Confession time: I led organizations in the nonprofit space for 20+ years and “research” was at the bottom of my to-do list.

While I made numerous mistakes in my leadership tenure, looking back with the knowledge I have now, that had to be one of my biggest.

Do you ever wonder why so many nonprofits are constantly changing their messaging? Why do so many new product offerings fail? Why is so much money wasted on ineffective marketing plans that barely move the needle, if moved at all?

I firmly believe it’s because so few take advantage of strategic research, which in the long-run could save you so much time and money.

So why do so many leaders (like me) not implore research as they lead forward. I think there’s a couple reasons at first glance.


1. We think we already know. Yep, this is just one more area where our egos often get us in trouble. I remember recently working with a pastor who wanted to put together a marketing plan to change the perception the community had of his church. We were speaking with him about that “perception” and after digging deeper he was basing what he thought to be the perception of the community off of a handful of emails and comments he had personally heard over the past few years. Had we not stopped to conduct some research, that pastor (like so many others) would have developed a campaign to combat a perception that actually very few people in his community had. It would have been a colossal waste of time, and more importantly donated dollars.

2. We think we don’t have time. A lot of people feel they’re in too big of a hurry to stop and do their homework. Wrong again. We live in a world of immediate gratification, and research is something that you can’t just “Google” and get your answer. But while research does take a little bit of time as compared to a quick internet search, it really doesn’t take that much time. You simply need to plan ahead and allow for a few weeks (depending on the research) to get your results.

3. We think it’s too expensive. And yet, it’s actually not that expensive. And furthermore, you’re going to end up saving so much money in the long-run by putting together a plan based on the facts and not just on your hunch.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself when debating whether or not do to a little research:

- If you’re wrong in your assumption of the “facts”, how could this impact other initiatives your nonprofit may want to launch in the future?

- If you’re wrong, can you afford to lose all those donated dollars on a poorly conceived program?

- Do you really know everything your volunteers and donors need and want from you to keep them loyal?

- Do you know what else you can provide your community or audience so that they’ll be more involved with their time and resources?

- Do you really know what the people you’re trying to reach think about you, your message, and your future vision; or are you relying on the input of a few paid staff?
If your answer is “yes” to all of those questions, then congratulations!!! You don’t need research. Keep plowing forward!

But if your answer is “no” to any of those, then I’d encourage you to reach out to us and let’s have a conversation about how research might benefit you.

I believe this topic is so importantly that I recently sat down with our CEO, Maurilio Amorim to discuss more about why we should be doing research and just how this might impact your organization. To learn a little more and hear about real client experiences with research, click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on the Another Way Podcast website.

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