Identity Heft: Metrics and messaging, by the numbers

Today’s post on metrics and messaging is a double-whammy: it’s the first in my Identity Heft series, PLUS it’s an excerpt from my nonprofit communications planning toolkit. Workshop in a Box is an interactive guide to building (or reinforcing) your nonprofit’s communications from the ground up.


Take a moment and have another look at your nonprofit’s vision statement. Lofty goal, isn’t it? Some days it might even seem unreachable.

Yet there is a path, no matter how narrow, from here to there. And that path is going to inform your communications.


Managing your nonprofit's metrics: how to craft key messages, by the numbers.

On Pinterest? You know what to do!


Generally, “the path from here to there” is better known as your organization’s long and short-term objectives, which trace your proposed route through the next year, 3 years, 5 years, 10 years, and beyond.

Your objectives form a roadmap for future communications – what can you do now to prepare yourself and your audiences for next month’s report release? Or next year’s initiative kickoff?


Psst! If you’d like to follow along with this post, download the workbook below.

Workshop in a Box preview - metrics and messaging

[convertkit form=4997395]


Still, some objectives are more important than others. Prioritizing them will do two things for your communications:

  1. It will tell you which topics should get more attention
  2. It will help you focus on the specifics within your overarching mission and vision

Remember, just because something is lower priority doesn’t mean it’s going to be ignored altogether. Instead, prioritization will make your messaging more strategic and focused.


What does success look like?

People love hearing good news and helping you celebrate your success. So what does success look like? How will you know when you’ve achieved your goals?

Step 1: For each objective you listed, write what it would take to check it off your organization’s to-do list.

Step 2: Can you be more specific? Try putting a number on your goal. Specific metrics will let you track your progress in measurements, not guesses.

I recommend using the SMART system for choosing your metrics:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Agreed-upon
  • Realistic
  • Time-based

For example, consider the usefulness of a goal like “we’ll help more people this year” versus “we’ll provide shelter to 30 families in Oakland by the end of this calendar year.” The latter option is Specific (it says what you’re doing and where), Measurable (30 families), Agreed-upon (shared with the rest of the team), Realistic (perhaps a stretch, but not overly so), and Time-based (there’s a deadline). Specific metrics will help you gauge your progress along the way and see whether you’re on track.


Put your mouth where your money is

Next we’ll turn each metric into a key message that you can share with your audiences. In our previous example, you could say “this year, we’re giving shelter to 30 families in the Oakland area.” That statement alone is a great soundbite – it’s clear, concise, and jargon-free.

If you have a little more space, you could try adding some context –

“Last year we gave shelter to 20 families in the Oakland area. This year, we’re expanding our efforts and welcoming 30 families with open arms.”

Remember, DON’T let your messages turn into bravado, but DO be proud of the important work you’re doing!

Being specific and concise will help your audiences understand what you’re doing without getting lost in the details.

If you’re following along in the workbook, turn each metric into a share-worthy soundbite. How can you use these mini-messages in your nonprofit’s communications? Maybe each one can be a monthly theme. Or perhaps you’ll build each one into a larger feature – one with a clear, concise message at its core.


Staying accountable to your metrics

Metrics are great for gauging your progress toward a goal, which means it’s important to periodically check in on your progress.

Depending on the type of work you’re doing, you may want to review your progress daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, or on some other interval that makes sense – just don’t stash your plans in a drawer and forget about them until next year!

Challenge yourself by setting a regular target for your objectives. If you want to expand your social media reach, for example, how many followers should you add each week to meet your year-end goal? Set a target that’ll make you reach, but is still Realistic – don’t set yourself up for disappointment!

The sample tracker in the workbook will help you keep tabs on your work. Use it to stay on track and see how far you’ve come!


Ready for more Identity Heft? Check out:




  1. David C

    Had a look at the sneak peek of your workshop in a box. Is that a service you provide? This would make a great meetup session. Our student association would love to participate!

    • Andrea Robertson (Author)

      Hi David,

      Workshop in a Box is an eBook – basically an interactive PDF with a bunch of group facilitation exercises / activities to get your communications plan done without being just another boring strategy meeting. That said, a meetup could be cool – let’s chat via email.