, feel free to post them in the comments.


About Melissa Foley

Melissa is the Director of Training and Mentoring for Netroots Foundation and New Media Mentors. She aims to use her MBA + nonprofit background to teach organizations to use new media tools strategically.