Finding the ‘magic number’ of communications


We live in a world of good/bad numbers. My Instagram post got 142 likes (good number). My post-holiday inbox contained 36 emails (bad number). Apple iPhone 7s ‘sold out’ in the first weekend after launch (zero left, must be a good number, so we are led to believe). Simple one-dimensional numbers reassure us in an increasingly uncertain world.

Of course the non-profit communications world isn’t immune to this way of thinking. Right now, staring in the face of the FPS, many non-profits are carefully looking at supporter experience and asking themselves the same question: what’s the magic number of communications a year for our supporters?

There are some obvious clues. Looking at how many times the supporter has engaged to date and you can fairly conclude that the more engagement in the past, the more communications they may want in the future. The logic works.

Or you could think about the channel in question. We instinctively know some channels (phone, SMS) are just more intrusive than others (email, DM). So build in less of the former into your journey, than the latter. More sensible logic.

But in our hearts, we know magic is a bit more elusive than that.

Trying to find an answer to the ‘magic’ number of communications means we’re still being consumed by the end output for the organisation – the shape of the comms plan. And something very important has been forgotten.

In this world obsessed with simple one-dimensional numbers, a world essentially obsessed by volume, value has been pushed aside.

Do you know which of your communications drove exceptional supporter value? And by value, I don’t just mean income raised. I mean real, authentic emotional connection.

To answer this, we must move beyond solely looking at the one-dimensional hard metrics (income raised, number of responses) to also include the soft metrics (unusually high click-through rates on emails and SMS, social sharing, supporter feedback that had the phones ringing off the hook etc, etc.).

Because you will only find the real magic when you understand what drives supporter value. And I bet the real magic, rather than taking the form of a one-dimensional number, looks much more like telling relevant, inspiring stories that truly speak to your audiences’ needs and shared values.

Next time, when you’re about to press go on delivering the next communication ‘because it’s in the comms plan’, instead ask ‘how can we take this opportunity to deliver great supporter value?’.