39 Days of IDEAS | Day 27: Marketing research puts more Hands On Atlanta

As Hands On Atlanta realized they were trying to be all things to all people, they called in market study researchers they helped them narrow their strategic priorities from 50 to five.

When going through a SWOT analysis in their latest round of strategic planning, volunteer-centric nonprofit Hands On Atlanta realized they were missing several key volunteer demographics, including families and Millennials. After raising funds for research, they called on marketing professionals Ken Bernhardt and Debra Semans to find out, from the target demographics themselves, which of eight volunteer engagement ideas would most likely be a success. The resulting concept test, conducted in five metro Atlanta counties, pointed them in the direction of their next big volunteer push.

“The concept test took the form of a virtual stock market,” said President and CEO Gina Simpson. Survey respondents were given virtual dollars to invest in any of eight innovative engagement concepts, from flash mobs to a career day to volunteer leadership celebrations. The concepts with the highest value at the end of the survey made it to the next round of research, where personal interviews with donors and volunteers helped refine the ideas.

“For a while, we were trying to be all things to all people,” said Simpson, reporting that they started their strategic planning with 50 priorities that, through the concept test and other surveys, were narrowed down to five. “Part of our ‘reset,’ as we’re coming up on our 25th anniversary, was finding out what our volunteers really wanted. We had all these different opportunities and ideas, but we wanted to make sure we had a deep impact, and were taking advantage of everything our community has to offer.”


Each quarter, Georgia Nonprofit NOW delivers the practical know-how, thought-leader insight, sector news, and community updates you need to be a High Performance nonprofit professional. Become a GCN member, and get the only magazine devoted entirely to the Georgia nonprofit sector, delivered straight to your mailbox and available online. 

The Georgia Nonprofit NOW team: Betsy Reid, Editor-in-Chief: Marc Schultz, Managing Editor; and Tom Zimmerman, Community Editor 

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