Why the ‘Crawl, Walk, Run’ Methodology is Critical for Non-profits and Cultural Institutions

A goals-driven approach to innovation helps direct your efforts where they really matter.

By Alex Lirtsman, Co-Founder | Chief Strategist

Non-profit organizations are constantly searching for an edge to stay above the competition with limited resources. This is now more critical than ever as Covid is forcing many institutions to reimagine how they engage and serve the public with slashed budgets. Many are also forced to rethink their programming, offering, and engagement strategies to be more relevant in these complex times, and digital first in a time when we’re all engaging remotely. This is putting tremendous pressure on organizations to innovate with limited resources.

No “Silver Bullets”

Some organizations undoubtedly look for a silver bullet or a shiny new toy to solve their gap in income. That focus can often turn into buyer’s remorse, where these investments not only fail to materialize results, they often create additional maintenance and upkeep costs and a requirement to keep investing further.

Just like you shouldn’t go to a doctor on a whim and demand they take out your appendix based on a hunch of what ails you, you shouldn’t immediately rush into an investment without diagnosing the problem.

Nonprofits have often felt this problem acutely, even before Covid. They have always felt pressure to pursue new approaches that might not improve their most critical KPIs, such as increasing donor conversion rates and donor lifetime value. It’s easy to be distracted by what similar nonprofits are doing and think they need to do that to innovate, even if it doesn’t contribute to their organizational objectives.

Measurable Goals

To counter wasteful investments and better ensure more favorable outcomes, we are strong proponents of the “Crawl, Walk, Run” methodology.

The concept can mean different things to different organizations. At Ready Set Rocket, it means identifying barriers in achieving foundational organizational objectives (crawling) before thinking about and developing solutions for further scale (walking and running).

The benefits of a “Crawl, Walk, Run” approach are manifest. By aligning a marketing & technology foundation to measurable organizational goals, organizations and their partners can more effectively and efficiently plot a roadmap aligned to achieving those goals.

This is especially important in marketing, where many organizations have not invested in measurement and analytics, even though campaigns are trackable to an incredible degree and precision and, therefore, can be made accountable to return on investment.

Identifying Structural Problems

Often, a crawl finds that a company lacks the relevant infrastructure (e.g., analytics, understanding of pre-purchase behavior, brand awareness foundation) to ensure success.

In conversations with clients, especially nonprofits, pursuing a tactic, such as launching a new app or trying a new social platform when their conversion rates and repeat donation rates are low, can mask challenges. In those scenarios, it’s unlikely that an app (or lack thereof) will bridge a revenue gap. The issue is likely something much more foundational. Sometimes an app is the solution. Sometimes the real value often lies elsewhere. By ignoring or avoiding identifying structural problems, we risk kicking the can down the road while adding unnecessary costs.

Many clients have told us that their previous digital and data transformation projects had failed because they focused their attention on strengthening one particular area versus exploring and diagnosing underlying issues.

How Do You Know if You’re Driving Results?

How does “Crawl, Walk Run” help change an organization’s mindset? It’s easy to focus on areas with existing capability or capacity. But how do we know if that focus drives results? Sometimes taking a small step back to introspect is critical, and always setting clear measurable KPIs is necessary before diving in. Here’s an example of how it works, and how to apply it to your organization.

Crawl: Should deliver a measurable data-drive foundation on which you can build from.

Walk: Building upon the crawl phase’s initial successes, an organization can expand its approach and start generating ROI on its investments.

Run: With testing and initial success behind it, an organization can begin to see exponential returns on its investments.

It takes an honest assessment to expose gaps and tease out the challenges and opportunities that must be addressed before building solutions. A good agency partner should deliver a fresh perspective and an honest assessment of the path ahead. A great partner can help to solve them and unlock opportunities, driving incremental wins and success along the way.

About Ready Set Rocket

Ready Set Rocket is a data-driven agency on a mission to forge a better future. 

For over a decade, we have been building leading digital marketing programs for foundations, museums, cultural institutions, and non-profits.

We work with transformational brands like the American Museum of Natural History and Carnegie Hall to reimagine their digital platforms, digital marketing, and experiences. 

From acquiring new donors to optimizing their lifetime value to creating more engaging experiences, we’ve worked with the world’s leading non-profits strengthening their ability to meet their mission and better serve our communities.