Nonprofit Cues from the Retail Sector
Our executive director’s husband, Henry Quinn, is a creative thinker and occasional blogger whose thoughts sometimes stray into topics of interest to the nonprofit sector.
- People were surprisingly negative on social media. I'm a skeptic, and always have been, of its revenue-generating value, but even I was taken aback by how matter-of-fact many of the dismissals of social media were. The recurring theme -- not quite a consensus, but not far from one either -- was, “Look, you have to do social because that's the current state of our target's expectations, but we're not sure why, none of the usual metrics work on it, and you absolutely shouldn't expect any money from it directly.”
- The leitmotif regarding the value of engagement wasn't much better: “Until you can tell me the exchange rate between ‘Like's’ and U.S. Dollars, I have no idea why I want to spend money to acquire ‘Like's.’” It's 2011, we're three years into a massive downturn, and it felt to me that antiquities like “income minus costs equals net revenue” were back in fashion.
- The phone vs. tablet conversations were quite nuanced. If you're trying to incent a relatively simple behavior, there was agreement that phones should be part of the conversation. Selling movie tickets, finding the time of a train, or soliciting a donation for a very specific cause—these were the kinds of things people were talking about on phones. Anything larger, about engaging via the device (rather than executing on existing inclination to spend), the entire discussion was about tablets. I do see this point – until someone invents an app that makes your phone's screen bigger, it's a pretty limited experience. Also, I think that app would make it a tablet.
- Ray Kurzweil, who spoke at the summit, is a very interesting guy and gives a good talk. His likes include exponential curves, and his dislikes include giving any indication that any prediction he's ever made has turned out to be wrong.
- Attribution got its own session, and it totally deserved it. It's a pet obsession of mine -- if I contact a person 30 times, and they donate, how do I allocate that donation to the 30 touches? And what's leftover, the residual portion of donations that came completely independent of (or even in spite of) my efforts? (That is, what's incremental, and what's not?)
- Those Kiva robot inventory systems are CRAAAAAAAZY! I watched a bunch of them for like 20 minutes and my only disappointment was that none of them responded to my attempts to communicate. (This is a less relevant point unless your organization helps jobless robots, and I guess it's sort of a bummer if your organization helps jobless humans. All I'm saying is, it was really cool.)
- A handful of people were vocally down on QR codes. They generally didn't acknowledge what I think is the most important point: the codes are incrementally free to implement on top of some other effort, which makes the “I” in “ROI” close to zero. There was agreement that they're only effective if you use them to land someone somewhere compelling in service of a conversion. If you land people somewhere dull, it doesn't matter whether they got there with a QR code or not.
Things like this summit are really useful for taking the pulse of how people are thinking about technology and ecommerce. Like I said, not all of this is applicable to the nonprofit space, but this was a large group of smart, experienced people, and I thought it might be a helpful