How the charity and not-for-profit sector can measure reputation

The PRCA Charity & Not-For-Profit Group recently announced that re-building the reputation of the sector will be one of its three key areas of work in the coming months and years.

In a previous post, I set out why this is vital and why reputation is so crucial to charities and not-for-profits.

And if we venture to define reputation as the sum of all opinions and perceptions of an organisation as expressed by the multiplicity of its stakeholders then clearly it is crucial to gather as much information as we can about how the key stakeholder and influencer groups rate the organisation.

Data is everywhere

The more data we can incorporate the more accurate a measure of an organisation’s overall reputation we will obtain. While undoubtedly more involved and complex, we believe this multi-stakeholder approach to measuring reputation is preferable to relying on a single viewpoint (such as viewing reputation only through the lens of the news media) since it provides a more holistic view of an organisation’s reputation rather than one limited to a single perspective.

As such, an important component in the initial process of establishing a reputation measurement program is the identification of an organisation’s key stakeholders and their relative importance to overall reputation. These stakeholders may include - the general public, the investment community, employees, customers, NGOs, politicians, journalists or regulatory bodies, among others.

Once stakeholders have been identified the next step is to seek out relevant sources of data and research into stakeholder perceptions from within the organisation, or if necessary commission new research.

Often in larger organisations we find there is existing research available that can be brought together from across business functions and combined to feed into a reputation measurement programme. For example, there may be an annual employee survey conducted by human resources, which gives a measure of employee satisfaction. Elsewhere, the marketing department may have a monthly brand tracker which provides a measure of public trust and the customer care team may use a customer satisfaction survey to give an insight into what is moving the dial for this stakeholder group. Together, these data sets can be brought together and augmented with other research to provide a single measure of an organisation’s reputation.

Social insights

We find that social media is increasingly useful for understanding the perceptions of different stakeholder groups. For instance, since Twitter is often used by organisations as a customer service channel we can identify customer comments to understand customer sentiment. We have developed an approach to measuring reputation which seamlessly integrates the analysis of social media. This research into social media conversations gives a more nuanced and granular level of research into customer perceptions. In turn this data complements existing research, such as NPS, and importantly provides detailed insights into the specific topics and issues that drive customer satisfaction and trust.

We understand that smaller organisations, or those on tighter budgets, may not have access to brand trackers or customer satisfaction surveys. Where such research is unavailable within an organisation we are able to utilise our expertise to leverage the inherent insights within social media to augment a reputation study.

Context is key

While the integration of multiple stakeholders viewpoints provides contrasting perceptions of an individual organisation, where possible it is also helpful to apply this contextual approach to include a broader set of peer group organisations and to look at the issues that impact the wider sector. Moreover, since reputation is also affected by the actions of others, providing context is important for deriving meaningful findings from research. For instance, we know from the 2016 Charity Commission report into public trust and confidence that public perceptions of the sector “was tainted” by the high-profile media coverage of the allegations around financial mismanagement at the Kids Company during the summer of 2015.

So, clearly, sector-wide criticism can have adverse consequences for non-profits and by measuring reputation we can start to not only identify the extent to which negative issues can impact charitable donations and quantify these risks but also identify strategic opportunities for increasing income from fundraising activities.

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