Data and Analytics

Five Steps to Incrementally Strengthen Your Database

Five Steps to Incrementally Strengthen Your Database

In a recent meeting someone said, “I’ve never met a nonprofit employee who likes their database”. While this statement will be disheartening to any readers who develop databases, most nonprofit-oriented readers might find themselves nodding vigorously.

Databases can be challenging. Nonprofit organizations have to balance functionality, staff and volunteer usability, and price when evaluating what database is best for them. Many nonprofit employees may not even have the institutional memory of why a particular database is being used. “It’s what we were using when I got here” is a common refrain.

While your database will never be perfect, you can take small steps to improve it over time. Below are a few tips to improve your functionality.

Set up an improvement schedule

Sit down with your core team that uses your database and brainstorm the four key issues that you would collectively like to fix or adjust. These can be major challenges or minor inconveniences. After determining the four issues you want to fix – schedule one for each quarter in the year and assign someone to lead each project. The idea of changing everything quickly is overwhelming. By setting a realistic timeline of one major improvement per quarter you’ll have a better chance of succeeding.

How do you want to segment your email?

We  discussed email segmentation last week. Determining how you want to segment your future email messages can help drive improvement in your database. It provides you the opportunity to prioritize fields and track the most relevant information. For example, if you plan on sending different email content to your audience group based on their profession, work with your database users to ensure they’re prioritizing title or profession as a data capture point.

Determine what you need your database to sync with

Most small and mid-sized nonprofits don’t have a database that syncs with all of their different programs. If you want to connect your database to your online donation system, email platform, or direct mail program, you should decide which of these is most important. If online donations are critical to your work invest in a database and online donation platform that connect. If your organization focuses on advocacy-related actions than you should focus energy on your email provider.

Prioritize contact information

We all know that quality contact information is critical to retaining constituents and donors. It’s important to ensure that you have more than one method of communication included. If you only have an individual’s work email address and phone number and they leave their organization you’ll lose the ability to reach that volunteer. Any method to capture both work and personal email, phone, or address should be utilized and captured in your database.

Maintain an open door and forgive mistakes

One of the primary reasons that databases fail is that employees and volunteers don’t use them enough. Often this is due to time constraints. Human error or lack of knowledge is also a key culprit. Staff and volunteers that struggle with a database will often abandon it or try to find work-arounds that hurt data quality. It is critical that nonprofit leaders cultivate an internal culture that allows staff and volunteers to ask questions – even the most basic and silly ones. Database users who are scared to ask for help will cause short-term and long-term issues.

These steps will help you get on a path to database improvement. Below are a few links from the week that we found interesting. If you’re worried about the links that didn’t make the cut, don’t fear – you can find them on our Tumblr.

  1. StayClassy discusses the challenges with integrating millennial supporters into direct marketing campaigns and better opportunities to engage them.
  2. Fundraising can be defined by equations. This #fundchat blog from Beth Ann Locke examines these equations and questions to consider.
  3. Social Media Examiner details options for you to retarget content on Facebook for specific audiences.
  4. Facebook is increasing video content by adding recommendations after your video is complete. Mashable provides the details.
  5. NPQ shares the frightening details about how Detroit’s bankruptcy is going to affect nonprofits.
Questions to Consider When Segmenting Email Messages

Questions to Consider When Segmenting Email Messages

Segmenting email messages is an important communication tool. If your organization can adjust content to be more specific to an audience you’ll be able to increase your open and action rates. Developing a plan for segmented messages begins before you write your email communication – it starts with your data management tool.

When developing segmented messages, it is critical that your data matches potential segments. Do you want to send an email to supporters that work in a particular industry? Are you accurately tracking that industry in your data management system? If not, how can you make adjustments before the communication plan begins?

Building accurate segments is important to constituent relationship management. Supporters can become frustrated if you segment poorly. If someone has signed up for an event, they may react poorly if they receive a message encouraging them to sign up.

Developing a plan for segments should also involve a cost-benefit analysis. If you don’t have the data for segments readily available, how much time will it take to develop them? Is the staff time worth with the potential benefit from the segment? These are questions to consider as you begin developing your communication plan.

Below are a few links from the week. For further fun, check out our Tumblr.

  1. Social Media Explorer shares how to make in-stream twitter images stand out.
  2. Andrea Kihlstedt discusses how the donor pyramid is changing and being energized.
  3. How important is it to optimize and socialize your online content? Content Marketing Institute addresses the importance and provides tips.
  4. NTEN and GrantCraft launched new websites this week. NTEN provides an interview on their website relaunch.
  5. Emily Yu from the Case Foundation discusses the way that millennials change the workplace.
  6. Need to brush up on your nonprofit terms? Robert Slate captures over 175 phrases and words used in nonprofit communication.


Nonprofit Summer Reading

Nonprofit Summer Reading

As summer approaches NTEN began a discussion on their message board that discusses the best nonprofit summer reading. While some folks escape work with their summer reading selections, we tend to relax with the non-fiction variety. We’ve provided a few books for your perusal as you build your summer reading list.


Made to Stick – Chip & Dan Heath – We’ve captured the main points of this book in a previous blog post about simplifying your complex narrative, but we wanted to include it here again. This book simply and directly captures that elements that make some stories more memorable and effective than others.

Start with Why – Simon Sinek – Broken down simply, Simon Sinek details that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. In studying the leaders who have had the greatest influence in the world, the book captures that they all think, act, and communicate in similar fashions. People like Martin Luther King Jr., Steve Jobs, and the Wright Brothers might have little in common, but they all started with why. I frequently return to this book and its passages when stuck on a problem; his direct way of reminding you that the why is of the utmost importance has gotten me to see the bigger picture of problems, and be able to be more effective because of it.


Moneyball – Michael Lewis – Most of you have likely read this book or watched the movie. While it can be a divisive subject for sports fan, it was published a few years after I started my nonprofit career and greatly influenced my work. For small and mid-sized nonprofits to survive they need to look for market inefficiencies, take calculated risks, and properly evaluate staff and volunteer talent. I re-read this book every 4-5 years and this summer is a great time for you to revisit it.

The Powers to Lead – Joseph S. Nye Jr. – The book focuses on evaluating leadership attributes. It leans heavily on history, research, and case studies which I find more compelling than anecdotal stories.

The Nerdist Way – Chris Hardwick – This is definitely an out-of-the-box selection. Hardwick’s book is a mix of self-help and biography. This book covers a lot of different areas but the sections on time management and seizing your inner monologue have been very helpful for me.


If you’re looking for some interesting reading in electronic form, check out our Tumblr. For further reading, here are a few highlights from last week. This will be our only blog post this week. We’ll be returning the week of May 26.

  1. Karen Anderson from LYDIA Urban Academy shares five ways to fundraise more effectively in the education sector.
  2. Social Media Today discusses where social media should fit in your organization.
  3. Twitter announced a mute button is coming! Digital Trends has the details.
  4. The Chronicle of Philanthropy hosted an online chat that discussed opportunities to increase fundraising based on donor data.
  5. The Atlantic published an article this week that led to a bit of debate. If you haven’t read it yet, it focuses on the reasons that criticism is vital for philanthropy.
  6. Finally, in a bit of crossover from our personal and professional lives – Network for Good highlights four things that nonprofits can learn from the NBA playoffs.
Incremental Improvements to Your Digital Communications Strategy

Incremental Improvements to Your Digital Communications Strategy

Nonprofit time and resources, especially when it comes to digital communications (social media, email marketing, website design, analytics review) can be exceptionally sparse. When considering making improvements in these areas, it can seem as if there is an endless list of tasks and modifications to make. Where should you start? How do you prioritize?

You can’t change everything at once – no matter your good intentions. Which is why incremental improvements are one of the safest bets in improving your digital communications. Here is how we typically break this down:


With an ever changing digital and online landscape, just keeping up with all that is new can be overwhelming. By focusing on what is needed to maintain your current reach, you will allow yourself to better understand the commitments and outcomes possible. Simple sustaining steps can be a dedication to posting to Facebook three times a week; sending out four fundraising emails a year; or reviewing your website once a quarter to examine if information and resources are up to date. These simple steps might not expand your reach, but will keep you fresh and engaged with your audience.


With a firm base of practices and strategies, you can start to experiment with ideas that go beyond the simple best practices that you have used up to this point. In “Breaking Through”, you are looking for ideas and practices that will help set your nonprofit apart.

From segmenting messages to your audience, to syncing social media accounts with event platforms, to making data informed decisions thanks to utilizing analytics, you have the ability to take an extra step towards improving your brand and impact.

But breaking through does not mean you have to come up with these ideas on your own. One of the best things that you can do as an organization with limited means is to assess what other organizations are doing that you admire. By emulating their techniques, you can also help your own organization better communication with your constituents.

Game Change

Despite its corny title, game changing ideas and strategies are the final step in improving your digital communication plans. These ideas can tend to seem riskier at the outset, whether due to being a brand new technology or platform, the time and resources necessary to implement, or because of the potential struggle in approval from those less familiar with these ideas or technologies. But it can be difficult to grow or expand your audience by only playing it safe and maintaining the status quo. How are you planning on reaching more people?

The best way to think about your game changing strategies is this – in a perfect world, what would you want to be doing in the online space? Who do you want to reach? How do you want to communicate with them? It sounds like an idealistic and daunting task, but in doing so, you will have the opportunity to best reach those with whom you are trying to connect.

Another game changing idea? Following our Tumblr for up to date links throughout the week. Here were a few of our favorites:

  1. Social Media Today shares ten ways that you can use AB testing to increase email open rates
  2. A recent poll of 650 women who work at nonprofits revealed interesting data on gender-based hiring and donation solicitation. The Chronicle of Philanthropy provides the details and an infographic.
  3. NPQ conveys four lessons from digital marketing that can be applied to crowdfunding.
  4. SumAll compiled research on the best and worst times of day to share content on social media platforms.
  5. Razoo Foundation highlights four nonprofits that are maximizing their impact.
Assessing the Value of Volunteers

Assessing the Value of Volunteers

It’s National Volunteer Week! This is an opportunity to celebrate volunteers, recognize their achievements, and mobilize new supporters. Some news coverage this week has discussed the fact that volunteering in 2013 was at a ten-year low. Greg Baldwin, President of VolunteerMatch, wrote a compelling article that discusses the narrative that has developed due to this time.

Some have argued that the decline in volunteering is a reflection that society does not value volunteering as much as it used to. Baldwin writes, “Nonprofits are not immune to difficult economic conditions, and when times are tough they typically lack the resources and extra capacity necessary to effectively engage and organize volunteers.”

Volunteers are one of the most valuable resources that a nonprofit has. Their passion and engagement is contagious. They are the advocates, champions, and evangelists of our work. One of the few resources that may be more valuable than volunteers is time. As Baldwin suggests, the decline in volunteer hours is because staff time to cultivate volunteers has been reduced due to economic issues.

This decline may also be due to a better understanding of the opportunity cost of engaging volunteers. Recruiting, training, and managing volunteers can absorb a lot of staff time. This time has a dollar value and due to the recent economic downswing, nonprofits are more aware of what this cost.

More nonprofits have recognized that the nonprofit adage, ‘Don’t pay for something that you can get for free” isn’t always fiscally responsible. If a staff member spends 15 hours going through all of the steps to enable a volunteer to lead a project you can determine the institutional cost. How does this time allocation compare to other alternatives? How will this volunteer save your organization money once they’ve been set up to manage a project? Will the volunteer save 100 staff hours? Will they recruit enough fundraisers to offset the expense of the initial staff time investment? Is dedicating staff time needed to set the volunteer up to be successful the best financial decision for your nonprofit?

While volunteer engagement is often more complex than a just a financial assessment, a volunteer needs to provide more value than the cost of the staff time spent on recruiting, training, and managing a volunteer. This article shares an in-depth process for recruiting communications volunteers. For any organization dedicating extensive staff time to recruiting volunteers to serve in this role, they need to ensure that they have the time needed to research the volunteer need, articulate and design the volunteer role, recruit potential volunteers, screen and assess the candidates, build an orientation, manage their ongoing work, and evaluate their performance. Is spending the amount of time suggested in this article realistic for your organization? Is investing the amount of staff time needed worth that cost?

We agree with Baldwin when he suggests that volunteer hours will increase as nonprofits continue to recover financially. We also suspect that nonprofits will continue to increase the efficiency of their volunteer and staff allocation as they better understand time allocation data and organizational needs.

Below are a few of our favorite links from the week. If you like these, then you should also partake in our Tumblr.

  1. Our friends at M+R and NTEN released their annual benchmark report. While there are a few sad trombones (especially the 0.07% response rate) there is a lot of great data.
  2. This one just missed being in the blog last Friday. Beth Kanter shares five tips to help your crowdfunding.
  3. At times it feels like email controls our professional (and personal) lives. Matt Griffin’s simple tips on managing email is a must-read for everyone.
  4. Frogloop investigates five tools to help your organization track online organizational metrics.
  5. Too often, current needs outweigh necessary future planning. Eugene Fram provides tips on increasing strategic planning an executive and board level.
  6. Few nonprofits have faced challenges quite as unique as Livestrong. NPQ comments on an Inc. article from last week discussing the organization now.
  7. Mary Cahalane shares her thoughts on the difference between dollars and relationships.
  8. There are a few Facebook news items this week. Facebook is adjusting their algorithm to reduce spam-like posts. Facebook is increasing the ad size in the right hand columns but reducing the number of ads – they’ve seen an increase in engagement when testing this new design. If you’re still looking for Facebook tips, Social Media Examiner captures five tips to improve your management.
  9. NPQ investigates how nonprofits develop their brand.


Spring Cleaning

Spring Cleaning

With the official start of spring behind us, a popular pastime for both households and offices alike is the practice of spring cleaning. From a communications standpoint, spring is a great time to assess how efforts started in the new year are performing, as well as determine if it’s time to refocus resources and attention elsewhere. Below, we outline a few steps for each major area of your digital communications strategy that might be in need of a spring cleaning.

Social Media

Are there any social media networks that you have been neglecting? Have you noticed less engagement or feedback on previously successful platforms? Now is a great time to assess how you want to allocate your resources, including either adding a new network, or potentially closing down an account.


Nobody likes cleaning out a database – even data nerds like us. But as your database grows and develops over time, periodic clean-ups are necessary to help keep your organization running smoothly. You don’t need to dedicate yourself to a massive overhaul – just focusing on one category of constituent, one area of need, or a type of constituent (volunteers, donors, etc.) can help you stay organized.


When was the last time you purged your email lists? It almost seems blasphemous to say, as email list size is the bread and butter to most nonprofit online fundraising campaigns. But look at the numbers – who has opened an email you have sent in the last year? Who hasn’t? Who has clicked on any of articles or calls to action you have provided? Who has forwarded your messages to others? Is it time to remove people from the list who haven’t responded to you in some time? These questions are key to solidifying your email marketing campaigns.


We’ve discussed the basics to Google Analytics in the past – but cleaning up your website goes beyond knowing the basic information about your site. Are all of the links on your site still active? Is the branding on older pieces still consistent with your current design and voice? Is the vocabulary you use on key pages still up to date? Simple questions, to be sure, but ones that can have an impact on your efficacy of your website.

We don’t recommend you tackle all of these projects at once. But by choosing what areas of your communication need the most grooming, you set yourself up for greater success this summer, and subsequently, any end of year fundraising efforts you make in the months to come.

We really cleaned up in pulling together our links for this week. If you’re feeling extra dirty, be sure to check out our Tumblr for more.

  1. The Wall Street Journal outlines some of the challenges that small family foundations face.
  2. The Foundation Center’s infographic of the week looks at 10 years of social media.
  3. StayClassy provides several tips and examples of how to tell great stories.
  4. Monthly giving is very desirable for most organizations. We’ve recently discussed how to increase recurring gifts. But it’s imperative to have a plan in place to ensure those donors feel appreciated. Guidestar explains the challenge and some steps to avoid angry donors.
  5. Dustin Curtis shares why Facebook’s potential changes to their news feed were abandoned – it was too efficient.
  6. Is Google+ still a barren wasteland? New data shows that the engagement levels on Google+ posts outperform other social media networks. Mashable has the details.
  7. If you’re still trying to wrap your head around social reach, B2C wrote an overview.
  8. Fast Company shares their list of the top 10 innovative companies dedicated to social good.
Avoiding Spam Folders

Avoiding Spam Folders

Nonprofit organizations consistently struggle with ensuring their email campaigns are reaching inboxes and not spam folders. This week the Chronicle of Philanthropy discussed the issue and highlighted a few nonprofits that have done extensive clean-up of their distribution lists.

Investing staff time and resources into data clean-up can be a big undertaking. We highlight three steps to help you get started in this process.

Track your email data and goals

Most nonprofits have access to email analytics. Casually reviewing open and click-through rates isn’t enough. If email is a critical communication for your organization then you need to review your email data and determine what is working well and what needs to be improved. Develop email goals that are aligned with organizational needs and work to determine how you can reach those goals. Look for emails that perform above or below your goals and study what could have caused that performance.

Remove bounces from future messages

Virtually every email tool tracks the number of bounced emails. It’s imperative to remove those emails from your future communication. High bounces rates are a key factor in why emails go to spam folders. There are two types of bounces – hard and soft. Hard bounces are those in which the domain name does not exist, the server has blocked your email, or the email address does not exist. Soft bounces are more fluid. These are messages that are often caused due to a an email server being down or an inbox being full. If an email soft bounces, most email providers will attempt to send an email multiple times over a 72 hour period before giving up. A large number of soft bounces will also impact your ability to avoid spam folders. If an email address encounters soft bounces on several consecutive emails, it is time to remove that email from your list or utilize volunteer or intern support to research a corrected address.

Build a plan for recipients that are not engaged

Even active addresses that do not open or click through links in your emails affect your ability to reach inboxes. As you begin to clean your list, you need  to create a strategy for recipients that don’t ever open your emails. In the article, Unicef shares that they created a points based system,

“If you open an email, you get 10 points, and if you click on an email link, you get an additional five points,” he says. “We’ve just been suppressing those who have been on our list for 12 months or longer and have an engagement score of zero.”

Suppressing active email addresses is a challenging idea for many nonprofit staff. There is always an ongoing hope that recipients will become reengaged. If your organization is still struggling with performance, it’s time to come up strategy for this distribution list.

These three steps are a starting point to begin the process of improving your email performance.


Enjoy the links we’ve mined for the week. And check out our Tumblr for ongoing internet gold.

  1. StayClassy tackles how to manage expectations when launching a peer-to-peer fundraising program.
  2. NPQ provides interesting data on how nonprofits use social media to engage their communities.
  3. We’ve all missed deadlines. But what happens when your nonprofit misses a deadline for a grant? discusses the impact that a missed grant had on the work of two charities.
  4. Socialfish shares a case study on how the American Chemical Society received increased attention and views for a video about the chemistry of Sriracha.
  5. While this article by Michelle Dalley is focused on business, there are some great points that nonprofits can use for direct mail marketing strategy.
  6. The Chronicle of Philanthropy interviewed Judy Belk, the new president of the California Wellness Foundation. NPQ wrote a thoughtful article regarding the contradiction between Ms. Belk’s discussion of transparency and her choice to not disclose her own salary.
  7. There were two great Twitter chats from the week. This CASE storify recap discusses how college campuses manage multiple social media accounts and is informative for any nonprofits trying to manage a organizational and local accounts. #fundchat collected tips and tricks for using Kickstarter.
Google’s Bay Area Impact Challenge – An Amazing Opportunity

Google’s Bay Area Impact Challenge – An Amazing Opportunity

This week, Google announced the Bay Area Impact Challenge – a contest for Bay Area nonprofits that will grant $5 million total to the winning entries, including $500,000 grants to four innovative nonprofits. The contest criteria are broken down here:

  1. Community impact. How will the proposed project improve the lives of local residents? How many people will be affected if successful and to what extent?

  2. Innovation. Does the project tackle the issue it seeks to address in a new and creative way?

  3. Scalability. If successful, how easily can this project scale? Can this proposal serve as a model for other communities?

  4. Feasibility. Does the team have a well-developed, realistic plan to execute on the proposal? Have they identified the right partners for implementation?

It goes without saying, but this is an amazing opportunity for nonprofits in the San Francisco Bay Area to really broaden their impact and improve the lives in our local community. If you have questions on the application process, or are interested in assistance in completing the application, we’d love to help.

Below are some of the best links we found this week. Don’t forget to follow our Tumblr for more links and resources.

  1. NPQ provides a great tool for nonprofits and those venturing into the world of grant and prospect research.
  2. A cap on charitable deductions is being discussed again. The Nonprofit Times details the recent conversations and potential impact.
  3. Who doesn’t enjoy Twitter Tips & Tricks? #Fundchat followers share their knowledge.
  4. Guidestar hosted their first earnings call to discuss their 2013 financial results. Guidestar’s commitment to transparency is a great example for other nonprofits. The Washington Post discusses the details of the call and its relevance.
  5. In an effort to learn more about the social impact that learning coding can have on children Ben Mangan transcribes an interview with Krishna Vedati, Founder and CEO of Tynker.
  6. Don’t forget to cast your vote for the doGooder Nonprofit Video Awards, hosted by our friends at See3 Communications.
Using Data to Assess Your Peers

Using Data to Assess Your Peers

Many of the nonprofits we work with exist in very niche markets – either due to their size, the scope of their work, the specific cause they support, or the location of their constituent base. Because of this, many of the best practices and metrics supplied through major online resources do not apply to them.

So how do we create baselines and comparative numbers for our clients? Easy – we look at their competition.

Some nonprofits blush at the idea of competition, fearing that defining their fellow nonprofits in this way runs against the purpose of the work they are doing. But think of it this way – what other organizations are speaking to your same audience, asking your constituents for money, or sharing information with them via social media? You are competing with these organizations for the attention and money from your base – even if you don’t like to define it as such.

Tracking your competition’s performance takes time, but is not as difficult as it may seem. By creating a game plan to collect this data, you will be well on your way to having a better understanding of how your peers are using the tools and networks you are using on a daily basis.

Here is our step-by-step approach to assessing competitor:

Review your criteria to define “competitor”


Geographic location, mission, constituent base, size, and income sources are all valid measurements of defining who is your nonprofit’s competition.

One feature we like to include is total income based on the previous year’s IRS 990 submission. This information is easily available via Guidestar.

Why include this information? While this number doesn’t represent how much the organization spent on social media, it can show you what other smaller organizations are able to accomplish given the amount of money they received in the past year. By doing so, you can better compare your current social media status beyond the metrics included in social media.


Define what metrics you want to track


Social media networks make it easy for you to see the performance of a post or page thanks to their public displays of engagement – Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Instagram all show likes, shares, retweets etc. for posts that anyone can see.

First, you need to decide what networks you would like to track. Second, you need to determine what measures within those networks are available to you as an outsider, and what values you think are important.

In addition to standard social media insights, metrics we have typically monitored in the past include the topic of the post, whether or not the content included a picture, where links in the post were directed, and whether or not the post promoted another organization or business.

One of the main features we track on Facebook is what we call “peer engagement” – for example, we define this as the total number of comments, likes, and shares, divided by the number of likes the organization has. By calculating this number, you can see if their posts are being received and shared by their audience, or if they are falling flat.

In addition to definitions, it is also important to decide how long you want to assess your competitors. We usually capture data for a minimum of three months in order to collect meaningful data to be reviewed at the end.


Set up your spreadsheet


Because you will be tracking other organizations, useful tools such as Hootsuite and Sprout won’t be able to help you monitor their numbers. But even without these tools, you can easily track this information by following one of our main adages at Social Change Consulting – when in doubt, use a spreadsheet.

We’ve included a sample spreadsheet below, to show how we tracked data for one competitor:

Sample Facebook Competition Review Spreadsheet

By using formulas, you can also easily track the metrics we defined above. For example, if calculating “peer engagement,” simply setup your cell by using the following formula:

= (sum of cells including # of likes + # of comments + #shares)/(total fans) *100

By using a spreadsheet, you’ll be easily able to sort columns to determine which post types and dates garnered the most attention to better understand when and how your competition receives its best results.


Make the time


All of your preparation for this project will be useless without setting aside time every week to monitor your competitors. Whether you assign this project to yourself or to someone else on your team, be sure to set aside at least an hour each week to track this data.


Review your results


Now that you’ve collected your data, it is time to assess what it all means. Data shouldn’t determine your actions on its own, but it can definitely help inform future decisions as it relates to your social media content creation and distribution. Do your competitors fare better when they share an update with a picture of their work? Then it might be time to start collecting more photos and media to share along with your content. Does your competition rarely post on the weekends? This might be an area where you can stand out by being one of the few in your field sharing stories during this time.

Any nonprofit can benefit from knowing what their peers are accomplishing on social media – it just takes a little bit of time to set up the data and metrics needed to do so. By knowing how your competitors are performing, you can better tell board members, executives, volunteers, and fellow staff members how successful you are at social media, earning your place in the organization for years to come.



Google Analytics – Where Should We Start?

Google Analytics – Where Should We Start?

Free to use and incredibly comprehensive, Google Analytics is one of the best data collecting tools available for nonprofits. But with that immense amount of information comes with it a problem – many small nonprofits aren’t getting the most out of the platform. Here, we break down some steps to help get you more acclimated to the tool.

Know the basics

An important first step includes understanding the terminology. We’ve captured some of the more important phrases:

Visits vs. Unique Visitors – Visits references the number of times that your website has been accessed; unique visitors identifies all non-duplicate visits to your site (calculated through cookies). It is important to monitor both features.

Bounce Rate – Percentage of visits to that page where your visitors leave your site immediately; also to be considered pages that are being found that the visitor does not find valuable.

Referral vs. Organic – Used in reference to traffic sources, referrals coming from other websites or links (Facebook, partner organizations, email links, purchased ads) whereas organic is through individuals typing in your URL directly or through search engines

(not provided) – Becoming more and more of a problem for Google Analytics, this designation represents individuals who are finding your site through search but do not allow Google to track their search terms, demographics, and other biographical information. A limiting factor in understanding more about your audience.

Less is more

Because Google Analytics can track so much information, it is important to not focus on too much too soon. Pick 4-5 metrics that you will follow in order to assess your websites performance. Important metrics include: number of visitors, mobile visitors, number of pageviews, duration of visit, referral traffic sources, and page bounce rates.

Create a baseline

Before making any changes to content or outreach efforts, monitor your analytics for at least two months to understand how users are currently finding and interacting with your website. With this information in hand, you will have a better understanding of potential changes you could make to improve performance.

Skipping this step, or making changes based on anecdotal evidence or assumptions, can dilute the efficacy of capturing this data.

Setting Goals

Important for any communication process, setting goals is key for monitoring your website performance as it brings more meaning than simply tracking data.

You can even set these goals within the Google Analytics platform. When setting goals, you can also determine what you consider to be the monetary value of that goal. If it is visiting a survey or donate page, this is easier to calculate. But by setting value to your goals, it helps make them mean more than just another metric to track.

Don’t let the size and scope of what the Google Analytics platform can provide discourage you from taking advantage of its benefits. By starting small, and focusing on key areas of interest, you will learn valuable information about how your audience uses your services, and where you can make structural or communication changes to broaden your appeal.

Below are a few of our favorite links from the week! Check out our Tumblr for additional content.

  1. The New York Times has an interesting long-form read on the challenges and success of the nonprofit organization, D-Rev.
  2. #fundchat had great content this week that will help get 2014 to a strong start. The transcript from this week’s #fundchat discusses strategies to improve your donor retention. Mary Cahalane also kicks off a series on the best stolen fundraising ideas.
  3. Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation, discusses why he started using Twitter and the impact of that digital engagement.
  4. As rates of email consumption on mobile devices increases, incorporating mobile email strategy into your eCommunications campaigns is critical. Chief Marketer highlights the issue.
  5. The Nonprofit Finance Fund’s nonprofit survey always provides great data that helps to assess our sector. If you work at a nonprofit, don’t forget to fill out the survey. It takes only 10-15 minutes to fill out, and all responses remain anonymous.
  6. Finally, we want to highlight our friends at the Off/Page Project. They are doing an Instagram campaign in honor of MLK. Check out the campaign and please share with folks that you think would like to take part!