Is Your Nonprofit Website Really Working? This Free Tool from Google Has the Answers
Measuring Success and Improving Impact with Google Analytics
Google Analytics is a simple, yet effective tool that nonprofits can (and should) use when analyzing data and determining success.
ROI is one of the most widely used terms in business today. As a nonprofit, proving success to donors or grantmakers is a ton of pressure, especially when you’re just starting out. Success can be defined in many different ways, but data is king when it comes to reporting and taking away key learnings to apply to future campaigns and initiatives.
What Nonprofits Need to Know about Google Analytics:
Google Analytics is used to measure website traffic and conversions. It’s so popular, in fact, that according to Built With, an estimated 86% of the top 10,000 websites are using the platform. The best part about the tool: it’s free to use. Yes, that’s right—no strings attached!* This is a completely free tool that will give you robust analytics about your website and donors.
Nonprofit KPIs and the “Impact Funnel”
Before we dive into the details of Google Analytics, let’s talk about KPIs for nonprofits. KPIs, or Key Performance Indicators, are essentially your success factors or goals. KPIs can be anything such as donations, website visitors, engagements, or video views. It all depends on what’s important—or “key”—to your nonprofit.
Of course, before you look at results, it is crucial to know what you are trying to measure and, therefore, what results are the most valuable to your nonprofit.
Every nonprofit will have different goals, and they constantly change based on various factors. In a previous article we talked about the “Impact Funnel.” If the goal is a donation, the idea is to collect leads (in this case, potential donors) at the awareness stage or top of the Impact Funnel and then continue to move those potential donors down until they convert and actually contribute a donation.
Each step of the funnel has different KPIs associated with it.
If you’re at the awareness stage at the top of your funnel, you would look at more high-level metrics in Google Analytics like:
- website traffic
- form fills
- video views
Some nonprofits use their website traffic data to determine and demonstrate reach. As long as that data is filtered by engaged users and “getting the word out” is part of your mission, this is a perfectly valid and simple way to measure success.
In addition to the above, you should look at the sources, or how people are landing on your website whether it’s direct, organic search, social media, email, etc. As mentioned earlier, you want as much targeted awareness as possible (this is the widest part of the funnel) and from there you’ll start to narrow down and pinpoint more qualified leads to drive visitors down your impact funnel towards your goals.
Consideration or Value
Moving into consideration, this is a good place to look at the “Behavior” section of GA. Here, you can look at page views, unique page views, average time on page, session duration and bounce rate—the percentage of people who land on a page of your site and then quickly leave (“bounce”) without any interaction. You should also look at the percentage of new users vs. returning to determine if you are giving your visitors enough value that they keep coming back.
If your goal is to raise awareness of your cause or program, you would want to look at your “new users.” If you provide online resources and want your audience to continue coming back to engage with more content, then you’ll want to see a higher percentage of “returning users.”
Conversion or Goal
The conversion stage holds the most valuable metrics, such as donations or sign-ups. A conversion can be anything that takes a visitor down the next step of your impact funnel.
For example, if you’re running a specific campaign and want people to download a white paper in exchange for their email address, then the conversion would be whenever someone successfully downloaded it. When we talk about donations it’s a bit more black and white, since the conversion would take place whenever someone donated money, but think of a conversion as the end goal.
Setting GA Goals for Your Nonprofit
Now that you understand KPIs, let’s talk more about goals. Google defines a goal as a way to measure how well your site or app fulfills your target objectives. A goal represents a completed activity, called a conversion, that contributes to the success of your business.
Setting up goals will help you compare and measure metrics that are important to your nonprofit. You can then report on these goals and prove ROI to key internal and external stakeholders.
When setting up goals in the platform, Google will ask if you want to use a template or a custom goal. Most of the time you’ll want to use the custom option, as goals will vary depending on the specific campaign or objectives.
For example, if you’re hosting an event to raise awareness about disaster relief, the conversion might be ticket sales. First, you’ll need to choose a goal type, which fall into the following four categories:
|Duration||Sessions that lasts a specific amount of time or longer||10 minutes or longer spent on a page or section of your site|
|Pages/Screens per session||A user views a specific number of pages or screens||5 pages or screens have been loaded|
|Event||An action defined as an Event is triggered||Donation, social recommendation, newsletter signup, event registration, video play, etc.|
Asks whether a user reached a specific page, such as the “thank you” page after a ticket purchase, donation, or signup. You simply enter the URL of your thank-you page and then assign a monetary goal value, if applicable.
Measures your visitors’ engagement in terms of time. It might be appropriate for a nonprofit publication, or in a situation where you may be looking for support and need to educate the consumer on the specific problem or situation. For example, are visitors spending 10 minutes engaging with content on your site?
Pages/screens per session goal
Also an engagement goal, except you are measuring how many pages (or screens on mobile) the user visits in a single session. Did they just come and read one article and leave, or did they click through to another page or post for more info?
These are pretty broad. They can be defined by any number of things, including:
- Click or a on a button or link — e.g., “Donate” or “Register” buttons, your phone number link, request for map directions
- Media interaction – e.g., video view, PDF download
- Form fill — e.g., newsletter signup forms, registration forms, contact forms
- Page destination — e.g., the “thank you” page someone reaches after donating, or reading through a series of posts
Google support offers a lesson on goals in greater detail.
PRO TIP: Google Ads Grant now encourages using goals, which can be imported directly from your Google Analytics account. Using a Conversion-based strategy (i.e., achieving your goals) now allows you to go past the previous $2/click limit.
Reporting Your Nonprofit’s Success
Before you start running and downloading reports, most of the information you’ll want to access on a daily basis will be at Google Analytics “Home” screen (formally known as the dashboard).
The below is a sample the main Audience Overview tab where you can see users, sessions, pages, and bounce rate. At the top right you can select specific date ranges and toggle between websites (if you add more than one to track).
There are standard reports that GA offers, and you also have the ability to create custom reports. Types of standards reports fall into these categories: Real-Time, Audience, Acquisition, Behavior and Conversions. These are the options you see on the left hand side of the dashboard. Not every report will be valuable to every nonprofit, but below are some we think you should pay more attention to.
These reports provide insight into characteristics of your users. Some examples of the metrics you can track are number of active users, demographics like age and gender, location and interests/affinities. You can also track what type of browser visitors are using and what type of device (mobile vs desktop and iPhone vs Android).
This report is directly related to the goals mentioned earlier in this article. Use this reporting section to track against your specific goals and see the number of completions, and how users got to those completions (traffic sources and user flow).
A custom report is one that you create on your own. You choose your own metrics, date range, and how you want them displayed in the report.
For more on how to create and manage these reports, check out this support blog from Google.
Tip: Get even more out of your reporting by using analytics to determine what content is resonating with your audience and what is not working. Are there people spending more time on certain articles over others? GA helps you figure out what campaign, content, or tactic is most effective in driving results, and what is resonating with beneficiaries and donors.
Google Analytics Bonus Tools
See your stats while looking at your site
Here’s a little shortcut for you: For Chrome users, there’s a very useful extension from Google called Page Analytics that will give you a quick snapshot on page of how people are using your site. Read more about it in our Nonprofit Online Tools section.
Get more accurate reporting
Consider installing the Block Analytics extension in your browser and turning it on for your website(s). This extension blocks Google Analytics from loading in your Chrome browser on websites you select. This way, if you are going to your website a number of times per day it won’t skew results and seem like you’re getting web traffic that’s not your actual audience.
Let Google teach you
The recently launched Google Analytics Academy has two one-hour courses on how to use the platform from beginners to pros. In two hours (one hour beginner, one hour intermediate) you can learn most everything you need to know, and even take an assessment to get certified.