November 23, 2010; Source: EuroInvestor | George Washington University recently ran an IQ test [PDF] on a hundred governmental, political and nonprofit organizations to determine just how smart they are at putting their message out digitally.

Some of the variables they considered were the effectiveness of their websites, their digital marketing (from SEO to e-mail campaigns), social media presence, and readiness to be received on mobile platforms—asking, in other words, was there an app for them? The results should be heartening for the third sector, so often overlooked in the digital realm. Four of the top ten, ranked Gifted to Genius, were nonprofits.

You’ve heard of the nonprofits that made the cut: PETA, World Wildlife Fund, the Nature Conservancy, and AARP. PETA flew solo in the Genius category, earning the label “best in show” from the writers. The terrible pun wasn’t lost on this author.

Attached to the ranking was the authors’ analysis. There are some intriguing findings in the report, less splashy than the results maybe, but even more rewarding:

Social media gave a huge boost to website traffic, but forums and discussion boards did almost as good a job in attracting visitors as the much-discussed Facebook Like button. Good, old-fashioned discussion made sites more popular.

Multimedia was key to driving traffic. That’s not so surprising, but just how much it did will raise eyebrows: organizations that offered audio/video materials drove traffic up by 8 percent each month, and those offering webinars went up 11 percent. What’s more, without audio/video on their site, traffic dropped 9 percent. Give your staff and constituents a video camera today!

Typically, we at NPQ are reluctant to embrace the results of many of the reports on social media and digital marketing. This time, though, the fruit is just too ripe not to pick.—James David Morgan