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Listening to Data: NCG’s Analytics Story

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

By Emily Katz and Michael Stein

It’s an open secret in philanthropy: visitors to our websites ignore our lovingly curated stories and head straight to our job listings.

Northern California Grantmakers is no exception. A look at our website data last year showed our job board eclipsed all the other pages combined. We admit, our feelings were hurt. Did they love us only for our jobs?

Then we flipped our thinking. With limited effort on our part, we were attracting talent for the sector and mobility for people already working in the field. Visitors loved our site for professional opportunities in philanthropy. Why didn’t we love them back?  What would happen if we were to welcome these visitors and connect them with the people making things happen and the latest thinking on how to make the change we’re seeking?

Thus our e-magazine Together for Good was born – a bi-weekly e-newsletter with a companion “online magazine” on the NCG website that lifts up stories of people making philanthropy happen in the Northern California as well as insights on how to do our jobs better, news from our members, and the latest research.

We put our sign-up on the Jobs Board (where the majority of non-members go), making sign-ups easy on our website, and infusing the magazine’s identity throughout our NCG’s communications channels, we created an easy way for non-members to stay up to date with the NCG community.

We are now a year into launching Together for Good and we have been paying close attention. Here’s what has happened so far:

  • Subscriptions have grown monthly by a steady 5 percent.
  • We’ve sustained strong email open and click-through rates, demonstrating continued interest in this model of people and career-centered content.
  • Our posts about people—getting hired, changing jobs, retiring, being honored, sharing a view—outperformed everything else.
  • Our email distribution has grown as new subscribers have come on board, driven principally by the continued strong traffic to the NCG website “Job Board.”
  • Finally -- and most importantly -- we get great feedback from people in our community.

In short, it was a success!  It allowed us to engage with our members and a broader audience in a new way – bringing together great people who are doing great work through shared narratives.

As we reflect on the year, Together for Good has highlighted the importance of using analytics to hear and respond to what our members are telling us. A few nuggets:

One: people read articles that interest them and likewise, attend events suited to their concerns. Not everything’s for everyone.

Two: we are human beings and we care about what happens to each other. We like to see what our peers are up to.

Three: people working hard for social good in our community appreciate a peek behind the curtain to see how philanthropy goes about its business. We could show our gratitude by offering something for everyone who wants to know what we’re up to.

Our goal of connecting and learning about each other has resonated with many people in our community, and demonstrated to us the true power of storytelling.

About Emily and Michael

Emily Katz is the Communications Director at Northern California Grantmakers. Michael Stein is the Principal of Oakwood Digital, a strategic communications firm that helps nonprofits, foundations and educators to identify growth opportunities in digital marketing and fundraising.