digital transformation KPIs: myths and meaning

This week I spoke at the NCVO Trustee conference in a session on digital transformation, with my particular bit being on the practical angle of measurement. It was a great session with talks from Megan Griffith GrayPatrick Nash and Kay Boycott highlighting the need to view digital transformation not as a subset of Comms, and not as “Digital”, but instead as Service Transformation.

My favourite bits included when Kay challenged the audience of Trustees to educate themselves and stop dismissing digital strategy as something they can delegate purely to junior staff. Seeing Patrick highlight the proven 70% – 80% savings possible in using technology to support delivery of services also made it to my highlights.

When it came to talking about Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), we asked the audience of around 40 to raise their hand if they were exposed to their digital KPIs as trustees. Sadly an awkward absence of raised hands followed. It’s not often I’m left that speechless…

Moving quickly on, I spoke on a few myths and meaningful factors to be aware of. Here’s the top-line points:


  • Big numbers matter
    • In their own right big numbers are misleading, having lots of traffic or social media followers means nothing if people are not actively engaging and doing things that contribute to your charity goals.
  • Improved results are always good
    • Seasonality and external environmental factors could be causing peaks which have nothing to do with any actions your charity has taken. While this improvement might be beneficial, it isn’t always an indicator you’re doing more things right.
  • Digital needs its own KPIs
    • Everyone owns the performance, not just the digital team. Equally digital should be woven through all you do as we live in a country where digital is embedded in our lives. Measures should no longer sit in a silo and be the interest of the few ‘experts’.


  • Outcome driven
    • Start with understanding your audiences and what will genuinely impact them and your related charity goals. Measures like ‘opportunities to see’, ‘page views’ and ‘impressions’ mean nothing unless you can prove impact within or for your target audiences and mission.
  • People and culture
    • Building capabilities within your team is critical, you can’t assume younger workforces automatically have workplace appropriate digital skills. Taking a phone call personally doesn’t directly translate to what works professionally, this is the same with digital skills. Baselining and monitoring skills and personal development is key to encouraging and supporting digital transformation.
  • Shifts
    • What you really need to pay attention to is shifts, and aim to track this over time. Benchmarking your results and spend against the external environment will help you understand performance and whether you might be lagging behind. Using stats like the Ofcom Communications Market Reports can help define whether you should be investing in other areas based on consumer behaviour.

The session ended with a quick Q&A which exposed enthusiasm but a shared concern about getting the right help and resources. Personally I feel its too easy to use these challenges as excuses to brush aside change as unobtainable, but I’m hopeful this room of Trustee’s will start to change things.

should you always show a donate button?

In a recent strategy session I was leading with a charity we hit upon a debate the team had been having for the last few months of thinking about their new website; should the donate button always be on?

The fundraiser at the charity had shared some study or other (I’ve asked for details – please comment if you know them) which said a donate button on your home page and header wasn’t a good idea and actually put off visitors rather than allowing time to build engagement before making an ask.

Cutting to the chase; I disagreed.

A clear ‘always on’ donate button is like a steering wheel in a car, it’s an expected part of the furniture your visitor needs to see to know they’re in the right place (a charity website) and to get involved if they want to.

With every part of your website now a potential homepage, because any user could land anywhere on your site from a search, you need to ensure there’s something that clearly communicates what you are and a donate button is a good shortcut – a badge for charities.

If you’re a heavily service orientated charity you should of course consider the weighting of the ‘call to asks’ across your site. Focusing on servicing the people you’re there to help is critical, without question, but like all things in life – awareness comes before action.




barcampnfp 2015

Barcampnfp 2015 end of day group shot by @netsmith

Barcampnfp 2015 end of day group shot

Hello, long time no see, sorry!

This year seems to have really flown by and I have a few different blog posts stuck in my head ready to get out. The first one being to share all the great stuff we learned from this year’s Barcampnfp.

Held 8th April 2015 in the ultimate shabby chic east London space (thank you Top Office Machines) we again had around 100 non-profit interested tech and nfp staff come together to network and learn.

How did the day work?

barcampnfp session card photo by Gaby JeffsFor those of you that don’t know already; Barcampnfp is in an unconference format, where the only thing set before the day is the venue and times. A blank timetable is posted on the morning of the event so that every participant has the chance to propose sessions. The event truly is owned by the people who attend it – this way only the topics of interest to the audience actually become part of the day!

I’ve always slightly broken the rules of a traditional barcamp by having a defined theme (tech & non-profits) and curating the sessions rather than just allowing the timetable board to be filled up directly. Following the mammoth curation session last year I decided to try just letting the participants free like the traditional format. To support this I creating more structured session cards (see pic) to guide people making suggestions.

The structured cards worked well but the curation was something participants said they’d like back next year. The curation was missed because it helped similar topics merge and gave the chance for people to be matched with someone who knows about a theme they want to learn about. Some great lessons to take on for the next event!

What did we learn?

Here’s a few of the high level things we learned:

  • Agile methodology is becoming more adopted in non-profits, but contrary to common thought discipline and documentation is what really makes agile work.
  • Digital transformation is a hot topic in the sector right now, some organisations are completely in support while others aren’t. Either way there are lots of ‘stealth’ tactics that can be put to use by specialists without org support.
  • Engaging young people requires great imagery along with good stories. Just bite the bullet and use Instagram and Snapchat which is where these audiences are right now.
  • A/B testing is important but don’t test something that you’re not prepared to implement -­ it might win!
  • Video can be done on a shoe string – raw and real stories work best in this case.
  • Measuring impact is a challenge still being ploughed through – the AMEC framework can be a great model to work with.

Check out the live notes from the day here and pictures here.

As always, let me know if you’d like to run a barcampnfp near you or get involved in the London events @spirals.

charities going backwards in digital maturity – should we blame the donors

This week Lloyds and Go On UK released their 2015 digital maturity report with the headline insight that charities are behind SMEs and going backwards when it comes to digital.

There’s some fascinating stats such as the % of digital skills across four broad skill areas (communicate, find things, provide information, transact). The study shows that charities come out worst in transact skills areas and, to be honest, I’m not that surprised.

Lloyds digital maturity report - graphWhile it’s easy to get into debates about the methodology used in the study, what’s harder to deny the fact that as a whole the charity sector has been slower to take up more digitally enabled transaction methods.

You can logic that this is due to appropriate audience focus; with older audiences being more likely donors and where average giving amounts are typically higher. To my knowledge the persistence of the printed cheque is specifically tied to charities lobbying for it to continue precisely due to this fact (happy to be corrected here if you know different!).

So should we blame the donors for charities being behind in digital?

Before I say anything else, the answer to this is clearly No. There’s a complex set of factors at play beyond audience fit; limited resources, expertise and affordable technology.

Being a long time digital specialist in the sector I’ve seen the trials and tribulations of forward focused individuals (including many non-specialists). Individuals who’ve tried to use digital but been left feeling disempowered and receiving warnings that this would risk their long-time supporter engagement. Where you have limited resources and the technology isn’t easily available you do often have to make a choice, and do it quickly based on assumptions.

Things have changed but they need to change more

With SMS giving increased in the last few years I’ve definitely seen a shift in charities thinking more about younger people. As ‘older donors’ become even more technically savvy this too has increased the impetus in the sector.

Instead of the first assumption being ‘they don’t do digital’ a few more decisions now come from the assumption ‘everyone is using digital and if we’re not there they’ll go to someone else’. However, having worked in some of the largest charities and now working with more different sized charities I can see there’s a lack of equality across the sector. Not every charity has the resources, expertise and technology to have shifted.

I’m excited to be working on something that should help to change this, let me know if you want to know more.

the future of news?

This picture sums it up… either the future, or the hype of the future. This is Periscope – a new live streaming app launched today by twitter. Whatever it becomes, I can already think of some great ways that non-profits could use it.

new york explosion via periscope

digital analytics reminders from measurecamp

MeasurecampThis weekend I spent Saturday immersed in data and analytics at Measurecamp. I love a good unconference and this definitely is up there, brilliantly organised and lots of brain stretch, and of course I can’t not mention the free t-shirt and laser pointer.

I’m a complete advocate and enthusiast about the power of data and testing. So much so I made the business case, won the budget, and recruited a digital analyst in all of my last three workplaces. Plus an analyst role is on the cards for my current team at Raising IT too.

There’s a huge amount of material generated from the event that I won’t try to replicate here. But I thought what might be useful is a few of the top-line reminders I took away:

  • Testing has lots of trip ups and myths.
    • For long purchase / supporter journeys they may have made their mind up before you even started your test.
    • It’s possible to test a gazillion things, but really you should only test the things you can actively influence and change.
    • You shouldn’t necessarily use all the results to judge a test, any ‘whales’ (outliers) should be removed to avoid skewing the conclusion.
    • Traditional models assume the environment hasn’t changed. You need an agile analytics approach where there is change to factor in.
  • Tools for digital analysis have converged to greater or lesser extent.
    • Google analytics is very powerful these days and what most people are using. I heard only a mere mention of a couple of other providers throughout the day.
    • Tracking inbound phone call sources can be made easier through Twilio or Calltracks (and probably others).
  • Integrating tracking in your CMS is still a bit technical and time-consuming.
    • There’s so many intricacies with integrating analytics correctly that it kept coming up again and again. A few of the people I spoke to were frustrated that they spent more of their time on implementation of tracking than the analysis of the data.
  • Key performance indicators need buy-in,actual evidence is not enough.
    • You should only publish clear actionable results that people are actively bought into viewing.  This take out reminded me of test I did while at one of my organisations. They insisted we printed the whole of the monthly web stats and display them on the notice board … it took a whole three months before anyone returned the ‘claim a prize if you spot this’ slip!
  • Attribution models still need expert judgement.
    • Last click / first click / weighted or something else, you still need to make a judgement as there’s no clear-cut way to decide what’s best for your activity. Try it and shape it through use.

lessons in digital transformation from UNICEF UK

Now I’ve moved to a new job at Raising IT I’m feeling very reflective about the 3.5 years I worked at UNICEF UK.

My job involved working with my team across three main areas; direct digital delivery (content, marketing and technology), leading the digital strategy and providing internal strategic consultancy, plus the most challenging but rewarding area – digital transformation of the whole organisation.

I’ve written quite a bit about on this my blog over the years but here’s something I wrote for another site recently; an executive summary of how we delivered digital transformation at UNICEF UK.

Plus here’s a pic that gives me flash backs :-)

creating success according to google

This weekend I spotted this great presentation in my twitter stream. While Google has got a few dark sides the key messages in this slide deck really struck a chord with me and I wanted to spread the word.

The greatest asset of any organising structure (be it a project, team or whole organisation) is a clear vision and shared values, plus great people empowered to get on with things. I’ve noticed this has been a key ingredient in all of the best projects and teams I’ve been lucky enough to work with.

why aren’t there more charity start-ups?

Last night Nesta held an event examining this very topic. As usual there was some great content from Mary McKenna who has been working with Vinspired on Tasksquad.

Tasksquad is a rarity – one of very few charity founded startups, at least to my knowledge. Yet I feel there are so many factors that should make charities fertile ground for entrepreneurial action;

  • goodwill support,
  • often more forgiving audiences (if you fail for the right reasons)
  • and a wealth of expertise in real social issues.

Here’s a storify from the Nesta charity digital innovation event on what everyone had to say about why it’s rare.

what’s changed in digital over the years?

This is a rather belated post promised to Amy the other day. She promised me it wasn’t a sneaky way to work out my age!

What has changed?

I’ve worked in digital for my whole career and a lot has changed in that time.

In the past 12 months there have been a few moments that have left me practically punching the air with glee because they’ve signalled the non-profit sector is finally maturing its approach to digital. To name a couple; when the opening plenary of the Institute of Fundraising Convention started with a speech about embracing digital in fundraising. The other being when I heard the change of title of the digital lead at a couple of major charities from Head to Director – a much truer recognition of the roles as they’ve been for some time.


From web monkey to specialist advisor

I can remember a time when there were only web officers. Expected to mostly put pdf’s on the website with little to no notice, that’s if people remembered the website was there at all. Now digital has a seat at the strategy and planning table in many organisations – at the very least at a project level.

From custom build to on-demand tools

Updating the website was a thing that only the web monkey knew how to do. It was all a bit techy and there was this complicated hmtl or something. Now we’ve got content management systems and other tools that everyone can use and, in some cases, that dynamically personalise the content, journey and more to the user. This was the stuff of Tommorrow’s World not too long ago.

From under the carpet to KPI

You were glad if you got a few hundred hits (yes – hits!) and quietly shared this with any geeky friends. Then perhaps you started to email and post up your top line web stats probably to an almost deafening silence of no return comments or questions. Now digital stats are part of the report to board members – Marks & Spencer even had its ecommerce stats reported in press.


I could go on I’m sure – but that’s another thing that’s changed, we’ve all got shorter attention spans :-)