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Wednesday, Jul. 29, 2009 at 11:34 am

Turning Web Analytics into Nonprofit Success

By Brendan Regan
July 29th, 2009

Non-profit web analytics successI know, I know, you think I’ve gone crazy with the heat.  But today, we’re talking about how web analytics can set you up for success, even if your tax status is a bit different.

Sarah from Seattle tweeted Bryan the other week, asking for some advice on how to use web analytics, and specifically “goals,” to help her with a nonprofit website supporting the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture.  We thought it would be good topic to explore a bit, so we’ll start with the basics.

Even the most “nonprofit” website still has goals, and let’s face it, they’re still “business” goals. Keeping that in mind, I’m going to try to label some different types of business goals you could track in web analytics, and how to measure success.

  1. Memberships & Donations – We won’t spend much time on this one because it’s pretty obvious.  Most nonprofits’ main business goal is to solicit memberships or donations.  And tracking them using web analytics is no different than ‘for profit’ sites.  The only caveat is that (unfortunately) human nature seems to dictate a longer consideration cycle for donations than, say, buying a fancy new smartphone.  Knowing this, it’s wise to track the content and micro-conversions that might lead to a donation (micro-conversions).  Think about downloading brochures and visiting particular pages about the mission statement, leadership, whether donations are tax-deductible, etc.
  2. Logistics – For physical spaces like galleries, museums, and parks, there are goals related to logistics that indicate a strong likelihood of a visit.  These should be tracked as goals, and optimized on an ongoing basis.  Some examples here are downloading a map, visiting a page that lists directions and hours of operation, or even interacting with content related to “events.”  For maps, it would be great to track that a visitor had mapped from their location to the nonprofit’s location, as that indicates strong intent to actually visit.  For events, some sort of “add to calendar” micro-conversion would indicate strong intent.  Another great goal to track regarding events is getting prospects to sign up for time-sensitive “reminders” via email or SMS.
  3. Opting In to Content Pushes – That’s an odd phrase, but my way of saying that nonprofits should be tracking goals where prospects allow you into their lives a bit.  Anytime a prospect opts to become more than an anonymous site lurker you achieve a portion of your business goal!  The Burke Museum has lots of great options already, so it would just be a matter of tracking goals related to: subscribing to their blog, signing up for their email newsletter, taking action to follow them on Twitter, and taking action to friend them on Facebook.  If you can’t track with 100% certainty that a conversion has occurred, track the action taken (e.g. clicking a Facebook icon) that shows strong intent.

Note that most web analytics programs won’t necessarily allow you to track all of these things as goals “out of the box,” but with some technical knowledge (especially JavaScript), perseverance, and creativity, they’re all quite achievable.

Calling all NPOs! What else are you tracking (or wishing you could track) as goals in your web analytics?

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Comments (25)

  1. [...] Turning Web Analytics into Nonprofit Success…   Conversion Rate Marketing [...]

  2. Thank you so much! This is really helpful. For the maps, if you included Google Maps, I’m guessing you would track if the user entered in an address into the form? Would you recommend assigning a monetary value to the “opting in to content pushes”?

  3. Our 4 Goals are :
    - Donations
    - Newsletter Subscriptions
    - Tell-a-friend Usage
    - PDF Download
    Should be interesting to develop tips about donations conversion

  4. Yup,Donations and Newsletter Subscriptions are the major ones. Both are easy to track.

    One function that we have a hard time tracking is a tool that allows users to email their congressman to voice their support. This is all handled by a 3rd party using an iframe on the non-profit’s website. Not sure how to go about tracking which keywords converted that action.

  5. Thanks for the information

  6. [...] The Grok delivers!! I was tweeting with @TheGrok and I asked if there was any way he could post about web analytics for non-profits. Brendan Regan wrote an awesomely helpful post about it. I will probably comment more about it later, but still, very cool. [...]

  7. Brian Clifton has a nice script that makes it easier to track downloads and external links. this is an older article but he’s updated the script. http://www.advanced-web-metrics.com/blog/2007/09/10/tracking-links-to-direct-downloads-automatically/

  8. @Sarah: Yes, for maps I imagined trying to track field entries, which may or may not be doable depending on the map service and how it’s integrated into the site. Interacting with the map would be worth $x, and mapping ‘driving directions’ would be worth perhaps $x times 3 because of stronger intent.

    I would absolutely try to put an (estimated) monetary value on opting into content feeds. Think of those folks in a B2B sense: they are “leads” that you need to “nurture,” and every B2B has a lead value and a lead-to-close ratio, usually based on industry and the savvy of its sales force.

  9. thank you very much for the nice article.
    Just as you mentioned web analytics programs with some technical knowledge are definitely achievable.

  10. thank you remarkably famously because the ideal article.
    Just whereas you mentioned net analytic programs with some specialized admission are true achievable.

  11. I am going to start my first non-profit project soon. Good tips here!

  12. One function that we have a hard time tracking is a tool that allows users to email their congressman to voice their support

  13. Donations – not otemlemaya part of any good business. Because it not only becomes visible to other businessmen, but the man himself grows morally.

  14. I have never operated a non profit before but it has always been an interest of mine. What kind of non profit business would you recommend on starting?

  15. This is all handled by a 3rd party using an iframe on the non-profit’s website.

  16. If your site includes interactive elements like PHP, Javascript, cookies, and Flash, implementing GA should be planned, resourced, and tested like any other major IT project.

  17. Between Google Analytics and StatCounter, I think you’ve pretty much have all the tracking you could possibly want.

  18. I use Google Analytics and one may not be able to track every goal, but still every bit of data tracked will give you new insights and information

  19. What kind of non profit business would you recommend on starting? It should also be low cost to start as I have limited funds.

  20. Thanks for the post. I use newsletters on some of my sites and, as mentioned earlier, they are very easy to track. This is a great help when you’re trying to figure out how involved your visitors are on your site.

  21. Implementing GA should be planned, resourced, and tested like any other major IT project. It will be helpful and useful for the users.

  22. What is best web analytic tool available?
    I have tried google analytics but it’s quite complex.

  23. Nice tip to know: If you’re logged in to analytics and go to: visitors > network utilities > service providers.

    Then you’ll see a list of all big companies with dedicated ip’s that have visited your site.

  24. Is there a good alternative to google analytics?
    I would like something hosted on my server

  25. today rejected the snowball of hype suggesting that Google Analytics and Omniture are the only remaining solid choices for Web Analytics.

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