Have conservative nonprofit organizations learned anything (and done something about it) since 2008 and 2012? Check out what Bret and Ian have to say about that, where they think things are heading now, and other tips for nonprofits to become more successful online, below.
1. How and why did Red Edge get started?
Red Edge was started in the summer of 2011 to help power the free enterprise world with apps, ads, and ideas.
We saw a need for better digital products and tools from the right — many had started to see the need for better digital work, but we envisioned a world of data-driven, integrated campaigns to push ideas we care about. We like to say that we use new tools for classical ideas of liberty.
3. What has been the most interesting thing you have learned about nonprofits and the digital space since launching ?
Something which we've discovered to be true time and time again is that the most effective nonprofits operate as much as possible like for-profits. That is to say, nonprofits are most successful and effective when they measure results continuously, minimize their costs, and assign marginal "revenues" and costs to each output they produce in order to optimize for positive outcomes.
4. You all were fairly recently featured in the NY Times in an article about how the conservatives are lagging behind the liberals in terms of digital innovation and how your company is trying to change that cultural mindset. Any success since then?
We’ve seen more and more nonprofits and groups who advocate for free enterprise see the need and make smart investments and strides toward strategic, innovative work. That starts with the humility to be willing to test ideas you know may fail, get the results, and make good choices going forward. That’s not always easy in the nonprofit world, but you can tell the difference in how successful an organization will be by how curious its culture is and how open to being wrong the group’s leadership is.
5. What is the most common thing you see nonprofits doing that isn't important, in regards to digital?
We’re still seeing a lot of nonprofits focus on the wrong metrics for success. While for some it’s still their practice internally to prove digital success to a donor or stakeholder in terms of audience size online or website pageviews, it’s time to focus on donations, engagement, and other metrics which really make an impact. That can be tough in a world where people demand immediate results and in which nonprofits often act to impact the culture over a longer period, so part of the challenge is understanding how different tools are best utilized and what “success” looks like.
6. What's the most common thing you see them NOT doing that is becoming more important?
We’re lucky to have clients who are eager to embrace new tools and think strategically about digital. Some nonprofits remain hesitant to try out new tools to reach audiences or they don’t see the need to spend time on a digital strategy — then we get concerned for their long-term outlook. For example, it’s long been important to obtain and use data in ways that are beneficial and actionable in the long-term, whether that’s using data to influence ad targeting, refine an audience for repeat marketing campaigns, enable enhanced voter outreach, etc. While we’re seeing more and more nonprofits understand and act on this, there are many others who still need to catch on.
7. What's something that a nonprofit should be looking out for two to three years from now in terms of their web presence?
We recently rolled out a mobile-first, card-based design site for a nonprofit that has targeted sharing built throughout. It also includes a voter registration app and a tool to contact Congress through social, email, or phone. It’s that kind of action platform nonprofits should be moving toward in the coming months and years, and we were excited to work on that project. We hope to continue to see that readiness to move beyond the typical nonprofit site.
8. How involved is Red Edge in helping nonprofits raise money online? Is this a priority and why or why not?
We’ve helped nonprofits with A/B testing to see what layouts, images, and calls to action are most effective in online fundraising appeals. We know that many nonprofits look to online fundraising to stay in business or to run campaigns to supplement their regular gifts, and it’s our job to make their online presence and messaging work together to ensure a high conversion rate for their organization. We combine the first round of success with follow-on targeting based on accumulated donor data to get a successful campaign lifecycle underway.
9. Do you all bring your dogs to work? :)
We love dogs, but unfortunately our office building doesn’t. We even have an entire room in our office-wide chat platform dedicated to our dogs, but sadly building management doesn’t allow us to bring them inside our office.
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