Convio Unveils Study Results On How Nonprofits Structure and Staff for Online Success

With nonprofit resources scarce, report provides insight into the most efficient and effective organizational structures and the skill sets needed to support online success

Convio, Inc., — the leading provider of on-demand constituent relationship management software and services to nonprofit organizations — today announced the results of a study designed to learn more about how leading nonprofit organizations structure and staff to drive results in their online marketing, fundraising and advocacy campaigns. The study identified consistent themes and practices that lead to success regardless of the size of the organization. The study provides seven steps nonprofits can take to address resource constraints and evaluate the best structure, staff size and skill sets to generate online results.

“Regardless of the organization, there are simply not enough resources to satisfy all the needs and desires to the fullest,” said Brian Hauf, vice president, client success services for Convio. “Each day organizations make trade-offs based on the way they allocate their scarce resources, yet neglect to step back and address broader structural considerations that can significantly impact the effectiveness of their resources.”  

The study focused on key areas related to online success, including:

  • Barriers to success
  • Size of the organization
  • Size of the team
  • Skill set mix
  • Organizational structure
  • Components of effectiveness, including accountability, decision making, internal communication and planning

Nonprofit organizations have decades of experience in aligning their limited resources around traditional fundraising, direct mail and advocacy programs. As online marketing, fundraising and advocacy become a critical part of their communications mix many nonprofits are asking how they align resources to deliver the optimal success.

As a result, many nonprofit organizations have questions regarding:

  • How big should my online marketing staff be?
  • What is the mix of interactive marketing skills my staff should have?
  • How should my online marketing staff fit into my organizational structure?

“Nonprofit organizations often look at technology, creative concepts or new program ideas that they believe will help them fulfill their mission, only to see them fail because they were not able to bring the right resources together to ensure success,” added Hauf. "This study and the collaborative nature of nonprofit professionals will help us as a sector be more thoughtful about identifying and developing the appropriate balance of skills required."

Key findings of the study include: 

Truism – no matter the size of the organization there are never enough resources – According to the survey, no matter the size of the organization, the most common response to what their organization’s top barrier to success was insufficient staff. In fact, 90 percent of organizations cited insufficient staff, budget constraints (64 percent), and lack of online expertise (29 percent), both of which are also resource constraints. According to the study organizations with less than $20 million in annual revenue have between one and three staff members dedicated to online programs. The largest organizations, those with more than $100 million in annual revenue, averaged seven full-time staff working on online initiatives each week.

Organizational structure matters – The structure of an organization, or how the staff and other resources are aligned, determines which department(s), are responsible for making decisions about the organization’s online strategy, website content, and online objectives and impacts success. According to the survey results, 20 percent of nonprofit organizations currently are organized in a Centralized model. Nearly double that, or 39 percent are organized in a Decentralized model, and 41 percent have a Hybrid of the two. To understand the impact structure has on organizational performance, the study looked at each structure from a planning and goal setting, internal communication, decision making, and accountability standpoint.  The centralized model proved to be most successful, followed by a hybrid structure.

Planning is imperative – According to the survey, 26 percent of nonprofits do not have any sort of Internet marketing plan for their organization. Including those that do not know if they have a plan or who only review their plan once every few years, the number increases to 44 percent. Centralized groups have the best planning record with 100 percent of the respondents having a plan, and reviewing it frequently. Conversely, less than half of Decentralized groups have a plan and review it frequently. Taking the time to develop an online plan that includes goal setting and clearly defines ownership and accountability for each metric will help create success.

Structure impacts performance – The results of having a plan, communicating effectively, and holding staff accountable can be seen in a Centralized organization’s ability to succeed in key areas of online success such as building an email file or increasing the amount of revenue received online. As an organizations overall structure evolves (which is common in tough economic times), organizations must re-evaluate the online team’s structure and look for ways to concentrate online staff into more of a centralized or hybrid structure to achieve the best results.

With the current economic situation many organizations are making strategic decisions on how they staff and the structure of their organization to weather the recession, while maintaining the foundation for future success.

“We hope this report will help nonprofit leaders make the best staffing and structural decisions possible to ensure current and future success,” explained Hauf.

The report is immediately available at: www.convio.com/structureguide2

About Convio
Convio is the leading provider of on-demand constituent relationship management (CRM) software and services that give nonprofit organizations a better way to inspire and mobilize people to support their organization. The company’s online marketing suite offers integrated software for fundraising, advocacy, events, email marketing and web content management, and its innovative database system, Convio Common Ground™ CRM, helps organizations efficiently track and manage all interactions with supporters. All Convio products are delivered through the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model and are backed by a portfolio of best-in-class consulting and support services and a network of partners who provide value-added services and applications focused on the unique needs of nonprofit organizations.  

Convio clients include nonprofit organizations, Institutions of Higher Education, Associations and Faith-based organizations around the world such as American Red Cross, American Diabetes Association, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Humane Society of the United States, Easter Seals, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, and Sierra Club. For more information, please visit www.convio.com

Press Contact:
Karoline McLaughlin
Director, Corporate Communications
Convio, Inc.

Convio Unveils Study Results On How Nonprofits Structure and Staff for Online Success | Convio