By Tucker Shouse.

This is the third blog post in a three-part series to disseminate our findings and learnings from the 2015 #MyGivingStory initiative. Check out the contest overview and what types of organizations were featured in the series. The pilot contest, run by 92nd Street Y and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, asked everyday givers to respond in 200 or more words: “what nonprofit organization inspires you to give and why?” Here’s what we learned:  

What aspects led to the highest votes per submission? Did certain organizations promote the contest with their constituents and if so what impact did it have? What was the end outcome of this contest for the nonprofit organizations that were featured?

These are the three questions among others that the contest analysis was unable to answer due to a variety of reasons. And while a Linguistic Inquiry Word Count (LIWC) and other natural language processing analyses were attempted, the small sample size of 600 limited the machine learning techniques that were undertaken in the brief analysis (ideal sample sizes were 10-15x larger).

However, based on the limited data that was available for the initial analysis, three insights became apparent from the engagement analysis:

  1. Local networks matter - 79% of all votes came from an individual’s network
  2. Not all stories get the attention that they deserve, and photos are a necessity
  3. Most stories ranged between 200-700 words, but it didn’t seem to matter much

1. Local networks matter - 79% of all votes came from an individual’s network

2x2

 

The graph above purposefully holds the same axis boundaries for the votes generated by an individual’s “Personal Network” (y-axis) versus those generated by the “Global Gallery” page (x-axis). “Personal Network” includes any vote that originated from the author or their network’s sharing of the post on Facebook, while the “Global Gallery” votes originated from a continuous feed of submitted stories. In nearly every story, the author originated more votes from their network (which includes friends of friends) than they did through a rolling index page (explore this visual further).  

2. Not all stories get the attention that they deserve, and photos are a necessity

votes

 

Unfortunately, there were many great stories that failed to receive more than a handful of votes. Out of the 635 verified submissions, 92% had less than 200 votes (note the log scale of the y-axis – explore this visual further). A few organizations received multiple submissions in which one story would achieve thousands of votes while others would receive less than five. We don’t know why this happened, but the takeaway for nonprofit organizations is to support multiple submissions in any social effort while keeping expectations low across the board.

Additionally, having the most number of votes did not correlate with our judges aggregated rating of each individual story. Some stories may achieve a lot of votes, but the number of votes may not be entirely based on the quality of story telling. It is notable that every story with over 600 votes included a photo which was an optional component for the contest.  

3. Most stories ranged between 200-700 words, but it didn’t seem to matter much

wordcount

 

In general, the highest rated stories ranged between 200 and 700 words while the longest story (1,730 words) still garnered 142 votes (explore this visual further). However, there is little correlation between the number of words in the story and the overall votes it received.

#MyGivingStory didn’t go viral – page views were still in the hundreds of thousands and submissions were below 1,000 overall. The contest, by design, included very limited promotion and the user interface wasn’t perfect which may have skewed the engagement results. Many other contests like #MyGivingStory are run by local communities and organizations every day, and there are countless commercial and nonprofit causes that are fighting for a limited amount of their constituent’s attention span.

The engagement results from #MyGivingStory clearly show the power that local networks can achieve – particularly those that are accompanied by photos. It’s also evident that not every post within a contest or channel will get the attention it deserves. By supporting multiple entries in a single social event, nonprofits can increase the possibility for one or more story to gain larger traction. The takeaway for nonprofit organizations is not to invest heavily in a single social post or channel, but rather to enable and support constituents to share their own giving stories.