The Value of the Net Promoter Score

Who are your best supporters?

In many cases, your best supporters are your major donors. But not always. Some champions of your ministry may donate less, either because they’re financially strapped or because they give in other ways. Volunteerism, praying for the ministry or simply telling others can evidence loyalty and support over donation amount alone.

But how do you know?

Many organizations turn to the Net Promoter Score as the means of determining donor loyalty. Introduced by Fred Reichheld of Bain & Co. in a 2003 Harvard Business Review article, the Net Promoter Score (or NPS) has become the go-to tool for measuring customer or donor loyalty for many organizations. The premise is simple. You ask a donor a single question: “How likely are you to recommend this organization to a friend or colleague?” Responses are rated on a 1 (not likely) to 10 (very likely) scale.

To come up with the NPS, you take the number of people giving you a 9 or 10 rating, convert to a percentage and subtract from it the number giving you 0-6’s (also as a percentage). Scores of 7 and 8 are deemed neutral. The result is your Net Promoter Score. Here’s an example of a study of 200 people:

Brock Net Promoter - Revised Graph

In this case, 54% who are “promoters,” 20% are “neutrals” (7’s and 8’s) and 26% are “detractors” (those giving a score of 6 or less). We thus convert these to score numbers and subtract the 26 from the 54 (and ignore the 20 neutrals) and get an NPS of 28.

That’s fairly normal but on the lower side for most of our nonprofit clients. At Masterworks, we’ve seen scores ranging from -32 to scores in the 70s. But most range somewhere in the 30s and 40s.

Recently the NPS has come under fire as not being any more statistically valid than other loyalty measures, such as satisfaction metrics or stated willingness to make another donation. Others say no single question like this — which was the original benefit of the NPS as captured in the title of Reichheld’s article, “One Number You Need to Grow” — can truly measure loyalty. Maybe all that is true. Our response? It doesn’t matter.

The real benefit we see from using the NPS for ministries is two-fold:

  1. It gives you a baseline metric against which you can measure over time. Even if it isn’t the ultimate measurement, it is still a simple way to see at a glance if people feel more positive or negative about you over time. Measure it from year to year and see if you’re heading in the right direction. That alone is valuable.
  2. Even more useful, however, is that it helps you identify your champions.

In the best case, you allow people to give qualitative feedback to their response: “Why did you rate us the way you did?” Not only can you get a sense of why your “detractors” feel the way they do, but you can use that information to follow up with them or make changes that will address their grievances. And when it comes to your “promoters,” you now know who they are and can engage them better through social media, an invitation to be part of an “inner circle” of advisors or simply being sure to thank them in a special way.

These “promoters” can do more for your ministry than any number of marketing efforts you send out. They are credible, authentic, enthusiastic. . . and very valuable.

The NPS isn’t perfect. But used appropriately, it’s one of the simplest ways to gain actionable intelligence about who loves you and who doesn’t. Once you know that, you still need to act accordingly, but now you can do so in a wiser manner.