by Beth Kanter (This article is repurposed from Beth's Blog.)
With the release of “Measuring the Networked Nonprofit: Using Data to Change the World" (the new book I wrote with Katie Paine), I’m looking forward to participating in the conversation about how nonprofits can use measurement and data for social change. Here's an example from DoSomething.org...
DoSomething.org has a big hairy social change goal: To harness teenage energy and unleash it by launching national campaigns on causes teens care about. Their call to action is always something that has real impact and does not require money, an adult, or a car. Their goal is to get 5 million active teen members engaged in social change campaigns by 2015.
A recent example is their Pregnancy Text Campaign: "Challenge your friends to take care of a phone baby for a day." This clever sex education campaign is an updated version of the teen pregnancy education program where young people carry eggs around and pretend they are babies. This project allows users to experience having a baby for 24 hours via SMS text message, as well as giving them the chance to win a $2,000 scholarship if they text five friends and ask them to do the same. Once they join they receive annoying text messages from their digital “baby” -- one that poops, cries, and demands immediate attention.
The team at DoSomething.org used data to develop the program design, key performance indicators, and a hypothesis to be tested. They looked at a survey from The National Campaign that found nearly 9 in 10 young people say it would be easier to delay sexual activity and avoid pregnancy if they were able to have more open conversations about these topics with their parents and/or friends. So DoSomething.org decided that success for this campaign would mean that participants talk with their family or friends about the issue and delay sexual activity.
After completing their "babysitting" users were quizzed with a question about U.S. teen pregancy stats, and then prompted to send the challenge to their own friends. DoSomething.org followed up with 5K of the users with a text-based survey to measure the impact of the program on the participants' lives.
Nancy Lublin, CEO of DoSomething.org and Jeffrey Bladt, Data Scientist, share some of the insights they gained from the program:
- SMS text messaging is better than email: They monitored engagement per communication channel and found SMS to be 30xs more powerful than email for getting their users to take action.
- 5 is the optimal number of friends: They tested various group sizes for the SMS experience and found that a group of 6 (1 alpha inviting friends) leads to the highest overall engagement.
- Research-based messaging: The general messaging for the campaign was based on survey findings that found that:
- Big scare tactics (e.g., getting pregnant = not going to college) were not as effective as highlighting how being a teen parent changes daily life (e.g., you can’t go to the movies because the babysitter cancelled).
- A CDC report that found: “The impact of strong pregnancy prevention messages directed to teenagers has been credited with the [recent] teen birth rate decline."
- A/B Testing: They pre-tested different messages and message frequency with small test groups to optimize the number of messages the baby would send during the day, as well as the content. As a result they doubled the frequency and reworded several interactions as well as building in a response system (so the baby would respond if a teen texted an unsolicited response). The insights from these tests pushed up engagement and the likelihood of forwarding to friends at the end.
- Impact: They surveyed teens after the program and found that 1 in 2 teens said that taking the Pregnancy Text made it more likely that they would talk about the issue of teen pregnancy with their family and friends.
Some overall stats for the program:
- 101,444 people took part in the campaign with 100,000 text-babies delivered.
- 171,000 unsolicited incoming messages were received, or 1 every 20 seconds for the duration of the campaign. During the initial launch period (first 2 weeks), a new text message was received every 10 seconds.
- For every 1 direct sign-up, DoSomething gained 2.3 additional sign-ups from forward to a friend functionality. The viral coefficient was between 0.60 and 0.70 for the campaign.
- 1 in 4 (24%) of teens could not finish a day with their text-baby.
DoSomething.org is very good at using data to improve their programs. How is your nonprofit using data to change the world?
Beth Kanter is the author of Beth’s Blog: How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media, one of the longest-running and most popular blogs for nonprofits. She co-authored the book The Networked Nonprofit with Allison Fine published by J Wiley in 2010 that received Honorable Mention for the Terry McAdams Award. Beth has over 30 years working in the nonprofit sector in technology, training, capacity building, evaluation, fundraising, and marketing. Her second book, Measuring the Networked Nonprofit, with co-author KD Paine, was published in October, 2012.