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The American Marketing Association defines market research as the process of using information to link the public to marketers. Investopedia says market research allows companies to better understand their target market and how they will respond to a product or service. Market research is traditionally seen as being used in the business sector. However, as research tools and methodology have expanded and adapted, evaluators sometimes adopt market research strategies to meet the needs of nonprofits and government agencies. Many of the Improve Group nonprofit, public and philanthropic clients have used market research to help get a clear picture of community needs and to refine services that best meet their needs. Here are some examples:

  • One of our Analysts worked on developing a market-driven survey for the Minnesota International NGO Network (MINN), a nonprofit looking to become a membership-based organization. The purpose of the survey was to assess membership price points and value proposition categories for membership. The results from the survey will be used to develop membership levels and prices, and will propel the organization into a structure that meets the needs and demands of the population it serves.
  • An example of market research in the context of the social sector is Lutheran World Relief’s work on climate change. While the science around the effects of climate change was becoming more and more conclusive, people’s attitudes about climate change were still evolving. Through an extensive audience research study, Lutheran World Relief learned the expectations, fears and hopes of potential supporters of climate change work.
  • Another example of market research and its relationship to evaluation is in our evaluation for Rutgers Institute for Ethical Leadership. In addition to exploring outcomes, our evaluation reached out to former and potential participants to hear about emerging needs, preferred services, and alternative services. We learned that people need access to different types of leadership programs (i.e., simple workshops, year-long programs, and online resources) at different stages of their professional lives.

How does market research relate to needs assessment and evaluation? The table below presents a quick view of some similarities and differences.

Is your organization exploring a new service model or considering expanding to reach new populations? Market research may be one strategy to feel more confident in your choices and test options.

Posted: May 29th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: About evaluation, Improve Groove Newsletter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Time for Reflection – A Critical Need for Leaders by Leah Goldstein Moses

What does it take to be a leader in the social sector? Our recent research with two different leadership programs – the MAP Leaders’ Circle program and Rutgers Institute for Ethical Leadership showed that one of the most critical needs of leaders is time to reflect. Many cited similar benefits from reflection: self-awareness, ability to master challenges when they come, and innovation. However, a constant, enduring challenge faced by leaders is time. How do you carve out time for reflection in a fast-paced, busy world? Here are the common strategies leaders shared – three simple ideas that you could adopt at any time:

  • Make reflection a priority, and don’t feel guilty about it. Leaders consistently said they could do their work better when they took time to reflect – so much so that they more than made up for their investment. Clearly articulate to yourself and those around you how you plan to benefit by building a more reflective practice as you make reflection a priority.
  • Create a pattern of reflection. Build a routine that works for you, whether daily, weekly or monthly. I personally have found it much easier to commit to daily and weekly practices than to monthly practices. Earlier this year, I carved out Wednesday and Friday mornings for attending to my field – the latest methods, the challenges my colleagues around the world face, etc. I read, write letters to others, and take notes for myself. When I committed to this practice, I had an accompanying intention to take one day each quarter as a mini-reflection retreat; that has not happened yet.
  • Make your reflection tools readily available. Leaders we spoke to explained that they turn to journals, a quiet space, meditation, and other tools for reflection. They also talked of the tendency to get distracted by not having their materials handy – and so they had to be disciplined about keeping them nearby. My own personal tool—a spreadsheet on my laptop—is designed to prompt me to think through four reflective questions in a format that is always nearby.

If you’d like more information on what we learned from leaders in 2011, see MAP’s great article on leadership in the 21st Century.  

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Posted: December 20th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Inside Groove Newsletter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »