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October 25, 2022

Mission Multiplier: Measure Twice, Cut Once

Jane Pfeiffer

Hello. I’m Jane Pfeiffer, founder and president of Fieldtrip. At Fieldtrip, we’re a marketing and branding firm that works specifically with nonprofits and purpose driven organizations to help them eliminate their biggest expense. The cost of I don’t knows; the “I don’t know you,” the “I don’t know if this problem needs to be solved” and “I don’t know if it’s relevant to my life.” Those things prevent your organization from taking advantage of opportunities and those lost opportunities are your biggest expense. So today I called back to a saying my dad likes to use, which is measure twice and cut once. He is amazing and can do many things with wood and has built my attic a tree house for the kids, the porch, you name it, he can make it. He’s not fast because he’s very methodical and he measures once, twice and even more times. And today I think that’s really appropriate because most organizations and executive leaders are so busy doing and solving multiple problems that we forget that marketing and communications has to be strategic. So the planning has to happen upfront and long before there’s ever a need, and we forget that. And so we just get caught up in the doing that’s associated with marketing and advertising or outreach and just think that the content will work. Let’s just get it out. And that’s that’s as far as we get. So we’re going to pull that back and really break it down. Organizations like yours typically fall into one of two issues, and that is a lack of relevance. You’re stretched with using the same piece of content or news and sending it out to everybody. You just don’t have the time to make it specific to each individual audience. Therefore, it’s not hyper relevant. The second bucket is just reactionary again, because marketing is often an occasional expense, we are ready to do it and then hope that fixes the problem when what we’re really doing is waiting until there’s something that’s so dire that even fixing that problem is too late to change the news. We need to focus on how to work and pay attention to the early metrics so that the outcome is exactly what we need.

So let’s break that down. We focus our work in three areas: awareness, alignment and advocacy. So let’s say in awareness, you’ve got a tactic, an event, and you do several events throughout the year and they kind of have a similar format, similar content. You’re just performing this event or inviting people at different locations, be that geography or audience groups or, you know, whatever the line may be. So instead of looking at it as, hey, we do events and we do three or four of them every month, take a step back. What are the types of events? In working with someone recently we realized that really the types of events fell in two buckets, the events they originated (they’re inviting people). They own the attendee list and all the organizational and execution efforts. The second kind is events where they’re invited to, to speak or present or have some type of relevant content at an event. They were doing the same effort at each of these, and we even realized that the originated event could fall into two subcategories: educational events and connection events. So just like they sound, education was to explain and bring their audience along, which was perfect for beneficiaries, and the connections or a connector event, which is about meeting like people, which was more suited towards volunteers. And then finally the invited events tend to be less relevant for the actual services that they’re providing, but were hyper relevant to potential investors and funders of the program. So now that we’ve taken an event which was a single tactic, performed multiple times over the course of a year, and we’ve broken that down into three different types: Originated with education and connection. And then the invited, we’ve got three different audiences. So how we show up our presentation on the invitation, the offer should be different from each other. So that’s a way that relevance can be broken out. Now imagine that the objective of all of these different types of event is to advance the audience, the attendees, from what they currently know to greater awareness and towards enlightenment, alignment, and understanding that yes, this is an issue that’s important and I think that it needs to be solved. We might have a similar metric across all these types of events, and that’s to capture contact information. It’s easy with the originated events. We’re in control of the guest list and the attendee list. With the invited list or events, maybe we need to get in the habit of asking, yes, we’re happy to present, but we will need a copy of the attendee list or the invitation list. And now we can work on methods to get these people to opt into our messages. So in collecting contact information, that’s the outcome that we want for all three of these events.

Well, let’s say we’ve captured that. What’s the tactic that’s going to follow it? Again, we’re playing hypothetical here, so we’ll say it’s email newsletters. This organization had an email newsletter, went out weekly, one format. Everybody got the same message no matter what you were. But now knowing that this group of names came from events that were focused on our beneficiaries, people that could benefit from our services or programs, will that email newsletter should be drastically different than the audience that could possibly fund US sponsor or, you know, write a recurring monthly check. Why would they want to hear the same thing? And yet organizations are tapped for resources and time. So in an ideal world, you’d have three different email newsletters, but what if you started with just changing the opening paragraph and making that first paragraph and first image hyper relevant to each of the three audiences? Then the rest of it is the same that opening statement and impact will make a difference, and now you’re being more relevant and you can continue to build on that with future tactics. So that’s an example of how to take a single tactic and make it far more relevant, not only at the beginning, in the event presentation itself, but also in the follow up tactics and the ongoing journey for those audiences. In terms of email newsletters, direct mail, thank you notes and other things that may follow.

So let’s talk about the tendency to be reactive. We measure so many things, and yet what we often forget to do is to break down the measures that lead to those outcomes. So let’s go back to our events. Sure, we can measure the quantity of events that we’re hosting and being invited to. That’s one metric. We can also measure the number of people that we have reached via those events. We can measure the number of contacts that we’ve collected at those events, and then how many of those contacts converted or opted in or continued to accept our email newsletter? And then it goes on and on from there. How many of those email newsletters eventually led to an inquiry of some type, and how many of those inquiries led to commitment and how many of those commitments led to referrals or advocacy. So breaking down each incremental step and then to each assigning the source, an owner and a current number and a future number. So again, let’s play pretend. Let’s go back to our events. We would make a spreadsheet, for example. So the stage of our relationship is awareness, our tactic is events, our audience is beneficiaries, our outcome is contact collection. And then we have an email tactic. Well, let’s put that aside. Let’s stick with events. Who and how are we going to measure that? So what’s the source? It can just be a manual count. And who on your team is going to be responsible for quantifying the attendees? What has that been in the past year or past quarter or prior month, and what do we think it needs to be in the future? What is our goal? So for each of these tactics, for each of the three different types of events, for each of the three different types of emails, what’s the stage of the relationship? Who’s the audience, what’s the tactic, what’s the source in which we can quantify and measure that goal? Who owns reporting that goal? And then what’s the current number and the future number? As you can imagine, this becomes time intensive. You’ll have a list of more than you anticipate by the time you look at all the different tactics and they’re each component parts, you’ll have a lengthy list. So break it down and it’s worth the time to invest now, because if you don’t, what will happen is, let’s say your commitments are off and that’s typically where you get your quantity of donors or your dollars of program dollars raised or donations. It’s too late when you know that you’re coming up short. What you need to know is, you know, a red flag earlier in the process that, hey, we’re not getting enough people at our events. And if we don’t, there’s no way that we can get the financial or volunteer or the commitments that we need to make X, Y or Z successful. So that’s what I mean by measuring twice and cutting once, you only get one chance to make a good impression. So it’s worth it to take the time to plan and measure again and again. Thanks for watching and be sure to visit to sign up for our weekly video blogs. Thanks.