Digital Marketing Metrics for Nonprofits

Published August 31, 2017
Like commercial businesses, nonprofits have a range of specialties. From art to scholarships, housing assistance to helping animals, this is a sector that has a special place in society and our hearts. Of course, no matter how worthy the cause, nonprofits have the same needs as other businesses -- they have to worry about payroll, the cost of providing services and, of course, marketing their cause. When it comes to marketing, no matter who your audience is, a digital presence is requisite and so is effectively measuring its performance.
In this article, we’ll look at some of the data that may be especially useful to helping nonprofits excel at digital marketing.


Digital Marketing for Non Profits


Return Visitors

Most nonprofits rely on attracting and engaging a loyal member base. That’s why drilling into information on return users and their behaviors can be especially useful. Sure, all businesses benefit from repeat customers. But when it comes to nonprofits, passion and perseverance are built into their DNA. Building a strong following (and working to increase it!) is essential to the nonprofit’s success. Nonprofits are often working to build the army they need to get their message out or accomplish their goals.

To better understand how they are retaining their audience base, nonprofits should focus on repeat customers in Google Analytics. This can be accomplished by using the “Returning Users” Segment:


Returning Users Segment in Google Analytics


This allows you to review all onsite activities as they apply to returning users only. This is also useful for evaluating engagement and conversions. For example, knowing what percentage of conversions are made by users who have visited more than once helps you understand how multiple visits are a factor in the decision making process that leads to a conversion. With additional segmenting you can further analyze behaviors within this group.

Try taking an even closer look at how these visitors interact with your site by adding additional segments. For example, using a custom segment to isolate the behaviors of users by age group.

Under “Add a Segment” choose New Segment > Demographics:


Segment by Demographics in Google Analytics


Together, these two segments help identify how well content is resonating with users of different target age groups. Understanding how much content they peruse in terms of pages per session or how long they spend on the site can provides insights into whether or not assets intended to engage these groups are working.

There are hundreds of ways to examine the behaviors of returning users by overlying segments. Like looking at how many returning users spend more than 5 minutes on the site, reflecting their engagement level or what percentage of returning users visit multiple times a week. When used together, these segments will help you get a better picture of how people who have invested in the organization enough to visit more than once are using the website.

Page Traffic and Conversions for Key Organizational Personas

It’s common for businesses to be able to identify different audience segments that are important to growth. This holds true for nonprofits as well. While there may be a more nuanced break down, there are segments that are especially important to nonprofits – volunteers and donors.

These two categories of user may have different points of entry and often have different pathways through the site.
Pages in a prospective volunteer’s pathway might include:


Assessing how users move through or between these pages, and ultimately, to a conversion will help you evaluate how effectively pages move visitors to an end goal or where improvements could be made to strengthen the funnel. This data may point to places where it would be worth experimenting with different calls-to-action (CTAs).

With completion goals separated for each group, a volunteer goal may utilize a URL like /volunteer/thank-you or /donor/thank-you/ clearly delineating these two intents. This can also apply to non-contact related goals like downloading a volunteer application or a donor tax information packet.

By outlining and monitoring the content that is consumed by these groups you can study how well they are working and which pages may be serving as entry points and exit points. It can also help bring attention to where content is functioning well and where adjustments could be made.

Events and Calendar Traffic

At some point most nonprofits have events to help support their initiatives. From galas to food drives to golf tournaments, these events need attendees to succeed. Without participation, mission-based events are less successful and fundraisers can cost more to hold than they make.

Upcoming events may be receiving active promotion in social media, PPC, email or even traditional marketing methods like fliers and postcards. With multiple sources often bringing users to the web pages featuring these events, activity there should be closely monitored. To review the traffic sources to a single page, choose from multiple options including source or default channel grouping.


Custom Channel Groupings in Google Analytics


Tracking traffic to these pages by channel or source can help assess the effectiveness of channels, messaging and when necessary, prove an ROI.

When pagination is a factor evaluate how many visitors reach page two or three of a list. This insight can help determine how many events should be available on one page. Similarly, seeing how far ahead in the year users are looking for events might help influence a group’s tactics in timing their event promotions. Studying event pages can also help you assess interest in types of events to identify trends that may shape future event planning or fundraising plans.

Event and Calendar pages with opt-ins can also help enlist and segment site users who have a specific interest in your events. This will then provide a focused and growing audience of people prime for email marketing. Tracking these sign-ups as a conversion can also help account for the rate of audience growth.

If events in general, or even a few major annual events, are the life blood of a nonprofit then paying attention to user behaviors related to these events is essential. Website data associated with events or a calendar can help the organization to focus on what works best and make informed decisions about new events.


Most of us are looking for a way to make a difference, for many people that means becoming affiliated with a cause close to their hearts. Nonprofits facilitate our collective sense of purpose, bringing people together to improve the world or at least our little corners of it. To help our favorite organizations succeed, digital marketers must find meaning in the data we can get from sources like Google Analytics. For nonprofits, returning visitors, persona based content funnels and events are of particular interest to the foundation of a group. A diligent eye on these areas will see both strengths and weakness. It may be that the insight this data provides will cultivate the ideas to keep a nonprofit thriving now and in the future.


When the client first came to you, you talked up the value of Google Analytics. You emphasized the importance of seeing where your traffic was coming from. You went on and on about how Google Analytics can show traffic sources to pinpoint whether people came from search, social media or a specific site referral, and how valuable this data was. You sold them on it, so much so that your client looked forward to receiving that first report, the magical day when they would finally understand where visitors were coming from.
But then the report came, and it looked like this:



It showed that 10% of your client’s traffic came from “(direct)/(none)”. What does this label mean? How do you explain Direct traffic to your client? Better yet, how do you explain “none”?
Let’s take a closer look at understanding Direct traffic in Google Analytics and how we can address it with clients.
Digital marketers spend a lot of time focused on PPC and SEO campaigns in order to drive desirable traffic to a website. The phrases we’re ranking for and bidding on get meticulous attention, so much so that we often forget about some of the other ways that visitors find us.

We put a tremendous amount of the effort we put into reviewing organic search data and PPC campaign performance in analytics. But how closely do we monitor referral reports?

If that’s not a channel you review regularly, you may be missing out on seeing traffic that is coming directly from links you’ve obtained around the web, local business listings, news mentions, and more. Many times, links are only considered as a means to an end, a metric that Google uses in determining how to rank sites in the SERPs (search engine results pages). But the fact is, many of a site’s links may be directly contributing to its traffic.

In this article, we’ll review how to look at referral reports in Google Analytics, and some of the many ways to use that data to better inform your web marketing decisions.


Remember how your mom told you not to stand too close to the television because it might hurt your eyes?

The same rules can apply to data. If you’re too close, you may miss the patterns and trends that are crucial to understanding your website’s performance. You can’t judge a site’s performance looking at data in the bubble of a single day, you must consider any day’s traffic compared to the days before and after.

Google Analytics makes it fairly easy to analyze trends over long periods of time. But it also allows you to stand right in front of that TV, to look at more granular levels of time, right down to the hour.
There’s a better way to get that close to the data, without burning your retinas. We’ll cover how to analyze traffic effectively in today’s post.