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COVID-19 Fundraising Update: What Nonprofits Are Doing, How Donors Are Responding, and What it Means for the Future of Fundraising

Published by Tim Kachuriak

COVID-19 blog image

When the first known case of COVID-19 was reported back in November of 2019, no one could have possibly understood how this new disease caused by the novel coronavirus would fundamentally change the world.

But as this global pandemic has quickly spread, shutting down businesses, straining economies, and putting pressure on government authorities to come up with a solution, those of us working in nonprofit fundraising have been holding our breath as we wrestled with two important questions:

  1. How are nonprofits responding to the outbreak of coronavirus and COVID-19 in their communication with their donors?
  2. How are donors responding to nonprofits during this global pandemic and subsequent economic downturn?

In an attempt to answer these two questions, we’ve developed the Coronavirus Nonprofit Fundraising Resource Center which features a series of data visualizations to track in real time how nonprofits are communicating with their donors.

Here’s What the Data Says

We are currently tracking donor email communication from 156 different organizations across 12 different verticals. Here are a few observations:

  • As the coronavirus pandemic has intensified, nonprofits have increased their email communication with their donors.
Chart showing the number of nonprofit emails increasing week over week
  • Nonprofits are increasingly mentioning “COVID-19”, “Coronavirus”, or “pandemic” in their email communication with their donors.
chart showing COVID-19 related emails increasing since January 27, 2020
  • Nearly half of all email communication with donors comes in the form of a solicitation.
Chart showing the breakdown of email types this year. 46.9% are solicitations.

So, in summary, to answer the first question regarding how nonprofits are communicating to their donors regarding COVID-19, we see that they are still fundraising, and in most cases, increasing their communication with their donors.

But How Are Donors Responding?

Although it is helpful to know what other nonprofit organizations are doing, the bigger question is, will donors continue to give? To answer this question, we looked at data from our nonprofit online marketing benchmark project that includes Google Analytics data from 90 nonprofit organizations from 10 different industry verticals.

Here are a few observations:

  • Overall nonprofit web site traffic is up slightly (+3.2% year over year)
Chart showing median weekly web traffic comparing 2019 to 2020 year-to-date.
  • Overall nonprofit online revenue is up 13% year over year, although March revenue remains flat
Chart showing year-over-year online fundraising revenue. Revenue in March is flat.
  • The total number of gifts for the year is up and March is up 11.2% year over year
Chart showing the average number of online donations per month - comparing 2019 to 2020.
  • Donation Conversion Rate is up every month of 2020 compared to a year ago
Chart showing online donation conversion rates month over month - comparing 2019 to 2020.

So, What Does All This Mean?

The good news for digital fundraisers is that so far we have not observed that COVID-19 has had an overall negative impact on online giving across the sector. In fact, the data suggests that just the opposite is true.

Comparing key performance indicators from 2020 to 2019, we are seeing more online gifts, higher donor conversion, and overall higher online revenue. One negative trend is that average gift amount is down, which suggests that although donors are still giving, they are giving smaller gifts.

It should also be noted that based on the full data set, not all nonprofit verticals are experiencing the same trends.

Over the next few weeks, we will be continuing to monitor these trends and providing updates in a weekly blog post.

Please check back often, or signup to receive email updates and we will send you an alert when a new article is posted.

Want to Dive Deeper into the Coronavirus Fundraising Data?

Coronavirus Fundraising Response Dashboard image

With the free email volume and web traffic monitoring tools, you can filter to your specific vertical, see real email fundraising examples, access other COVID-19 related resources and more.

About the author:

Avatar

Tim Kachuriak

Tim is the Chief Innovation & Optimization Officer for NextAfter. Tim has accomplished a lot over his career between driving online fundraising growth for countless nonprofits, sitting on the board of multiple nonprofits, and being a sought-after international speaker. But his biggest accomplishment may be winning "Best Stage Presence" for the 1991 Pittsburgh Boys Choir.


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Google Analytics for Nonprofits with Chris Mercer – The Generosity Freakshow

Published by Nathan Hill

For the past few months, Chris Mercer – better know as just “Mercer” – has been crafting a course for on Google Analytics for nonprofits. So many fundraisers desperately need the insights that Google Analytics can offer, but knowing how to use the platform to answer key questions is a skill that’s often hard to come by.

In this episode of The Generosity Freakshow, Mercer makes getting started with Google Analytics super simple.

Watch the video interview with Mercer.

Listen to the audio/podcast.

Or, if you’d rather, you can read the full conversation with Chris Mercer on Google Analytics for nonprofits below.

Read the conversation with Mercer on Google Analytics for Nonprofits

Brady Josephson:

Mercer, thanks for sitting down for this interview.

Chris Mercer:

I appreciate you having me. It’s great to be here, Brady.

Brady Josephson:

We just finished this awesome course on Google Analytics for Nonprofits. I say we, but you did all the work.

Chris Mercer:

I couldn’t have done it without your incredible direction, so thank you for that and it was, it was a phenomenal experience.

Brady Josephson:

I want to talk a little bit more about the course, but at a broader level, what is Google analytics and why is it so important for nonprofits and growing generosity? But before that, how in the world did you get into Google analytics and become this wizard of Google analytics.

Chris Mercer:

It’s like this origin story?

Brady Josephson:

Was that your dream, a young boy?

Chris Mercer:

from the time I was seven I thought I’m going to master this platform.

Brady Josephson:

Yeah.

Chris Mercer:

So the way that we came into it is I actually created a WordPress site that showed people how to build WordPress sites. It was a membership site. It was my first little online experience. That led into people saying, well this is a lot of work. Can you just build a WordPress site for me? So we started doing that, and I built a company that actually created that. What I wanted to do was separate ourselves out. So I decided, well, instead of, because a lot of people build WordPress sites, I wanted to separate ourselves out and say, well I’m going to optimize WordPress sites, because optimization was not a thing back in the day. Now all of a sudden it became sexier in the US with conversion rate optimization. So I was like, okay, we’re going to be optimizers for WordPress sites that we build.

Chris Mercer:

Well in order to optimize, in order to make things better, sort of have to know where you are. So we thought, okay, well there’s this thing called analytics, we’ll throw that on the pages, that’s going to tell us where we are. So we got in and we started using that and we started learning like, okay, you can’t just throw it on the page and then start using it. You have to set it up. It requires some preparation. So we started doing that. We started getting better at it and better at it. And then we were obviously working on optimization, but we would go back and we would show our clients and say, oh, in analytics this is where it tracks your leads. Well in analytics, this is where it tracks your revenue coming in. In analytics, here’s where you can tell you the traffic sources from that most recent campaign.

Chris Mercer:

So we kept doing that and they would be like, okay, well let’s, you know what? Forget about the website, go back to the analytics and show us that. And all of a sudden we started getting referrals and we’ve always been good at getting referrals, but they came from people saying, oh we want you to build a site. Those referrals started becoming, hey, you were talking to such and such, a friend of mine about their analytics. Can I show you my analytics? Can you maybe take a look at that? And so we went, okay, there’s a pivot here.

Brady Josephson:

Yeah.

Chris Mercer:

Nobody was really teaching this, nobody was doing the way that we did to really help make it useful. So we went through and we really started doubling down on that, and that’s how Measurement Marketing.IO was born.

Brady Josephson:

Amazing. Well and that’s definitely been my experience with Google Analytics, like marketing director and working in digital and so needing to know Google Analytics but having no idea and especially not knowing where to turn. So you Google, Google Analytics, and you get all these different results and it’s too in the weeds and it’s really hard to know.

Chris Mercer:

Some of them are four years old, you’re like, it doesn’t look like this at all right now. I have no idea.

Brady Josephson:

Yeah, it’s so complicated, whereas the reason why we partnered with you on this course is you have this great framework that you walk through, and so much of it starts with actually how to set up, before you even get to reading reports and managing it, it’s actually all the legwork. That was the big aha moment going through this course.

Chris Mercer:

Yeah.

Brady Josephson:

Why is that so critical and crucial to actually using Google Analytics? So people should know what Google is, maybe just give them the quick, what is Google Analytics, and then talk about why the preparation is such a big problem that organizations face.

Chris Mercer:

Sure. So for those that haven’t used Google Analytics, analytics is really a platform that you can use to collect and store and then ultimately build reports on the behaviors that are happening on your site. So you can see what traffic sources are causing traffic to come in. You can see what the results of that traffic are. You can start to measure conversion rates. That’s what analytics can tell you. So it’s an incredible platform for that. The challenge is, and I think we started the same way to be honest, everybody I think starts this, it’s so easy to turn it on, and then you see information coming through and you’re like, oh, reports, let’s go look and see it. And everyone’s like, well, and I’ve heard this a lot, it’s like if only I knew how to search through and hack through that data, I could find the thing that’s going to make me a super marketer. The thing that’s going to make me a hero for my company, if I only knew how to read this report in a certain way and you have this idea that there is a hidden story in analytics. That I understand, because again, I was the same way when it came to that and then I realized it’s only hidden because it’s not prepared in any way, shape or form.

Chris Mercer:

So if you literally took a storybook like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and you rip out the pages and I switched the order around and then I give them to you, that story, is a hidden story.

Brady Josephson:

My son does that by the way.

Chris Mercer:

There you go. So you know, exactly. You’ve been challenged this before. So you have these hidden stories and that’s what it is. The information is sort of out of order, it doesn’t look quite right, isn’t the right format and it’s harder to read.

Chris Mercer:

But if you take the time to say, okay, well I’m going to take the order of the pages and I’m going to numerically put them together. All of a sudden that story becomes simple.

Brady Josephson:

Right.

Chris Mercer:

If you don’t have to, it’s not that you became a better reader. Your reading skill is the same, it’s that now it’s easier to read, and that’s what the preparation of Google Analytics is so important, because all of a sudden the reports aren’t cryptic anymore. They tell a story and you go, oh my gosh, I actually know exactly what’s going on. I know the results I’m getting and I know how I’m getting those results, so I know to stop doing things that aren’t working and to start scaling things that are.

Brady Josephson:

Yeah, well and everyone that we work with and when we teach, we try to teach from a stance of data, and it’s like actually once you understand data, strategy is relatively easy, if the data is clean and you have an idea of what you’re looking at. It’s actually fairly simple then to say, oh, well then this is what we should do.

Chris Mercer:

Exactly.

Brady Josephson:

Even data interpretation is really only a problem because you’re often dealing with poor or unclean or incomplete.

Chris Mercer:

Shouldn’t have to interpret it.

Brady Josephson:

Yeah. It should be pretty straight forward.

Chris Mercer:

It shouldn’t be a lot of energy, it should just be right there in front of you if it’s done right.

Brady Josephson:

How do you get people to buy into the fact that, okay you’re going to have to take some extra time, really understand, commit to a certain UTM tagging structure, updating your reports, staying on top. How do you get that kind of buy-in? Because I’m sure a lot of people will go through the course and be like, oh but I need a report this afternoon. How can we win that almost cultural battle to say this is so critical. Have you had any success or do you run into that or how can we?

Chris Mercer:

There is, that’s a really good question. So there’s two answers that, one is there is a truth to the slower you go, the faster you get there, in a lot of ways. Otherwise what you end up doing is spinning your wheels over and over again, looking at a report, trying to slice and dice data-

Brady Josephson:

Right, every month.

Chris Mercer:

It takes you 18 weeks, and now you’re still not any improvement, really, because you couldn’t take any action, but if you had gone slower and take the setup and waited until the second month, all of a sudden you get actual insights you can then take movement on. You can build momentum. And that brings me to the second part, which is you get good enough to get going. You don’t think about it in terms of, I don’t have time for this complete setup, because my question to you would be like, what do you mean by complete set up? Just start using UTMs for Facebook traffic. And then add UTMs later for email traffic and then all of a sudden you’re going to start getting addicted to that. And you’ll say, what else can we UTM, what else can I determine is traffic? And then you might change how UTM because you want to answer bigger questions now, and all of a sudden you go, well, well how is that traffic working? You’re like, oh, I don’t have any goals set up. Okay, well now I’m going to add goals.

Chris Mercer:

So it’s not about sitting down for 12 hours of preparation. It’s about getting good enough to get going and then you answer the questions at that level and then when those bigger questions come in, you go, okay, well now we’re going to improve things so we can get those answers. That’s how that whole process works. It’s all about getting momentum and that’s a very popular way to get out of that cycle in your head is you think, okay, am I being perfect or am I just need to get good enough to get going? And get good enough to get going, you cannot go wrong.

Brady Josephson:

Yeah, no, that makes sense. That’s what we often talk about with testing too, is don’t worry about running the absolute most perfect tests, but just start testing, and then people do get addicted and go, oh, that was actually pretty easy, or, oh that was pretty cool.

Chris Mercer:

I wonder what else I can do.

Brady Josephson:

Yeah, and then the wheels start spinning.

Chris Mercer:

People get excited about it.

Brady Josephson:

Right. That makes sense. What are some of maybe the common problems that you see? Nonprofit, for-profit, big, small, just common problems that people have with Google Analytics. Maybe more precise. So like setup and planning is a problem, but what are some of the more-

Chris Mercer:

Like within that?

Brady Josephson:

Yeah, within that, once they get going, what are some common things you see all the time?

Chris Mercer:

Yeah, I would say typically what I would see that I can almost, it’s the things like, okay, if you had to bet money, what would you see back there that’s going to be a common thing?

Brady Josephson:

Pretend I asked you that question.

Chris Mercer:

Perfect. I love it. Good question.

Brady Josephson:

Thank you.

Chris Mercer:

Good question, Brady. So the first thing I would say is, if I would go into the backend of their analytics, so I have to go to their admin setups, and I look at the views, chances are they’re going to have one view and it’s going to say all website data. Because that’s the default view, and nobody really knows to change that or to think about changing that. But really you need to have three views and you need a backup view, you need a testing view, you need a production view. The actual one that you make decisions off of. Now why do you need three views? The reason is because you have all of these things that views can do that you don’t know they can do.

Chris Mercer:

Things like filters, so you can create one view that talks about a specific, maybe a certain donor journey that’s coming through, a certain event, maybe you have certain goals around that event. Well that view could just talk about that version of the story and that’s it. You’ve got another view where your team is in there testing things and making sure your site is working left to right. They want to be able to measure and track themselves and that’s maybe your testing view. Then you’ve got another different production view that might be set out there to make sure you’re tracking your email campaigns and there’s goals around email campaigns so they need a view.

Chris Mercer:

So like in our case we have, I want to say probably eight or nine different views that we use for production and each, because each of those views is telling a different story based on the product and the questions that we’re answering. Then we have our testing views, where we’re tweaking and stuff back there. And why do we have testing views? Because we mess stuff up, you’re going to, and it happens all the time. If you messed up in a testing view it doesn’t matter, because it’s a testing view. And then we have the backup view, and why do we have the backup view? And there’s only one of those. The reason we have the backup view, and it shouldn’t be, there’s no filters, there’s no goals, it’s not being used for anything just.

Brady Josephson:

Just pure raw data.

Chris Mercer:

Just pure raw data.

Brady Josephson:

Yeah.

Chris Mercer:

The reason we do that is because that is our, in case of emergency, break glass. That’s how we look at that. So if we mess something up in our testing view but we didn’t realize it, and then we roll that filter out to production and all of a sudden half of our data gets deleted and then we’re like, oh we can’t get it back, because you can’t, then you have your backup view, which we’ve never needed fortunately, but that’s why we have it so that we don’t need it. It’s like an insurance policy.

Chris Mercer:

We actually had a client that had set up a view because you can include and exclude people. They wanted to basically say, okay, we want to exclude our team, because they had this nice large team, about a hundred people and they were messing up their sites pretty quickly. It’s like, we’re really good at this conversion rate of this funnel. It’s because a lot of their team are testing it and it’s skewing the data.

Brady Josephson:

Yeah, yeah.

Chris Mercer:

So they were like, okay, we’re going to go through, they learned about filters, they set it up and they did a good job. Set up a filter, get it through. They come back a couple days later, they’re like, well let’s look at the analytics again. There’s like 150 users and they’re like, that’s weird. So they went from thousands and thousands of people down to a hundred people. They’re like, what’s going on? They go back to the view and they see it and then they call us and they’re like, hey, you guys know analytics, right? We’re like, yeah. And they’re like, well here’s what’s going on. And it turns out that we were trying to exclude our team, but we included our team. So we hit including instead of exclude.

Brady Josephson:

So it was just an internal view.

Chris Mercer:

So instead of just having the world, we basically just had us.

Brady Josephson:

Their whole team, that’s funny.

Chris Mercer:

And so they lost all that. And they had one view, it was their website data view.

Brady Josephson:

Sp it’s all gone?

Chris Mercer:

It’s all gone. So they came back and they were like, well how do you get that back?

Brady Josephson:

You hop in a time machine.

Chris Mercer:

Exactly. I was like, you can’t, it’s gone. And if they had had multiple views, that would have been okay. So that’s why we recommend multiple views, because just even for that reason alone, and that’s why it’s good to have testing views because, you can play around with stuff and not get, attach the result. You can have fun with it, you can relax a little bit. It’s not such a real freak out for people.

Brady Josephson:

Well even that, even just watching go through the course, there’s all these little things that are so hyper practical. So even that one, one of the problems that we had is we ended up adding goals and goals and goals, and soon we had like-

Chris Mercer:

Ran out of goals.

Brady Josephson:

So many goals we, and we had to eliminate goals, where it’s like, why don’t we just create a new view that’s really focused on just downloads.

Chris Mercer:

That’s exactly right, every set of goals is really trying to tell the story around performance and results and how do you achieve them.

Brady Josephson:

Yeah, and so we were like, how do we create layers. And then we had different sites and so now it’s like, oh, we can use views.

Chris Mercer:

Yep.

Brady Josephson:

So us and our team, it’s not like we know nothing, but there’s some of these basic things that makes so much sense that a lot of times you don’t even know that they exist. I think that was a common theme too of you’re saying things that people haven’t even heard of.

Chris Mercer:

They don’t even know it’s a thing.

Brady Josephson:

Yeah.

Chris Mercer:

Yeah. Again, I was the same way. For years I used analytics not knowing where the filter was.

Brady Josephson:

Right.

Chris Mercer:

Right, because how are you ever going to learn that? It needs to be somebody saying, well here’s what you do and here’s how you actually use this tool to answer a specific question as opposed to like, here’s a button you can press, because you’re like, yeah, I’ll press that later when I need it, but you never understand the context of it, which is why I really liked doing the course, because it helps puts it in context and say, okay, here’s why this matters to you.

Brady Josephson:

Yeah. So with what you know about nonprofits and working through this course, what do you think is a bigger barrier for nonprofits or maybe what are some unique problems or challenges as it relates to analytics specific to nonprofits? I have my own opinions, but I’m sure-

Chris Mercer:

I think, sure, yeah. I’d love to know if I’m right. Here’s my theory.

Brady Josephson:

All right.

Chris Mercer:

If I’m a nonprofit I am going to make the assumption that resources are limited.

Brady Josephson:

Pretty safe, yeah.

Chris Mercer:

So resources in terms of money, resources in terms of people and so I’ve got to get the most bang I can for the buck. So whatever activities I’m putting out there from a marketing perspective, I need to know that I’m getting the most I possibly can from them.

Brady Josephson:

Yeah.

Chris Mercer:

How do I do that? Guess?

Brady Josephson:

Yeah.

Chris Mercer:

Hope my gut is right.

Brady Josephson:

Right.

Chris Mercer:

Hope that somebody tells me about it? No, I need to be able to measure that with something that’s objective. And that’s what’s great about analytics, is you can set that up and say, okay, did this actually work? If not, great, stop doing that. Try something else. All of a sudden you try a bunch of different things, and what I love about the marketplace is they are very, very obvious, I think, when it comes to what they like or not, they’re either giving you a high five or they’re telling you to try again.

Brady Josephson:

Right.

Chris Mercer:

If you’re not sure which one they’re trying to tell you to try again, they’re just being polite about it.

Brady Josephson:

Right.

Chris Mercer:

So you go and try different things, and all of a sudden analytics will light up and say, bam, now you’ve got donations. And then you can start to say, well, that’s great, how much? It’s like, well here’s how much. Well, what’s my average gift amount? Oh, it’s right there. And all of a sudden you’re like, okay. Then you could start, well, I wonder if there’s a difference between Facebook average gift amount and my emails’ average gift amount. Analytics is like, sure, here it is. All of a sudden there’s a story and you go, okay, now you’ve got more visibility. Instead of wandering around this cave of darkness, where you have no idea what’s going on. You’re stumbling around trying to figure out what’s working and what’s not.

Brady Josephson:

Yeah.

Chris Mercer:

You’re able to see things. You look around and go, okay, I’ve got a whole new world of possibilities.

Brady Josephson:

Yeah.

Chris Mercer:

Even though we’re a small team, we’ve got limited resources. We can still make stuff happen and do good in the world.

Brady Josephson:

Yeah. When it’s such a big opportunity, because so often on the digital side it’s like, well my bosses won’t invest in professional development or Facebook advertising, and part of the reason is, well, make the case, and they don’t make the case based on data. So then why would they give you more professional development? Why would they invest more in digital? So it’s kind of like a chicken egg type situation. It’s like, well, I need the money and the resources to know what to do to get the money. Do you know what I mean?

Chris Mercer:

Yeah. That’s exactly right.

Brady Josephson:

But it’s such a big opportunity for us to actually better understand donors and prove value, whether it’s to our bosses or whoever it might be.

Chris Mercer:

100%.

Brady Josephson:

I think that’s why we were so interested in creating this course when we were like, what’s the next course we should build? We’ve been talking about it for years, because we also see how few nonprofits actually use Google Analytics well, like really large sophisticated nonprofits, no revenue or e-commerce data in at all.

Chris Mercer:

It tends to be pushed under the rug a lot.

Brady Josephson:

Yeah.

Chris Mercer:

It goes back to those areas that you see all the time. It’s all website data is the only view people have.

Brady Josephson:

Yep, common.

Chris Mercer:

It’s they are not tracking the traffic properly.

Brady Josephson:

Also common.

Chris Mercer:

Using UTMs or using UTMs in the right structure.

Brady Josephson:

Yeah.

Chris Mercer:

And it’s not having results tracked.

Brady Josephson:

Yeah.

Chris Mercer:

So what else are you going to see? You’re going to see what pages are lighting up.

Brady Josephson:

Yeah.

Chris Mercer:

And then of course, what do you do with that?

Brady Josephson:

Yeah.

Chris Mercer:

And that’s what happens with analytics, people go, well yeah I looked at analytics. I have no idea what it means. I couldn’t really take any action. So we decided to come back to it later.

Brady Josephson:

Yeah.

Chris Mercer:

Like it’s going to mysteriously be better now.

Brady Josephson:

Right.

Chris Mercer:

Because you haven’t gone back and updated it, and that’s why it’s important. And to your point, when you know the conversion rates, then you can go to your boss and say, listen, I need to take this Facebook course, because here’s what our conversion rate is. So if I can get it to double that by taking this course, it’ll turn into this. So now you can start to say, well here’s what I think will happen if you do offer this training, and you can make a case again based on numbers, like you said.

Brady Josephson:

So for someone who is listening or watching and they’re like, maybe I’ll take this course, maybe not. What’s kind of like the, here’s why you should take this course.

Chris Mercer:

Here’s why I should take this course. I’ll say it because the whole idea behind this course is so that you can measure your results. You’re going to know what results you are getting, and you’re going to know how you’re getting those results. And I think I like keeping things simple. To me, there’s only two types of numbers. It’s a results number, or it’s a how number. That’s it. So it’s going to be what results I’m getting. It’s going to be where I’m getting this results from, what the conversion rates are, all how I’m getting those results. So I’m going to know the donor journey. I’m going to know the donor journey through different traffic sources. I’m going to know and be able to predict and forecast how my email is going to perform. And that’s my favorite part about this, is once you have this idea of, well, here’s how email works for us, or here’s how our Facebook campaign performs, you can start to say things like, and here’s how it should perform next week.

Brady Josephson:

Yeah.

Chris Mercer:

So now instead of saying, well let’s look back all the time and see what happened, you can start marketing forward.

Brady Josephson:

Yeah.

Chris Mercer:

So you start marketing forward and you start saying, okay, here’s what should happen next week. Next week we’re going to get a thousand people in our Facebook campaign. Of those thousand people, a hundred are going to become leads and email signups, of those maybe 10% become donors, at at least a $25 average gift amount because that’s what’s happened before. Then you can measure against that and see if you’re right and instantly you see what’s not right and now you know where to optimize. You know the exact step, but you have such a solid understanding of how your machinery is working now. Then in a kind of a weird way, it almost gets boring because all the drama goes out. You don’t have to guess, you don’t have to worry, have to fret, you know exactly what the issue is.

Chris Mercer:

Now it’s just like, okay, how do we fix that particular step? And now you just get to focus your creativity on coming up with new ideas, again, to sort of do that, serve that greater good.

Brady Josephson:

Cool. Well, I’m personally excited to go through the whole course. I had to step out for a few sessions, so I’m looking forward to it. I want to shift gears a bit.

Chris Mercer:

Sure.

Brady Josephson:

One of the questions we ask to a lot of people like yourself, and it’s kind of a tangential question, but when it comes to generosity, how do you, as Mercer, think that we can grow, improve and optimize generosity?

Chris Mercer:

How do you grow and improve generosity? That’s a great question. So I think for me, I come down to measuring it, and I know that’s going to be kind of a cliche answer, probably coming from me.

Brady Josephson:

No, it’s your answer. That’d great.

Chris Mercer:

But how do I know that it was achieved? I need to know that, that’s just in my nature. I need to know that when I say something happened, it actually happened. So for me, I want to be able to measure that. So that might be, if I’m going out there and I’m giving away something, I want to know how many did I give away. And maybe I want to measure what they did with it afterwards. I might know something like that. So that’s how I would do it, I would be able to measure it, no matter what that is. Figure out whatever that is for you and put some sort of metric to it, some sort of number or measurement to it so you can tell what the impact is. And then in my nature, I like to make things better all the time.

Chris Mercer:

Then it’s like, okay, well how can I do double that? How can I do triple that? How can I improve that? Even if it’s by 10%, how can I nudge it forward just a little bit better than I did yesterday? So that’s what I would do.

Brady Josephson:

No, I think there’s a lot of room for that. And even when we look at a lot of the sectorial reports on giving, it often talks about just top line revenue and there’s so kind of a movement to be so desperate to show how good giving is and how much it’s growing, that we’ve kind of ignored a lot of probably more accurate metrics of if giving is actually growing, like the number of people who actually give, not just the dollar amount.

Chris Mercer:

Yep.

Brady Josephson:

And then actually the number of people giving is going down, even though the dollar amount is going up, so everyone is high fiving it and think it’s growing.

Chris Mercer:

And it looks skewed, because again, you don’t know how you’re getting that result.

Brady Josephson:

Exactly, so even as a sector we fall prey to the same kind of things where we’re not looking at the right metric, and then alarm bells should have been ringing years ago saying there’s less and less and less and less people giving. And it’s like, no, giving is growing. So even just at a sectoral level, there’s a room for us to be more sophisticated with how we measure, let alone within fundraising, let alone within organizations and let alone programs, which is a whole nother conversation.

Chris Mercer:

Yeah. And that brings us back to that forecasting idea, of being able to look forward and say, well, based on what we’ve done in the past, because we will get caught up in that. That’s a pattern, you get caught up in the past and you say, well next week we’re going to have a hundred donors do 500 a piece and that’s what’s going to happen, because that’s what happened last week. But next week you get 50 donors doing 5,000 and so you, again, you’re happy because more came in, but now you know it was different than how you expected it. So all of a sudden you go, oh, there was a little … It’s good, but yeah, and you can start having those intelligent conversations way before that wave actually hits you now because you can see that coming.

Brady Josephson:

Awesome. So we’ll obviously tell everyone about the course and when they can find it. But where can people find out more about you and all the amazing stuff that you’re up to?

Chris Mercer:

Sure. Just Measurement Marketing.io is a place to go for our website. We’ve got plenty of tools at Measurement Marketing.io/NextAfter, if you want to go there.

Brady Josephson:

Yeah, downloaded one the other day.

Chris Mercer:

Absolutely.

Brady Josephson:

I’m getting emails from you while you’re presenting the course. How is he doing this? Awesome. Well we’ll be sure to send that out. Thank you so much for taking time to do the course with us, but also to have this little chat.

Chris Mercer:

It’s been a pleasure. Thanks for again for having me. I’m looking forward to it.

Take the Google Analytics for Nonprofits Certification Course

Google Analytics for Nonprofit - Course image

The certification course in Google Analytics for Nonprofits is ready and waiting for you. Over the course of 7 self-paced video sessions, you’ll learn:

  • The basics of Google Analytics
  • How to prepare your Google Analytics account to get the reliable insights
  • What reports will help you answer key fundraising questions
  • Tips to fix common problems
  • A methodology for creating and analyzing goals
  • How to tell a story with your Google Analytics data
  • And a whole lot more

About the author:

Nathan Hill

Nathan Hill

Nathan is the Marketing Director for NextAfter. He spends every day working to help nonprofit organizations discover how testing and optimization can transform their marketing and fundraising, leading to greater impact and organizational growth. He is also a giant Star Wars nerd.


The world's most mind-bending virtual phenomenon for online fundraising & digital marketing... NIO SummitLearn More »

3 Lessons from Analyzing the Key Metrics of 155 Nonprofits

Published by Nathan Hill

Online Fundraising Benchmark image

I recently wrapped up a brand-new research study analyzing the 3 essential online fundraising metrics of 155 organizations (web traffic, monthly donations, and average gift). 

And while dissecting all the data, I found myself asking some critical questions. There were a few data issues that we had to think through in order to give an accurate look at how these organizations are performing.

So I thought I’d take a moment to share with you 3 challenges I faced that led to some important insights that can equip you for online fundraising growth.

Ready? Here goes…

1. Your Context Is More Important Than the Average

The first step in creating this study of key online fundraising metrics  was to find the average monthly web traffic, donations, and average gift size. This is a little bit easier said than done.

But after cleaning the data, scrubbing organizations whose data was verifiably inaccurate, and crunching the numbers – here’s what we found:

  • The average (median) nonprofit had 12,708 website sessions per month.
  • The average (median) nonprofit saw .61% of those website sessions convert into donations.
  • The average (median) nonprofit had a $106.71 average gift size.

3 essential online fundraising metrics

What bearing does the average have on your organization’s performance?

That’s the question I asked right away. With so many different shapes and sizes of nonprofit organizations, how does the average performance of 155 organizations really help?

If you have a lot of web traffic (say in the millions per month), you might think these online fundraising metrics aren’t even relevant. Same goes if you have really low traffic.

You may walk away thinking “This benchmark is for someone else.”

But that’s why you need to dig a little deeper and view these metrics in a context relevant to your own. And when we drilled in, we saw a fuller picture that’s a lot more helpful…

The more traffic an organization has, the lower their conversion rate and average gift sizes tend to be. 

Online Fundraising metrics by Traffic Volume

In order to get an accurate picture of what conversion rates and average gift sizes are possible for your organization, you have to compare yourself to organizations with similar traffic volume.

2. Just Because You Have Data Doesn’t Mean It’s Reliable

In another area of the report, we dove into specific web traffic channels to see which ones are most effective for driving revenue. But the initial result didn’t make a whole lot of sense.

Online Fundraising Metrics Revenue Per Channel

The number one channel for driving online revenue appeared to be direct traffic.

When we start working with a new nonprofit partner, one of the first recommendations we make is almost always some form of improving Google Analytics tracking. It’s shocking how many nonprofits (and for-profits) aren’t accurately tracking their marketing and fundraising efforts properly.

And when we look at organizations in the benchmark report that we can verify are tracking revenue and web traffic properly, the picture changes.

Email is the Most Effective Revenue Generator

In almost every scenario where we can verify that revenue and campaigns are being tracked properly, email is actually the biggest driver of online revenue and donations. Here’s a quick look at 3 organizations that are tracking their revenue properly.

A Health Organization

This health related organization brings in 199% more revenue through email than they do from direct traffic.

Online Email Revenue for a Health Organization

A Public Policy Organization

This public policy organization brings in 421% more revenue through email than they do from direct traffic.

Online Email Revenue for a Public Policy Organization

A Higher Education Organization

This higher education organization brings in 739% more revenue through email than they do from direct traffic.

Online Email Revenue for a Higher Education Organization

At the end of the day, email is the most effective channel you have at your disposal to drive online fundraising revenue. If you’re not actively growing your email file, you might want to re-think where you’re focusing your online fundraising efforts.

3. Not All Fundraising Channels Have the Same Potential

If we were to simply look at channels that drive revenue directly and stop there, we’d likely do ourselves more harm than good. Because, as you know, there’s a whole lot more to fundraising than simply asking for a donation.

That being said, based on what we’ve seen in other research studies (like this on one mid-level donors), it seems that many online fundraising programs place a major emphasis on the role of cultivation in online channels.

I would guess that we often forget or ignore online cultivation strategies because there isn’t a lot of data out there on what really works.

To help see what channels may be most effective for cultivation, we scored the engagement value of each primary web traffic channel. And we found that Referral Traffic and Social Media Traffic have the highest engagement.

Online Fundraising Metrics Engagement Scores

Using High Engagement Channels as a Donation Primer

First off, let’s define what a donation primer is.

A donation primer is a piece of content that gets a prospective donor ready for a fundraising appeal.

A donation primer doesn’t make a direct donation ask in and of itself. It simply helps someone gain a deeper understanding of why a donation is valuable.

Here’s a quick experiment to show you how it works…

Version A – Visitors did not see donation priming articles

In version A of this experiment, the traffic segment being analyzed saw the normal news articles and blog content on this organization’s website.

Version B – Visitors did see donation priming articles

In version B of this experiment, the traffic segment being analyzed saw the normal news articles and blog content, but they also looked at an article that was designed to help them understand the value of donating to this organization.

Donation Primer Experiment Example

The Results

This experiment was conducted around year-end season. After the season was over, they analyzed the behaviors of these 2 traffic segments. The traffic segment that saw the donation priming articles was 196% more likely to donate.

Although blogs and articles (that might get shared on social media, linked to from referral sites, and rank in organic search results) aren’t good drivers of direct revenue, they can certainly make a major impact on the likelihood that someone gives later on.

Turning your high engagement channels into a donation primer is one strategy you can use to start seeing direct revenue impact from your “non-revenue-driving” channels.

If you want to dig deeper, you can check out this webinar on growing revenue without sending more donation appeals.

3 Essential Online Fundraising Metrics

 

3 Essential Metrics for Online Fundraising Success - Book ImageThere’s a whole lot more data, insights, metrics, and quick tips in the full report on 3 Essential Metrics for Online Fundraising Success. And the whole report is designed specifically to help you figure out where to start testing and optimizing.

You can get a free copy of the report to see how your organization stacks up against others, and learn how you can grow your online fundraising revenue.

Get a free copy of 3 Essential Metrics for Online Fundraising Success »

About the author:

Nathan Hill

Nathan Hill

Nathan is the Marketing Director for NextAfter. He spends every day working to help nonprofit organizations discover how testing and optimization can transform their marketing and fundraising, leading to greater impact and organizational growth. He is also a giant Star Wars nerd.


The world's most mind-bending virtual phenomenon for online fundraising & digital marketing... NIO SummitLearn More »

3 Online Fundraising Metrics that Every Nonprofit Needs to Track

Published by Nathan Hill

3 Online Fundraising Metrics for Nonprofits to Track - blog image

After a workshop, conference, webinar, or other online fundraising training event, the most common question that people ask is, “Where do I start growing my online fundraising?” But the answer is rarely as simple as “Start with your donation page” or “Start with your email copy.” The answer always comes back to 3 key online fundraising metrics.

There are 3 online fundraising metrics that are essential to helping nonprofits grow their online revenue. And knowing where you stand with each of these 3 metrics is how you answer the question of “Where do I start growing my online fundraising?”

Over the course of this post, we’re going to look at each of the 3 online fundraising metrics and look at a few key strategies to growing each one.

But first, it’s important to understand why these 3 metrics are so important.

3 Online Fundraising Metrics that Directly Impact Revenue

If we’re being honest, the only online fundraising metric that really matters is revenue.

3 Online Fundraising MetricsBut just saying “I want to improve my revenue” doesn’t really give you a starting place for how to improve your revenue.

So we have to dig a little deeper.

The natural next question is “What metrics influence revenue?” And when it comes to online fundraising, there are 3 metrics that have a direct impact on your bottom line:

  • Website Traffic
  • Donation Conversion Rate
  • Average Gift Size

Let’s think on it for a moment…

Increasing Revenue Directly

If you get more people to show up to your website, and the same percentage donate to you and they’re giving the same amount – your revenue goes up!

How web traffic affects revenue - example image

In the same way, if you don’t change the amount of people coming to your website, but you get a higher percentage of people to donate at the same average amount – your revenue goes up!

And if you all you do is get the same donors to give a little bit moreyour revenue goes up!

Increasing Revenue Exponentially

Now imagine you got more people to show up to your website, and a higher percentage of them started giving. Your revenue is going to grow like crazy.

And if you were able to get more people, to donate more often, and donate in larger amounts…you won’t even know what to do with all the new revenue you have. Imagine the impact it could have for your cause.

How multiple metrics affect revenue - example image

These 3 online fundraising metrics – web traffic, conversion rate, and average gift – should be the driving force behind all of your online fundraising decisions. If your new campaign idea isn’t going to affect one of these fundraising metrics in the long run, is it really worth it?

Online Fundraising Metric #1 – Website Traffic

3 Online Fundraising Metrics - Website TrafficLet’s take a closer look at website traffic. This is one of the hardest online fundraising metrics for a nonprofit to improve – especially if your traffic is really low to begin with.

Why is it so hard? Because it often takes money and a healthy budget to boost traffic.

But I’m going to share a couple options that don’t require you to enter a credit card in order to boost your traffic. If you want to spend money, there’s a million ad platforms willing to help you out – although I’d recommend that you start with Facebook if you’re looking to acquire donors.

Grow your Website Traffic Using the Google Ad Grant

The first free way to boost your website traffic is through the Google Ad Grant. In short, Google gives nonprofits $10k worth of free search advertising to spend per month. The problem is that most nonprofits either:

  1. Don’t know about it
  2. Don’t know what to do with it

While I certainly don’t have time to break down exactly how to spend your Google Ad Grant, we have a webinar that can give you all the details and a little bit of coaching on the best way to put the Google Ad Grant to work for your organization.

Here’s a little video from Google about how it works:

Grow your Website Traffic by Creating Good Content

You’re probably familiar with the term SEO (search engine optimization). Essentially, this is the practice of improving the content on your website so that it shows up when people search for related topics.

For instance, if you search for Nonprofit Fundraising Optimization, we should be right there at the top. Want to know the secret formula we’ve used to rank at the top for that keyword?

We create good content related to nonprofit fundraising optimization. Plain and simple.

Now, there are a lot of other factors that come into play when Google decides what websites show up in their search results:

  • Are you targeting a specific keyword?
  • Does that keyword show up in your headline?
  • Are people who visit your page spending time there?

But at the core, if you create good content that’s relevant to your cause, you’re going to show up when people search for topics related to your cause.

Looking for some specific strategies to boost your SEO? Check it these ideas from Andy Crestodina on how to improve your search rank and get more traffic.

Other Ideas to Grow Web Traffic

There are a seemingly endless number of ways you can allocate your time, budget, and resources to grow your web traffic. Here are a few more to get the wheels turning:

  • Direct donors (and potential donors) to your website at events they attend
  • Send a postcard to your donors inviting them to watch a video online
  • Use Facebook ads reach potential donors with relevant content
  • Use tools like AdRoll to launch re-marketing campaigns
  • Email your donors with your latest blog posts, articles, podcasts, etc.

Online Fundraising Metric #2 – Conversion Rate

3 Online Fundraising Metrics - Donation Conversion RateOnce you’ve got the web traffic rolling in, you want to make sure those website visitors are converting into donors.

There are a number of areas you can look at optimizing to improve how many visitors are converting into donors, but we’re just going to cover a couple key areas.

Make Sure Your Visitors Know Where to Donate

One of the most common mistakes is to bury your “Donate” button in a place where no one can find it. And sometimes, these “Donate” buttons can be hiding in plain sight.

For example, we conducted an experiment with an organization whose “Donate” button sat in the top right corner of their website navigation. That’s a pretty normal spot to find it.

The problem was that it was the same color, size, font, and style as everything else in their website navigation.

So we wondered… “Can we call the donate button out in a contrasting color and get more people to the donation page?” 

Here’s how the experiment worked:

Sure enough, making the “Donate” button stand out led to a boost in traffic to the donation page. But more importantly, it led to more donations.

By making it easier for someone to find the donation page, we saw a 189% increase in donations.

Make Sure Your Donation Page Aligns with Your Donor’s Motivation

This strategy is a bit trickier. It’s easy to change the color of a button. But understanding your donor’s motivation is a bit more nuanced.

But there are a few tested and proven ways you can start creating pages that align with your donor’s motivation right away. It all starts by understanding this key idea…

Not all donation pages are the same.

Here’s what I mean…

One major lesson we’ve learned through 1,892 experiments is that there are (at least) 3 core types of donation pages. Each one aligns with a different donor motivation.

The 3 types of donation pages are:

  • The General Donation Page
  • The Campaign Donation Page
  • The Instant Donation Page

3 Types of Donation Pages - template image

We have a whole online course that gets into all the details of these pages. You can check out the course here if you’d like.

But let me give you a quick little summary.

General donation pages have a wide variety of traffic and motivations.

The messaging that you use on these pages needs to relate to your organizations broader goals and vision. It shouldn’t focus on a specific aspect of your cause or a specific campaign. If it’s too specific, you risk alienating a lot of your potential donors. Get a general donation page template »

Campaign donation pages have a more specific motivation.

The people visiting these pages have been driven either by an advertisement or an email with a specific prompt. The messaging on your campaign donation page needs to align with the call-to-action that your potential donor just clicked on. Get a campaign donation page template »

Instant donation pages are a replacement for your normal confirmation pages.

A visitor to this page has just submitted a form – they’ve signed up for your newsletter, requested an eBook, registered for a course, etc. Your instant donation page needs to thank them, and then pivot into a donation ask related to the offer they just received. Get an instant donation page template »

Online Fundraising Metric #3 – Average Gift Size

3 Online Fundraising Metrics - Average Gift SizeThe last key online fundraising metric that’s essential for nonprofits to track and optimize is average gift size.

If you don’t fully know what this is, let’s define it quickly…

Average gift size (for online fundraising) is your total online revenue divided by your total number of donations.

For instance, if you received $10,000 in donations this month, and you had 100 total donations, your average gift size would be $100.

This key online fundraising metrics is arguably the hardest of the 3 to control. You can’t just spend more money on ads like you can with web traffic. And swapping the color of a donate button doesn’t necessarily make people more generous.

The common factor in increasing average gift size is your value proposition.

Now, you could make a solid argument that more complex online fundraising metrics like donor retention play a big factor in average gift size. And they likely do. But the way shape and craft your value proposition is the easiest factor to control.

How to Increase Average Gift Size by Crafting a Better Value Proposition

Your value proposition is, essentially, the way you answer this question: “Why should I give to you, rather than some other organization, or not at all?”

And the way you answer this question in your emails, in your advertising, and on your donation page directly affects the likelihood that someone will donate. But your value proposition also can affect how much they donate.

One organization we work with has a very unique service they offer…they provide websites for people going through health crises so that their loved ones can keep up with them on their health journey.

This unique service makes it hard to ask for donations in a traditional sense. They don’t raise money to cover medical costs – they raise money to provide their service to more people for free.

Here’s what one of their on-site donation ads looked like:

Value Proposition Example - Control

It says, “Honor Kade and Kallan with a donation to [Organization]. You make Kade and Kallan’s website possible.”

We created a treatment to try and help potential donors better understand the impact of a donation. The treatment version looked like this:

Value Proposition Example - Treatment

It says, “Show your love and support for Kade. Make a donation to [Organization] to keep Kade’s site up and running.”

The treatment version increased donations by 44%. But it also increased average gift size by 16.2%.

Not only did improving the value proposition lead to more donations, it led to larger donations.

Determining Which Metric to Optimize First

Online Fundraising Benchmark Study

Now that you’ve seen the power of all 3 of these online fundraising metrics to increase revenue, you need to figure out where you stand.

Is your web traffic low? Or are you just not converting enough of your website visitors into donors? Or…maybe you have a lot of people donating, but they’re giving very little.

In order to know where to optimize first, you need to compare your 3 online fundraising metrics to other similar nonprofits to see how you measure up. You can compare your 3 key metrics to other organizations with the online fundraising benchmark report here »

About the author:

Nathan Hill

Nathan Hill

Nathan is the Marketing Director for NextAfter. He spends every day working to help nonprofit organizations discover how testing and optimization can transform their marketing and fundraising, leading to greater impact and organizational growth. He is also a giant Star Wars nerd.


The world's most mind-bending virtual phenomenon for online fundraising & digital marketing... NIO SummitLearn More »

7 Guidelines for Using Nonprofit Data to Tell a Story

Published by Nathan Hill

Telling a Story with Your Nonprofit Data

“If you torture data long enough, it will confess to anything.”

That quote from Darrell Huff’s How to Lie With Statistics seems to be extremely relevant in the nonprofit sector. Now, I’m not going to call out any specific names or organizations, but I’ve seen this play out countless times.

I’ve sat through many meetings, webinars, and conference sessions where the data being shared either a) doesn’t mean what the speaker thinks it means, b) has been cherry picked in order to make a point, or c) is just outright irrelevant to the point being made.

Kevin Peters

This is Kevin.

Super duper honesty time…I’ve been guilty of this, and you probably have too – even if you didn’t realize it.

Insert Kevin Peters, our CTO. One of my first tasks at NextAfter was to run a web audit for a client we had just started working with. And Kevin showed me the ropes of how to use nonprofit data to tell a compelling story, while also being fair to what the data says.

And at the last NIO Summit, Kevin shared his 7 guidelines for telling a story with nonprofit data. These guidelines will not only help you create better presentations to report your fundraising success, but also help you communicate your impact to your donors even better.

If you’d like, you can watch Kevin’s whole talk below. And if you’d like to catch all the NIO Summit action, you can learn more about the conference at https://www.niosummit.com

 

Let’s get into the 7 guidelines for telling a story with nonprofit data without manipulating it.

Keep Your Data in Context

It’s very tempting to cherry pick the data that best supports your case and ignore the rest of what the data is saying. But data is more compelling when it tells the complete story.

There are lots of way this can play out. Looking at demographic data without looking at population density can drastically change your view of the data. Adjusting the scale of a chart can make it look like there’s an even more drastic change than there really is.

There’s a great example of this in an article on #GivingTuesday from a fairly popular nonprofit blog. They were making the case for how important #GivingTuesday is.

Nonprofit Giving Days

The 3 graphs show 3 different major giving days – #GivingTuesday, December 31, and the typical response to a disaster (like a hurricane) – and how giving on those days compares to the surrounding 5 days.

When you take these graphs at face value, they clearly show #GivingTuesday is far superior to any of these other major giving days. And the implication is that you should prioritize #GivingTuesday over December 31st.

The data isn’t lying, but the lack of context is deceiving.

Their data isn’t wrong… but it’s misleading. Let’s look at some Google Analytics data comparing #GivingTuesday results and year-end results.

Giving Tuesday - Nonprofit Data

Those are great results, right? But there’s more to the story.

When we took a look at 17 of our nonprofit clients, we saw a total of $1.5 Million in donations on #GivingTuesday in 2017. That’s 3% of total year-end giving for this same group.

December 31 - Nonprofit Data

On the other hand, December 31st brought in $7 Million in donations – 14% of total year-end giving.

That makes December 31st more than 5 times as valuable as #GivingTuesday in terms of immediate revenue. Not only that, but the average gift size is much, much higher on December 31st as well.

The context is everything here. A good year-end fundraising campaign doesn’t just happen in one day. We’re sending messages leading up to year-end as part of a larger campaign. We’re talking to our donors. We’re leading into the next year, the big vision, and what we’re trying to accomplish.

So while #GivingTuesday can be super important – 3% of year-end revenue is nothing to sneeze at – the data would say that you shouldn’t prioritize #GivingTuesday over December 31st.

The most impactful story data can tell is the whole story.

Keep Your Data Honest

Honest data, even if it’s at your expense, is always superior to manipulated data.

In his talk, Kevin shared that he received an email from a nonprofit he believed deeply in. He’s a donor and was thrilled to hear that they had rescued 10,000 children with his help!

10000 Saved - Rounding Up Your Nonprofit Data

But at the bottom of the email, the footer said that the organization had rescued 9,977 children. They had rounded up to get the 10,000.

You may have the best intentions when rounding or approximating your data, but it can be perceived as dishonesty. And there are few things more harmful to your fundraising than degrading the trust of your donors.

When you’re not totally honest with your nonprofit data, it produces a disconnect in the mind of your donors, and it kills your credibility. And credibility is one of the essential elements of a value proposition. Keep your data honest.

Keep Your Data Humble

Most nonprofits are not overtly trying to deceive their donors. But it’s human nature to overstate the problem you’re trying to solve in order to get people to support our cause.

Overstating the problem you’re trying to solve can erode trust. For example, take a look at this infographic…

Blood Donation Data

One out of four people will need a blood transfusion in their lives — yet less than 10 percent are giving blood. You see that and say, “Wow! I need to go give blood.”

The implication is that not enough people are giving blood to support the need – 1 in 10 people giving blood doesn’t support the 1 in 4 that need it.

BUT… these two data points are not referring to the same time periods. 1 in 4 people need a transfusion in their lifetime versus 1 in 10 people giving blood annually.

Let’s do a little data math…

Let’s say we’ve got a population with 1000 people. This data says 250 of these people will need a transfusion in their lifetime. And if all of these people needed a full blood transfusion, they would require (at the max) 12 units of blood each.

250 people X 12 units of blood = 3,000 units of blood needed

Now let’s assume the average lifespan is 65 years. And let’s also assume that people aren’t giving blood annually until they’re a legal adult at 18 years old. That means there are 100 people giving blood annually for a period of 47 years.

100 people giving 1 unit of  blood X 47 years = 4,700 units of blood available

If you’ve followed all that math, it really looks like we have a blood surplus.

So for data nerds like Kevin (and me depending on the day), this infographic actually says “Hey, we’re good to go on blood.” Now, if you’re more informed on this issue than I am, you’re probably shaking your fist saying “You don’t understand! There is a shortage of blood!” But that’s exactly the point. I don’t understand the problem accurately based on the data presented.

Conflicting data doesn’t help you make your case – it erodes trust and makes people question your authenticity.

Kevin actually makes the case in his talk that we need more vampires. I’m not exactly pro-vampire, so I’ll spare you the pitch.

Keep Your Data Relevant

To tell a compelling story with nonprofit data, the information has to truly matter. It’s important to measure and report on data that makes a real change in the fight for your cause.

When you use data that doesn’t matter, your donors will start ignoring the data you present, because it doesn’t mean anything.

What does this actually look like? Below is an annual report from an organization. And similar to a lot of organizations, they talk about their social media reach.

In this case, they say they have a reach of 350,000 fans and followers. That’s pretty big number! But there’s a problem…

Annual Report - Using the Wrong Metrics

If you have 350,000 fans, that doesn’t mean you have 350,000 people.

Most of your fans have multiple social media accounts, which creates duplicates in your numbers. For instance, if a fan follows you on Facebook, more than likely, they also follow you on Instagram. That same person might follow you on Twitter as well, which means one person is following you on three different social media platforms.

Your total number of followers from all of your platforms could easily be three times the actual number of people following, because each person has more than one social media account.

The total number of fans doesn’t even tell us your true social media reach because social media platforms limit your organic reach.

You might have 100,000 Facebook fans, but according to the data below, you’re only going to reach 0.5% of them with any of your posts.

Over the years, Facebook has been steadily decreasing the amount of impressions a nonprofit can get as far as organic reach goes. If you want to reach all your followers, you have to pay.

So yes, you might have 350,000 followers and fans… but in all actuality you have 1,750 people that are actually engaged. That’s the actual impact that you’re having on social media.

But my goal here isn’t to rip on Facebook. That might be another blog. The point is this…

Use data that matters. Share numbers that communicate impact, even if they’re smaller. Impacting 1,750 people directly is much more compelling than have 350k followers that never see your posts.

Keep You Data Correct

Sometimes the story we’re telling with data isn’t compelling because we’re using the wrong metric. This example causes more damage when you’re reporting to a boss or a coworker, but it illustrates the issue well.

People like to champion their total number of email subscribers. It’s an important metric, but it’s not always the most informative.

So when someone says that have 1 Million email subscribers, we start digging in just a little bit.

If we have a million people, why are we getting a thousand dollars?

Yes, you have a million subscribers, but what are they doing? Uh oh… 57% have never clicked or opened a single email we’ve ever sent them. 60% haven’t opened in the last six months.

You have 1 million email addresses, but you actually have 270,000 subscribers. The people who actually open your email are your real subscribers.

Why is this a problem?

Because when you say you have a million subscribers and then you get a thousand dollars return on an appeal, it starts raising questions.

It’s important to recognize this so you can correct it and then get some actual stats that you can use to project out to the future.

Use the correct metrics to make your decisions, not vanity metrics.

Keep Your Data Personal

Keeping data relevant, honest, correct, and in context is all hard work. Many fundraisers would rather throw their hands in the air and say, “We don’t need data! We just need a good story.”

Let me argue that point…with data.

The majority of your best donors need good data to make your stories compelling. Allow me to explain.

The DISC assessment is a tool that analyzes communication styles and behaviors, and it categorizes people into four main personality types:

  1. Dominance
  2. Influence
  3. Steadiness
  4. Conscientiousness

Conscientiousness people (high Cs) are driven by being right and accurate. They want science or data to back up the claims they believe in. A study of 2 million Americans showed that around 14% of the population tends to have a High C personality.

What Is the Dominant Personality of Your Donors?

We conducted an experiment with four different organizations in 2017. We stumbled upon a technology called “Crystal Knows” which uses machine-learning algorithms to assess somebody’s personality. Let me tell you, this technology is creepily accurate.

We took all the donors from four different nonprofits and appended their DISC score to their donor profiles. The experiment sampled about 1.8 million people. Here’s what we found…

43% of donors have a High C personality.

DISC Profiles of Donors - High C

In other words, 43% of your donor base is hard-wired to respond to appeals that are backed by good data!

Use data to tell your stories in a way that appeals to the different types of personalities in your donor base. When you understand how your donors think, you’ll begin to see that data is a very personal matter that speaks to them in their language.

Impact is always better than big numbers.

When you’re looking at statistics — when you’re looking at facts — don’t just look for facts that support your position. If the sum of all the facts doesn’t lead to your position, perhaps it’s time to readjust what you believe.

Present your nonprofit data clearly and simply. The more confusing it is, the less likely people will be to believe it.

Don’t be afraid of the truth that your data is telling you. The truth always tells a more compelling story than misleading exaggerations. And relying on your cherry-picked version of the truth is never going to lead to positive outcomes.

You don’t have to be a nonprofit data scientist to tell a story with data.

I am not a data scientist. I don’t have a degree in statistics, analytics, data science, or any type of math. But treating data accurately and fairly doesn’t require an advanced degree. And having an advanced degree doesn’t automatically mean your analysis isn’t manipulative.

It’s my hope that these guidelines will give you a framework to help you with your next presentation, your next deep dive into your analytics, and even the next email that you write to your donors.

And if you want more expert ideas and strategies for your fundraising, every speaker session from the Nonprofit Innovation & Optimization Summit is available to you watch for free. Each speaker has tips and ideas related to search, analytics, data, copywriting, recurring giving, advertising, and much more.

You can activate your free access to every session from NIO Summit 2018 here.

About the author:

Nathan Hill

Nathan Hill

Nathan is the Marketing Director for NextAfter. He spends every day working to help nonprofit organizations discover how testing and optimization can transform their marketing and fundraising, leading to greater impact and organizational growth. He is also a giant Star Wars nerd.


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5 Nonprofit Analytics Reports That You Can Create in Google to Track Your Fundraising

Published by Nathan Hill

Annie Cushing

Google Analytics is a powerful tool — but just because it’s tracking your nonprofit analytics doesn’t mean you’re getting the most out it. In her talk at the Nonprofit Innovation & Optimization Summit, Annie Cushing of annielytics.com revealed 5 Google Analytics reports that are essential for nonprofits to optimize their online fundraising.

I’m going to break these 5 reports down for you here. But if you’d like, you can watch her full talk on “How to Mine for Gold in Google Analytics” below. And if you’d like to join the next NIO Summit to catch more sessions like this in person, you can check out more at https://www.niosummit.com

Optimizing donor conversions is all about making better decisions — and you can only make better decisions when you’ve got the best data available to you in an easy-to-understand format.

Google Analytics will track much of the data you need, but the tricky part is knowing what nonprofit analytics data is valuable, and how to get that data into a format that you can understand and make decisions with.

To get your online fundraising data in a format that’s helpful, you need these 5 google analytics reports.

5 Missing Custom Google Analytics Reports

Unfortunately, Google seems to think that all you need are the reports they provide out of the box.

But as smart and perfect as we like to think the folks at Google are, you have to tweak their reporting to get to the nonprofit analytics data that you really need to optimize your fundraising.

To do that, you’ll need to get familiar with Google Analytics’ Custom Reports.

Custom Reports - Nonprofit Analytics

Paid Social Report

By default, all of your paid social media advertising is going to go into the “other” channel, assuming you’re using standard utm tracking. But tracking your paid social media marketing separately is important because… well, you’re paying for it!

To track the performance of your paid social ads separately, you have to tell Google that you want it broken out. Now, changing your Google Analytics settings may sound daunting to some of you. But this part is really easy.

Annie has a quick youtube video on how to set-up “Paid Social” as a new traffic channel in your reports:

If you don’t set up this custom traffic channel, Google is going to lump your paid social media into the “Other” channel along with anything else marked as “CPV” or “Cost-Per-View.” And in our experience, Facebook Ads perform very differently than traffic sources that typically get lumped into the “Other” bucket.

If you need help making sure all your online fundraising campaigns are tracked properly, check out the free UTM Maker tool. You type in a few details about your campaign, and it will generate a perfectly tracked URL for you.

*We tend to tag our Facebook Advertising with the UTM Medium of “newsfeed”, since the Facebook Newsfeed is the primary location we place our ads. So in your custom traffic channel, you would just set the Paid Social UTM Medium to “newsfeed.”

Retargeting Report

Another channel that’s missing in Google Analytics, but helpful in monitoring your nonprofit analytics, is a retargeting report. This is a little bizarre since Google offers retargeting as an important marketing feature for their product.

Instead of providing a retargeting report, Google recommends tracking display traffic. Display ads are the little ads on the side of sites like huffingtonpost.com pointing to other sites.

Unlike most display traffic, retargeting ads can be as specific as you want.  

For example, you can set up retargeting ads to appear later for users who come to your site, look at the donation page, and then they leave.

Retargeting is like if you hired someone to identify anyone leaving your store without a bag and chase them down. But in a nice, unobtrusive way.

“Excuse me! Did you not find what you were looking for?” That’s retargeting.

Annie highly recommends creating a custom channel for retargeting.

To do that, set up another medium in your Google Analytics report to “retargeting.” You’ll just have to remember to use “retargeting” as your UTM Medium when you set up your ads.

Press Release Report

The press release report is for nonprofits that are actively sending out press releases. If this is you, this report will help you track the activity generated by your press releases with ease.

To set up your press release report, create a new custom report and select “Source” as your first rule. Then, set your rule to match “regex” as you see below.  

Match the source to field to the various source sites that you’re sending press releases out through. That way, you’ll be able to track all website traffic coming from one of the releases your sent out.

If you are tagging your campaigns as Annie recommends (Get her guide to Google campaign tagging here!), set your medium to match “press+release.”

Partner Report

If you have a website and have another sister site, you could use a partner channel report.

For us at NextAfter, this type of report is helpful in seeing who is coming to our main website (nextafter.com) from our Online Courses website, or our nonprofit conference website.

Some organizations may have a separate sites where they publish blogs, news, articles, or other types of media. A partner report will help you see who is coming to your site from the other sites you oversee.

To set up your custom partner report, you’ll need to set up the source as “regex” and then enter the various partner sites that could be sending you traffic.

Partner Websites - Nonprofit Analytics

You can also use this report to measure the traffic you get from bigger publishers that you allow to republish your posts. Having bigger publishing sites republish your content gives you wider exposure and you’ll want to track this traffic in a custom channel.

Guest Blogging Report

The last report you need to set up in Google Analytics to get your nonprofit analytics in order is the guest blogging report.

Many organizations (and companies) will have blog posts, articles, and other media types that are posted other organization’s websites.

If you’re doing any kind of guest blogging or publishing like this, you can set up this guest blogging report to easily track and monitor what traffic you’re getting back from those guest posts.

For example, if you are nonprofit serving environmental causes, you might write guest posts for websites such as Huffpost Green. Your posts on their online magazine can bring your site an incredible stream of traffic that you’d never reach on your own platform.

Guest Blogging Report - Nonprofit Analytics

To track your guest post traffic, set your source to “regex” and then enter the various sites where you post guest content.

Getting Your Nonprofit Analytics Tracking Right

Tracking nonprofit analytics such as traffic data is an extremely important part of making informed decisions to optimize your online fundraising. We often find that different traffic sources have different motivations. And if you can’t differentiate between your different sources, you could be missing opportunity.

If this post was too “in the weeds” for you, but you want help getting your tracking set up properly, just contact us and let us know. We’ll see if we can help, or at least point you to some additional resources that can help.

And if you want more expert ideas and strategies for your fundraising, every speaker session from the Nonprofit Innovation & Optimization Summit is available to you watch for free. Each speaker has tips and ideas related to search, analytics, data, copywriting, recurring giving, advertising, and much more.

You can get your free ticket to NIO Summit 2020 here.

About the author:

Nathan Hill

Nathan Hill

Nathan is the Marketing Director for NextAfter. He spends every day working to help nonprofit organizations discover how testing and optimization can transform their marketing and fundraising, leading to greater impact and organizational growth. He is also a giant Star Wars nerd.