This weekend, as I was browsing Urban Spoon for ideas on where to go for dinner, it struck me how much my personal life has become guided by research. These days I wouldn’t consider going out for dinner, booking a holiday, making a major purchase, starting a new hobby, booking a service or changing my hairstyle without first doing a little online research.
Like many people, I have come to rely on the wealth of information at my fingertips and enjoy the benefits of knowledge and insight. A recent study commissioned by GE Capital Retail Bank found that over 80% of shoppers undertake online research before making a major purchase decision – a figure that is up 20% on the previous year.
Given increasing levels of research in personal decision-making and the ease with which information can be accessed in this digital age, I find it strange that there are still not for profit organisations making major decisions without first arming themselves with knowledge.
79% of shoppers feel that technology empowers them with knowledge and information to make good purchasing decisions.
When a not for profit organisation is looking to embark on a new project, campaign or initiative, the early stages of planning should always involve a period of intelligence gathering. Adequate research will enable effective and efficient decision-making, minimize risk and may even help you to engage stakeholders along the way.
There are several research methods commonly employed by the sector, and they are not all as costly or as time consuming as you may think;
- Stakeholder interviews – Speaking directly with your stakeholders, whether they are internal (staff, board, volunteers etc) or external (donors, sponsors, beneficiaries etc) is the most effective way to gain valuable insight into who they are, what they think and how they act. With today’s video calling technolog, it is possible to easily and cheaply interview people regardless of their location.
- Stakeholder surveys – Similarly there are many cost effective (or even free) programs that allow you to gain information via online surveys. This method allows you to gain a perspective from a large group of people and also look for patterns or trends in their responses.
- Desktop research – also known as secondary research, involves the collection of existing research relevant to your organisation and/or project. There are some excellent resources available online, such as the Giving Trends publications, so you may as well benefit from someone else’s time and hard work.
- Third Party research – Sometimes the questions you wish to answer are so specific, or your circumstances so unique, that you need a more targeted research approach. Engaging a third party organisation, like O’Keefe & Partners, experienced in finding solutions through research, can be more cost effective than designing and implementing your own research program.
At O’Keefe & Partners we firmly believe that knowledge is power, which is why we helped establish the Giving Trends initiative over 25 years ago. Our commitment to building the capacity of our clients and the wider third sector, has seen us continue to invest in Giving Trends and promote it as an essential resource. To get your free copy of the recently released Giving Trends & Predictions 2014 and register for regular Giving Trends updates click here