Steven: Hey there. Welcome to this week’s episode of BloomerangTV. Thanks so much for tuning in. For those of you who follow me and follow Bloomerang you know that I love data, I love surveys, I love reports, I’m a huge nerd, and I like to talk to other people who also like those things. Today I’m very pleased to introduce Holly Wagg, CFRE. She is over at Good Works which is a really cool organization up in Canada and they just released a really awesome report that I wanted to talk about. Holly thanks for being here today.
Holly: Thanks for having me, Steven.
Steven: Before we jump in could you talk about what kind of work you do over at Good Works? What are you all about over there?
Holly: Good Works is a Canadian fundraising agency. We primarily work in the realm of individual giving. We do a lot of online giving, email campaigns, direct mail, legacy giving, telemarketing, that kind of stuff.
Steven: Very cool. You’ve got an awesome team over there. I know you have Fraser Green who a lot of people know about. You guys do a lot of awesome stuff. One of the coolest things you’ve done that caught my interest recently is this State of the Web Nation report that you’ve released just in 2014. You told me earlier you’re going to be doing that bi-annually going forward. Can you talk about the report and the idea behind it and what kind of information you survey from people?
Holly: I don’t know if you can see it well here but the report looks like this. It’s, I guess, a little bit of a labor of love. Here at our agency we partner with a web developing company called EnvisionUp and we’ve been working with them for about 10 years now. Todd Jameson who is the CEO over there had a meeting with Fraser and I one day and said, “What do you guys think about doing this survey? Maybe figuring out how people are doing websites. Maybe five or six questions.” And being a lapsed academic myself, I was like, “No, we need to ask every question possible. We need to make this a benchmark sector report.”
And they both got really excited so the three of us worked together to produce this report because when we were looking out across the sector we couldn’t find anything generally on website benchmarks. But we could also never find Canadian specific research. So, we said, “Let’s do it. Let’s fill this gap of information baseline knowledge.” And that’s really how this whole project was born.
Steven: Very cool. You asked, I think it was about 500 charities, you surveyed them basically about their website strategy and their digital strategies. What kind of questions did you ask those folks? Maybe were you surprised by some of the findings? I know there was some good news and bad news but what’s going on in the findings there?
Holly: I wear the digital hat, Fraser wears the CEO and overall strategy hat and Todd wears the technology hat. We picked questions that would be important to people who are working at not for profits from each of those sectors or domains or areas.
What was incredibly fascinating was that we heard time and time again that people who are working in charities can’t get that leadership and the buy-in to move forward with their website to make changes. They know that they need to but they can’t get their CEO on board. One of the reasons we wrote this document was so that people who were working in charities can say, “Look! Somebody else here agrees with me. They’re a consultant, they know what they’re talking about,” and then giving them the evidence and information to build that case for that website investment that they desperately need.
Of those 26 questions some of the bad news that really came out was really surprising to us, only 27% of respondents said that they had a website strategy in place. That’s kind of shocking, right? 27%? If you think about it, you as an organization would never go out and fundraise generally without a strategy or a vision or a goal. And the website becomes a really complicated place if your organization runs programs and fundraisers. If you’re a fundraising organization it’s pretty clear what your website is supposed to do, who owns it, who controls it, and what kind of messaging.
But if you’re an organization that runs programs and has fundraisings we all know that that you’re all sitting around the table and people are fighting, “I want my banner for my program on the home page.” “I know that this fundraising initiative is a priority.” Without that strategy document what we really see is it makes it very hard for an organization to guide and direct and manage and control their website and then you can see that in the end product that’s delivered to donors and potential clients. We knew it was a problem we just didn’t realize 70% of people don’t have a strategy.
Steven: One thing that really jumped out at me was 60% of respondents said that the web is not valued by organizational leadership, that buy-in thing that you talked about earlier. That seems really shocking, especially in 2014, 2015, that leadership is still not seeing the value of the web. Why do you think that is? Why can’t a CEO or EV get behind web and digital as a strategy?
Holly: I think it is something that we call in our world the multi-attribution channel issue. Often there is still this thing where if somebody gets a direct mail piece and the respond directly on the coupon, you know exactly what encouraged them to make that donation at that point in time. What happens now increasingly is people will get that direct mail piece and then will go online for the website. They don’t really have good metrics and ways of tracking how people came to their website or what role the website played in fundraising.
Often what surprises CEOs will see stats like this that have been out there, “Did you know that 65% of donors visit your website before making a gift?” And they say, “What?” They may not make it online but they visit your website. “Do you know that 90% of major donors visit your website before making a gift?” That really changes it because they don’t realize the role that it plays. It’s not well documented. Part of the reason it’s really our onus as fundraisers to create that case for investment for our bosses and this report helps fundraisers do that.
Steven: What is the good news? There is a little bit of doom and gloom there, which is okay, but what are some of the findings that gave you confidence in what folks are doing or made you feel good about what was going on?
Holly: I think that a lot of charities indicated that they were in the process of doing stuff but weren’t quite there yet. That was really positive. For example, I’m just looking a couple of the quick stats here. Two thirds of respondents said they were using some sort of open source content management system, which is fabulous for charities. It has a little bit more adaptability, flexibility and not the expense perhaps of an overall larger, more customized system. Another highlight of it is that 60% said they were using forms of storytelling on their website but knew and that they wanted to incorporate a lot more.
People in this study, what I really found, there was one question at the end we asked them to identify their three biggest challenges was, they were very self-reflexive about it, and they knew what their barriers were. They just needed the tools and the background to be able to go ahead and move forward. They may not have the technical knowledge or the detail knowledge to complete it, but they could identify the big issues that their charity was facing.
Steven: Very cool. Maybe a good way to leave the conversation is if you can get out your crystal ball for just a couple minutes, you’re going to do this report again in 2016. What do you think is coming down the pipeline? Do you think this will get better now that people know what the challenges are? Do you think they’ll be able to overcome them in next 18 to 24 months for the next report? What do you think is going to happen here?
Holly: What I think we’ll see next time around is that a lot of charities will now be mobile optimized, not just friendly. A lot of people have been able to and are working on right now actively to get that investment to go forward and move their website forward. I think we’ll see a lot of people with different and better practices.
One of the questions was about what kind of online tools were people using that directed people back to the website. There were a lot of things that were surprisingly really low there.
For example, the number of peer to peer. I see that as a huge growth area that charities will start using and enabling a lot of different tools to allow their interconnectors and their supporters to fundraise on their behalf.
I would also love to see as we’re breaking down these silos for more medium and larger size organizations to break down the divisions of communications of fundraising because those charities that have already integrated those functions and those teams are collaborating well are miles ahead of other charities.
One of the biggest tensions we often see is that those two teams aren’t working together. They are working at opposite directions often opposing one another. We know in order to move this website forward we need to see a lot more breaking down of silos and collaboration within charities themselves and we’re starting to see that happen.
Steven: Very cool. Where can people find their support? I want everyone watching this to definitely download it. Where can they find it from you guys?
Holly: You want to go to www.GoodWorksCo.Ca/webnation.
Steven: All right, we’ll link to that. Everyone download this. Definitely if in you’re Canada, check out what your brothers and sisters are dealing with and compare yourself to them. If you’re watching this in America, it might be interesting to see how our neighbors to the north compare to what you’re doing as well.
Holly, this was awesome. Thanks for doing all that work with the report. I know it was a labor of love.
Steven: And thanks for taking a few minutes out of the day to chat it up. This was super fun.
Holly: All right. Perfect, thanks so much, Steven.
Steven: All right. Thanks to all of you for watching. We’ll catch you next week with another episode. We’ll see you then so have a good rest of your day. Bye now.