How the quest for vanity metrics can scuttle your fundraising

Remember how the American Cancer Society ran a huge experiment (stopping direct mail donor acquisition for a year and a half) to learn something that pretty much everyone should already know?

Here’s another similar case. This one looks more purposeful.

As reported in the HubSpot Marketing Blog at How a Blank, 4-Minute Video Got 100,000 Views, an agency called Solve posted a four-minute video to YouTube that is nothing but blank white nothingness. Four whole minutes of it.

And they got more than 100,000 views. As of this morning, there have been more than 150,000 views!

(You can see the blank video here on YouTube if you really want to. For all I know, there may be a positive meditational value to watching it.)

All it took as spending $1,400 on YouTube advertising.

They did it to make the point that some of the online metrics we chase are empty, pointless vanity metrics. They look impressive. They seem to signal success. But they are pure BS:

… in lieu of doing the necessary measurement work, lots of marketers are taking the easy way out by relying on “vanity” metrics. This laziness is particularly evident in the digital space where over-simplified, easily digestible numbers (like YouTube view counts) have essentially become a metric of success. But the truth is those vanity metrics don’t really mean anything.

You’ve probably been approached by sales weasels who want to sell you some vanity metrics that may look impressive — and may even fool your boss or your board into thinking your are doing great work.

If that’s how you get ahead at your organization, you probably need to be looking for another job. One that’s headquartered in the real world.

Don’t get caught up in the race for vanity metrics. Even if it looks rewarding, it’s a waste of money. And time. And brain cells. Every second you spend there is a second you’re not moving toward real success. Spend your budget and time on measurable, meaningful activities instead.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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