Social Impact Roundtable

One of the most rewarding aspects of working for a company like Incite is the opportunity to partner with client companies making a difference in our world.

Our London office has long been a leader in the space (Third Sector as they refer to it), and our crew here in New York joined the fun earlier this year as we officially launched our Social Impact practice. We celebrated this important moment by hosting a roundtable with 7 non-profits and foundations. The event, held in our office, provided leaders of these organizations an opportunity to discuss key opportunities, trends and challenges their organizations are currently facing, and exchange ideas. While all had a presence in New York, participating organizations ranged in size, scope and focus.

The spirited discussion focused primarily on two interrelated areas; marketing/communications and partnerships/fundraising. A common question our participants face is how best to lead with the cause and make it resonate. Each organization faced its own set of challenges in how to do this. For instance, an internationally-focused non-profit wondered how to make issues taking place far from participants’ own lives seem relevant enough to incite action, while another non-profit grappled with the opposite issue – because participants could see the problems it addressed taking place right in their own backyards, did the organization run the risk of providing too much detail around an issue that people encountered on a regular basis? What balance should the organization strike between providing too much information versus too little?

Many participants also spoke of the desire to attract and retain a new target audience of supporters. Millennials were an audience of particular interest and participants described different ways they were trying to appeal to this group, from working on revitalizing branding without departing from a distinct identity to determining the most effective ways to solicit interest and involvement.

Across each organization’s unique set of challenges and questions, a common theme that emerged was how to deepen supporter engagement and develop lasting relationships with them. Assuming someone has already decided to invest time in the organization, how could they be motivated to move further along the engagement journey? For instance, if someone has posted to social media about the issue at hand, what would it take to convince that same person to donate to that cause? Or if they had donated before, how could they be persuaded to increase their contribution amount and/or frequency, or to participate in an event or a campaign? It was fascinating to see the common themes that our more traditional clients grapple with daily shown from a non-profit perspective. Understanding the consumer journey is truly elusive, whether learning drivers of toothpaste purchase or donation to a charity.

At the heart of addressing these questions along with many others is the need to understand better key audiences of interest, including how they engage with social causes today and what it will take to drive interest moving forward.

To strengthen the discussion, we explored these questions in a study on east coast millennials. Among the key learnings was the recognition that while millennials are concerned with a wide range of issues and claim to engage with social causes, the most common ways of engagement typically require a lower investment of time and energy, such as signing a petition. A key question we’ll be exploring in follow up work is why Millennials don’t go further to support the causes they say they care about. Is it a matter of not having enough time, of competing priorities, of too many causes to support, a combination of these or none at all?

This event marked a great night for our company, and what we hope was a great night for our participants. Partnering with non-profit and for-profit clients alike underscores the important role consumer insights play across industries and spaces.


New York