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DIY Engagement Benchmarking Survey Section 8: Use of Analytics

Are you regularly using analytics data (e.g. website, social media and email stats) to guide your online work?

As a nonprofit, you might feel like you're drowning in data. There's your Google Analytics page with data about your web traffic—you could spend all day looking through new versus recurring visitors, time on site, and top keyword searches. There's Facebook Insights and a million and one ways to track data on Twitter (some cool ones here, here, and here). You've got open and click-through rates from your broadcast email platform. If you're using a CRM like Salesforce, you probably have a whole bucketful of reports and dashboards on your fundraising and programs.

So where do you start?

Being a data-driven organization isn't about collecting and analyzing gobs of data—it's about making decisions driven by data. It means constantly experimenting, and using the results of those experiments to change how you do your work. You are much better off tracking five pieces of data and spending time acting on what you've learned than tracking every possible metric.

So how do you decide what to track? Here are some steps to getting started:

  1. Put together a dashboard with the data that best indicates the overall health of your organization. What exactly those numbers are depends entirely on your organization, but your theory of change should be your guide. (You have one of those, right? If not, start here.) Talk to staff from each functional team in your organization to ensure that their work is reflected. Some ideas:

    Number of new members or subscribers
    Number of new donors
    Total donations
    Volunteer hours
    Legislative contacts
    Number of online actions     
    Voters contacted
    Media impressions
    Event attendees
    Website visitors

    In many cases, the metrics on this dashboard aren't going to be things out of Google Analytics or Facebook, but rather out of your CRM. Click-through rate by itself doesn't do anything for your organization—it's what people do when they click through that matters. That doesn't mean data from Analytics and similar sources isn't important—rather, what's important is it relates to higher level data.

    Put your data together in a report, and spend a little time making it nice and pretty. Start by updating it every month.
  2. Set goals and incorporate them into your spreadsheet. If you already have organizational goals set for the year, use those. If not, now is the time to make them. Numbers by themselves won't tell you much—you need something to measure them against. Once you have goals, use some Excel-fu to incorporate them into your reporting spreadsheet so that you can see every month, at a glance, how you're doing relative to your goals.

  3. Review the spreadsheet monthly with your full staff (or decision makers). Stats review can happen during a standing call, but everyone should be involved. The goal of this meeting isn't to just read the spreadsheet—it's to generate discussion. Why did we miss our new member targets this month? Why were new donors through the roof? What's working and what's not? That means you'll need to spend some time pre-meeting doing some detective work—this is where the other data you're collecting comes into play.

    Your goal for every stats discussion should be actionable results—experiments to try for the upcoming month.
  4. Now comes the fun part: experiment! Every month, decide on an experiment or two to run. This is where other kinds of data come in. Some ideas:

    How does Facebook posting frequency impact traffic on your website?
    How does A/B testing all of your action emails impact your online action rate?
    Experiment with different combinations of contacts (email, phone, and text) to try and improve volunteer turnout.
    Try formatting action emails specifically for mobile phones—how does it impact your action rates?

    Keep in mind that in many cases, your data set may be too small to get statistically significant results in a single month—some experiments may have to be longer term. What's important is to keep experimenting, improve your strategies and tactics, and ultimately increase your impact.


Resources


Transactions, Transformations, Translations: Metrics that Matter for Building, Scaling, and Funding Social Movements

CRM: The train coming at you

3 Google Analytics Gems for Nonprofits


None of the twitter tracker links work. I would also add that it is helpful to begin a spreadsheet that integrates all analytics sources. Go through each, think about what you want to track over time, and start a monthly ritual of updating your spreadsheet. I call mine "Trackables." In the ocean of data that is available, it is easy to get overwhelmed. Figure out what is useful to you - monthly visits to your website, supporters who are consistently taking action - and just start putting numbers in cells. You will be suprised at what you can describe and what the data can tell you.

We've fixed the links. Thanks for letting us know, and for your own insights.

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