Tag: analytics

I’ve found success with putting the analytics where people will see them. One of those places is the website itself.

Figure out what really matters

There’s no shortage of data to review. So, it’s important to move beyond vanity metrics and get to the heart of why we do what we do. This means turning to the goals and key performance indicators you have for your website (or defining them for the first time!).

For my work at Agaric, those goals are:

1. Secure well-matched projects by communicating the value we provide to potential clients.
Key performance indicator: feedback on design and content from target audiences.

2. Diversify and expand free software communities by sharing relevant knowledge.
Key performance indicator: pageviews of blog posts.

Each goal should be accompanied by at least one key performance indicator. This is data that tells you how successful you are being at reaching your goal.

In our case, our first goal of feedback is best measured qualitatively by asking our current clients— and those who we like working with—what they think of the website. We conduct interviews to gather that feedback. For our second goal, we can get a good picture of content relevance by pageviews, a valuable data point to share with the team.

A different site might try to increase one-time donations, in which case seeing the number of donations made during a campaign would be helpful. Another group might focus on building a regular readership, therefore email list sign ups are the best indicator of success. Whatever it is, make sure you can link the analytics you are tracking back to a goal you have for your site. There’s no point in measuring something you won’t take action on.

Know who needs to see the data and where they hang out

After identifying your key performance indicators, decide who on your team should review that data.

For our six-person worker-owned cooperative, that answer was easy – all of us. We all blog and we all have a vested interest in helping our free software communities thrive. We want to know which posts are resonating the most.

After knowing your target audience, find out where they spend their time. In our case, it’s the website’s back-end content overview page. Our website admins go here to pull up a page we want to update and to see what posts are still in draft mode. So, we added a column for pageviews and made that column sortable.

Screenshot of website analytics

 

For the independent news site Portside, the same was true. In addition to showing pageviews on their content overview page, they also include them directly on each post (visible only to content editors).

Portside homepage screen

 

For the online educator portal Teachers with Guts, the organization wanted to track several data points on their members’ use of the platform. So, they have a report page built into the site showing information such as the number of downloads made, comments left, and pages bookmarked.

Data report from Teachers with Guts website

Other opportunities to share analytics include weekly email reports, a user dashboard upon logging in, or via mobile texting or apps. Don’t be shy about asking your team where they would most likely notice the data you’re sharing with them.

Meaningful, informed conversations

By showing key data in high traffic areas, you foster an informed team. From there you can have the conversations you want and need. We now know which posts are getting the most reach and are evaluating why that is. As a result, our best practices have evolved to make our writing more relevant with readers.

Impact is not intent, it is the real-world difference your nonprofit makes, the results that flow from the work you do. Increasingly nonprofits, foundations, and government partners are focusing on impact rather than inputs for several reasons: to report to stakeholders, make allocation decisions or to revise current programs and strategies and more.

However, despite widespread awareness, most nonprofits do not engage in consistent impact evaluation. In 2016, only 12% of nonprofits allocated evaluation to their annual budgets; and of them, less than one-third have performed impact evaluation in the previous year. most lack the structure to implement significant organizational change on their own; others, lack the resources to acquire external support to perform the evaluation consistently.

Understanding data is no longer an expectation reserved for tech nerds who work behind the scenes. Today every nonprofit must be able to measure and track outcomes to articulate its effectiveness.

On a day-to-day basis, immersed in service to their constituents, nonprofits often distribute intake forms, update spreadsheets and even keep mental snapshots of their work – but simply having data collection processes is not enough. It is critical to track the indicators of success most vital to your nonprofit’s mission with surgical precision, then to effectively communicate it at regular intervals.

Areas of importance, depth of detail, formatting, and mediums for data reporting may all vary between stakeholders such as Board of Directors, Grantors, Volunteers, and Community Partners.

As an example, in the past, a mentoring organization was expected to report on their input or activities. An example, how often mentors and mentees participated in an activity together, is a metric focused on the program’s execution, but it does not speak to the program’s value. Today, those funders would expect nonprofits to show the number of mentees who went on to graduate from high school, attend college, and secure a job with sustainable income.

Sometimes implementing a data strategy means investing in technology, other times, the greater investment is staff-wide organization change.

Here are three powerful quotes from nonprofit leaders around the country on why they chose to implement a data strategy:

  1. Understanding data and measuring impact is a critical skill
    Dr. Bennie Harris of Morehouse School of Medicine articulated that “being able to understand data and measure impact is now a skill equally as essential to a development officer’s profile as is the traditional soft skills the position has been known to require.”
  2. Good data leads to new insights.
    Good data, accompanied by critical thinking, can also lead to surprising insights that allow nonprofits to serve our clients and our community in innovative ways. Jim Reese, Atlanta Mission President and CEO, shared “(After implementing a data strategy), we learned that more individuals stayed at our (facilities) than the total number of occupants of all other shelters in Atlanta. The data disproved the presumed transience of our residents.” As a result, Reese has challenged his team to think critically about how to better serve individuals who may be long-term occupants of the Mission, and they began to lobby for increased capacity.
  3. Out-of-the-box thinking can generate new streams of revenue.
    Open Hand, an established nonprofit had long focused its programs on home-delivered meals and wanted to further improve local communities by way of nutrition education but we’re not sure how to start. Developing succinct logic models revealed a way to incorporate nutrition education into their existing operations, thus was birthed Good Measure Meals is a calorie and portion-controlled gourmet meal program. Good Measure Meals’ innovative business model has helped differentiate the brand from other meal plan services. John Jarvis of TechBridge Inc. who worked to execute the initiative praised the initiative, stating that Open Hand is “an organization that is thinking beyond the status quo when it comes to nutrition.” Matthew Pieper, Open Hand Executive Director stated Good Measure Meals “(enabled) Open Hand to offer better meal choices to customers.”

In more ways than one, data strategy provides a massive opportunity to nonprofits. Not only can a well-defined and implemented data strategy improve reporting, but it can also enable nonprofits to scale, innovate and solve real problems.

“At the end of the day, it’s about helping (people) in need,” Matthew Pieper, Executive Director of Good Measure Meals.

When you first look at your AdWords account, it may seem like information overload: there are so many metrics! The columns that exist in your dashboard by default may seem like more than enough.

But I’m here to tell you that the columns that are already in there when you open up your shiny new account are not nearly enough. This is particularly true for nonprofits who use the Google Grants version of AdWords because they need to make quick checks for compliance with the new 2018 rules.

The following are my recommendations for setting up what columns exist in the keyword view, but many of these options also exist whether you are looking at a campaign, ad group, advertisement, etc.

Quality Score

There’s an old adage in journalism: “Don’t bury the lede.” In Adwords, you should see your most important columns first, without having to scroll.

With the new compliance rules, the most important keyword attribute is the Quality Score. If you have a Quality Score below three for any one of your keywords, your account is in violation. When you first create a keyword, you will see a dash where there should be a number. Those are called null scores and mean that the system has yet to assign a rating. These are allowed, but scores of one and two have to be paused. You can create a rule in your account to automatically pause these.

Click-Through Rate (CTR)Michael Rasko quote

The next most important is CTR, and many would argue that this is the most important. Though I agree it is the most difficult rule to adhere to, I think it is slightly less important than quality score because one keyword in violation of the quality score can bring your entire account out of compliance—whereas it takes the account-wide CTR to be below the threshold of 5% for two calendar months in a row for the account to be considered in violation of that rule.

Put another way, the result of the number of clicks divided by the number of impressions must be below 0.05 for back-to-back calendar months for you to be at risk of being suspended for violating this rule. This is still a very difficult endeavor, but one in which each individual keyword’s performance has a diluted impact.

You may want to set up a rule in your account to automatically pause low CTR keywords as well, but I encourage you to be careful not to overdo it with how you set this up. Pausing every keyword below 5% may not be necessary to bring your account over the account-wide CTR requirement but could drastically reduce how often your ads are seen.

Clicks, Impressions, Average Cost Per Click, and Cost

These four come standard with the account, and they’re good to keep. They let you know whether your advertisement is being seen by people, how many of those who see it actually click on it, and what you have to pay for the click.

Among these four, total cost often gets overlooked simply because all the ad grants money is free. This should not be overlooked—even though you don’t have to pay Google for it, the traffic that comes from this AdWords spend is very valuable and is use-it-or-lose-it. You get $329 every day to spend ($10,000 a month), and that money doesn’t roll over if you don’t use all of it. Don’t leave that money on the table.

Conversion Tracking Information

If you haven’t set up conversion tracking for your account yet, make that your number one priority. Maximize Conversions bidding is literally the only good news that came out of the 2018 rules update.

There are many ways to track conversions. The Ad Grants team recommends using Google Analytics to set up E-commerce tracking for financial transactions and Goals for non-financial conversions. I agree, mainly because this method is one of the easiest to implement and gives you the most thorough information.

Additionally, they warned against setting up the view of a key page as a Goal in Analytics. They see it as an attempt to game the system as you could make the landing page for your ad the key page. The Ad Grants team announced in a recent video that they will be checking for excessively high conversion rates. Though they did not specify a threshold for when a rate is in violation of the policy, they claim in their compliance guide that a normal conversion rate is 1% to 15%. I would recommend revising your conversion tracking if your rate is outside of that range.

There are a currently 16 different conversion-related metrics that you can add as columns. The two I recommend above all others are total Conversions, so you can see if you have enough data in the system to start Maximize Conversions bidding, and Conversion Rate, so that you can see if your rate is too low or too high.

Expected CTR, Ad Relevance, and Landing Page Experience

Expected CTR, Ad Relevance, and Landing Page Experience are recently added columns.

  • Expected CTR is how likely someone is to click on your ad and is calculated by past performance.
  • Ad Relevance is how closely a keyword matches the content of your ad.
  • Landing Page Experience is how useful your landing page is for the search term, based on how well the content matches the search and how easy your landing page is to navigate.

These columns are measured as either below average, average, or above average. All three of these factors are considered when the system assigns your keyword a Quality Score. If you have a very low Quality Score for a keyword, this is something to take a look at to uncover why.

Additional Options

I said at the start that your keywords columns will mostly match those in other views. A notable exception is that in the search terms view, you can add a column for the keyword that triggered the advertisement. I find this especially helpful because when I see that my advertisements are showing for searches that are not particularly relevant, I can quickly find the keyword that I need to make alterations too, most commonly by switching it from broad match to phrase match.

Another column you may want to add for a variety of views is landing page. I don’t personally have this because each campaign I design is organized around one landing page, so I know the landing page by looking at the campaign title. But if you organize your account in a different way, it may be helpful to see where exactly your advertisements are sending your users.

2018 Digital Outlook ReportDo you have the strategies you need to launch your nonprofit into the stratosphere? NTEN, along with partners Care2, hjc, and Resource Alliance, have produced the 2018 Digital Outlook Report, which includes data collected from over 500 nonprofit professionals in more than 20 countries.

The theme of the 2018 report is expand your nonprofit’s universe, and it encourages nonprofit professionals to explore new worlds of digital marketing and fundraising innovation.

Key points include:

  • Pundits claim that no one uses email anywhere and that its time has passed, but the report shows that for fundraising success, it’s more important than ever that nonprofit emails reach their intended inboxes.
  • A focus on mobile is central to improving a nonprofit’s digital strategy.
  • Tracking, analytics, and proper attribution have been an Achilles’ heel for most nonprofit organizations, so the report focuses on the benefits of digital tracking and attribution.

With in-depth guides and expert advice, we’ll walk you through three areas that may be uncharted terrain for your organization: mobile optimization, tracking web conversion, and email deliverability.

Providing actionable ideas for every organization, the 2018 Digital Outlook Report is really a must-read for any team hoping to improve.

Download your free copy here.

 

Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that you’re a hard-working and underappreciated communications manager. Hard to imagine, I know, but bear with me. Your content strategy is fantastic and every week, hundreds of people visit your website, engage with your content and. . . fail to sign up to your mailing list. You’re starting to wonder: Why don’t they want our emails? Is our content really that great? Is our subscription form broken? You brought them to your site and they engaged with your great blog but now you’ve lost them forever and it seems like such a waste.

What if I told you that you can track them, and with a few inexpensive tactics, you have a much better chance of converting them to subscribers? Welcome to the powerful, if a little creepy, world of social media retargeting.

Map the Matrix

Aerial photo of a city, with the city reflected in green on the right side =
Photo credit

First things first, you have to make it easy for your website visitors to do what you want them to. With help from your web analytics, plot the path people take once they get to your website: Maybe they come in through search or social media shares, find a piece of content, click on some related articles and then, hopefully, subscribe. These are your key pages, and it’s vital that you clear the path so that people can easily do what you want them to do. If your so-called conversion path is full of obstacles and friction points, no amount of great social media is going to convince them to stay on the sidewalk.

Take the Red Pill

Black and white photo of a hand holding 2 pills, one blue and one red
Photo credit

Now that you have a clear path, it’s time to develop a plan to capture the people who find themselves on it. This is where things get awesome. Do you remember that time last week that you found a really great pair of shoes while shopping online but decided not to buy them just yet? Then, this morning on Facebook, there was an ad for those exact same shoes! What may seem like an uncanny coincidence is thanks to a magical thing called a tracking pixel.

Named after a literal pixel (a 1x1px transparent image), pixels trigger a string of code called a cookie that helps servers identify you and your behavior. The page where you found those shoes had a pixel, and you’ve been identified as a potential buyer. Next time you visit a site that uses the same ad network, it recognizes your pixel and you become part of the audience for a set of ads tailored to your behavior.

Now, before you start feeling like you’re in George Orwell’s 1984, don’t freak out: It is not like you’re actually being tracked. It’s your browser that is holding on to that cookie information, not the site, and it’s your browser that tells the ad network where you have been. You can control what cookies to accept and how long they last by managing your browser’s security and privacy settings.

The process you employ by using these cookies is called retargeting, and it basically means you have a second chance at conversion for people who you know are interested in your offer. Once you cookie your website visitors, you create a highly qualified audience that you can target with ads across a wide range of other sites.

Note: Before placing third-party pixels on your site, make sure your privacy policy covers how you’ll use them. Your visitors’ use of ad blockers and browser security settings impact how well they work, and cookies do expire. But it’s a hugely powerful technology and therefore no surprise that for-profit organizations have been quick to pick it up. Was a third look at those shoes exactly what I needed to make me buy?

Down the Rabbit Hole

This technology has enormous potential for nonprofits. For example, you can pixel your fundraising landing page and retarget those who were interested enough to visit but who didn’t donate at that moment. Or you can find potential members who stalled out at your join page. Perhaps that Facebook ad was the gentle reminder they needed to come back and reconsider joining. If you mash these ads with smart landing pages, you can tailor your conversion messages to an array of behaviors (and thus, interests) for much more relevant calls to action and therefore greater success. And what’s more, in what is possibly the only upside to media consolidation, a handful of big ad companies own huge networks outside of social media that you can now access with just a few clicks, in order to find your targets. The ad you make for Facebook can also appear on the Huffington Post app.

There Is No Spoon

What excites me the most about this technology is the ways we aren’t even using it yet. Imagine using a pixel to track a reader’s content views, and then using that information to tailor a content site just for them. The site would become so much more valuable to them, and they would be much more likely to return, subscribe, and support the organization’s work. Or pairing this kind of tracking with a world-class CRM that could connect the dots based on someone’s behavior and trigger suggested ways to have that person become more involved. The power and applications seem as endless as the Matrix, and I, for one, am excited to see how deep the rabbit hole goes.

Over twenty years ago, I was convinced that law school was my future. Then I learned how to write HTML and design websites, and my career path went in a very different direction. There are moments in time when opportunities arise and you just have to take them. I firmly believe we are witnessing another one of those moments of opportunity for people working in the nonprofit sector.

We live in a time when data and information are changing how we work and are amplifying the results. For nearly two years now, I’ve been researching and writing about how people in the nonprofit sector are using data to drive real change. What I found along the way is explored in the new book Data Driven Nonprofits.

It is clear from talking with lots of nonprofit professionals that understanding and using data is one of the most important skills that you can possess today. And there is little doubt that data literacy and data science are also valuable skills for the future, too.

Hal Varian, the chief economist at Google, once said, “The sexy job in the next 10 years will be statisticians. People think I’m joking, but who would’ve guessed that computer engineers would’ve been the sexy job of the 1990s?” This is a good prediction, but does it mean we all need to be trained statisticians?

Common Denominator

You might be surprised to hear that one of the common threads I’ve found among successful data driven professionals is not a statistics background or deep data science know-how. Instead, the common denominator has been natural curiosity. Data driven professionals are people who always ask why something happened, how we can make something happen, and what we can best do to improve results.

Curiosity appears to be the secret ingredient, combined with data and know-how, to solve a problem. Just having the hard skills is not enough. You should consider curiosity to be the non-functional requirement to maximize your potential in a more data driven world.

Choose Your Own Data Adventure

If you are at the beginning of your nonprofit career, then nothing is going to shape your ability to make an impact on the world more than the ability to use data. Yes, there will be times when people will want to use their years of experience to shoot down your ideas. My advice is to always speak softly and bring data. Put the time in now to learn and increase your data muscle tone.

If you are in the middle of your nonprofit career, then your key to being a leader and going to the next level will be greatly influenced by your data skills. You need to get out of your comfort zone and sharpen your data literacy and presentation skills. Maybe skip that conference session on social media and go to the analytics presentation down the hall. Put down the latest piece of fiction and grab a book on the subject of data or analytics.

If you are in the twilight years of your nonprofit career, then being a champion for more use of data is one of the best ways to leave your mark. Let’s be honest—it’s highly unlikely that you’re going to learn regression analysis or machine learning algorithms. But you can help your board members, staff, and team members to embrace the use of data. The simple act of asking people, “What data do we have, and how can that help us make a decision” can get things moving in the right direction.

Numeracy and Literacy

As children, three of the most valuable skills we learned were to read, write, and count. You are probably very familiar the term literacy, but what about its numerical equivalent? Numeracy is the ability to understand and work with numbers. In a data driven world, the importance of data literacy takes on big importance.

Data literacy is one of the most valuable skills that you can have today and as you move into the future. A data literate person possesses the skills to gather, analyze, and communicate information to support decision-making. The communication of information includes speaking, writing, and visualization.

General literacy is the skill that allows us to derive information from the written word. To be data literate means layering in another set of skills to get meaning, to communicate, and to make decisions with the data you use on a daily basis.

Notice that this has nothing to do with the technology involved or the data science skills required to develop things like predictive models. Instead, the key to data literacy is being able to use the information to make decisions. This also requires us to be able to recognize when the data we are being shown might be misleading or used in an inappropriate way.

Be More Data Driven

Now, numbers may not be your thing. I get it. You’re getting this advice from someone who was a “D” student in calculus and has put a lot of time into being a numbers person. This is why being curious and wanting to understand how things work can help you to level up your skills.

Thirty years ago, if you did anything with computers, people described what you did as “working with computers.” Today, everyone uses computers and it’s not a specialty. Twenty years ago, if you did anything with the internet, then people described what you did as “working with the internet.” Today, everyone uses the internet and it’s not a specialty.

Ten years from now, we are all going to be working with data. You won’t be able to escape using data and information, whether your focus is on technology, marketing, programs, advocacy, fundraising, or outcomes. Data will not be a specialty. It will be the way people measure, manage, and decide how things are done. Choosing to be more data driven today is the key to being more successful tomorrow.

In 2015, social media use among Americans continued to rise, with nearly two-thirds of all adults using social networking sites, according to the Pew Research Center. This number is up 7% from the first time such stats were collected in 2005. Along with increased popularity, here are a few trends with digital platforms I have noticed over the last year:

  1. Real-time Moments – Demand for live streaming and instant updates continues to expand.SnapChat, Periscope, and Twitter Moments are just a few examples.
  2. Visual Storytelling – Powerful imagery is a key for attracting and engaging audiences. Think platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest and modalities such as infographics.
  3. Bite-sized Content – Less is more (at least initially). With so much information to wade through online, simple, bite-sized, and easily-digestible content is a welcome relief. Buzzfeed headlines and theSkimm newsletter come to mind here.

Despite ever-evolving digital trends, the fundamentals of developing a data-informed digital strategy for your organization remain the same:

  1. Know your audience and key decision-makers. What do they want to see or know? What do they need?
  2. Have a good sense of your goal and objectives. What action do you want your audience to take? How will your data or metrics drive action or change?
  3. Keep it simple. There’s no one magic tool (sorry!) that does it all. Hone in on a few key data points to capture across platforms based on your audience and goals and objectives. You can capture these in a simple Excel spreadsheet that’s updated regularly (yes, it’s really that simple!).

When you understand which digital metrics to measure, how, and why, you’ll have a better sense of how to develop and grow a sustainable online presence.

Your website, blog, social media, and other digital platforms are doing really well, and you even have metrics to prove it. That’s awesome! But now what? How do you know if your efforts are worthwhile? Do you know what success looks like?

These are just a few key questions we should consistently ask ourselves as we develop and execute digital strategies that advance the missions of our organizations. Continuously evaluating our digital efforts is also important in order to demonstrate return on investment and to make the case for change or for new resources to sustain our work and take it to the next level. That’s why Briana Kerensky, Senior Digital Content Coordinator at Food & Water Watch, Matt Ott, co-founder of Black Fret, and I spoke at this past year’s Nonprofit Technology Conference about how to track and measure metrics that really matter and create concise and understandable reports that illustrate for your boss and colleagues how much you rock!

The Challenge

Sometimes we may feel like digital trends are evolving so quickly that it’s impossible to keep up with them all. It can be easy to get caught up in chasing the next big thing. But the secret to keeping up in an ever-evolving digital world is one four-letter word: data — that is, metrics. When you understand which digital metrics to measure and how and why to do so, as well as tracking overall trends in the sector, you can create an effective long-term digital strategy for your nonprofit.

But how do you effectively communicate all that to your less web-savvy staff, who can’t tell an exit rate from an open rate? How do you create and execute a digital strategy based on what’s working and have the proof to back it up while avoiding opening a Pandora’s box of data on unprepared staff? The last things you want to do are confuse or frustrate them and then, eventually, fail to get the buy-in you need for future projects. Our challenge is to determine which metrics matter and effectively explain and report these metrics to people who don’t spend all day on the web, in a way that doesn’t talk over or under them.

Strategies and Tools

There are a number of strategies and tools out there — from benchmarking and A/B testing, to infographics and spreadsheets. Wouldn’t you love to know which ones to use and how to make the most of them? Briana, Matt, and I will be on hand to share a few tips and tricks to wow your boss and colleagues at the 15NTC in March. During our workshop, we’ll walk through effective strategies and tools for communicating digital metrics to non-tech-savvy staff. We’ll use case studies of successes and failures from our work and yours. We’ll also dive a bit into Google Analytics, Facebook, Twitter, email platforms, and URL shorteners to discuss how to make the most of them.

Recommendations

At the heart of all effective communication is a solid understanding of your audience and the best way to connect with them. Once you understand a bit about which metrics to capture and how to use some of the tools and strategies we’ll discuss, we’ll walk through some tips and recommendations for communicating effectively to your boss and other stakeholders such as the following:

  • Know your audience and key decision-makers
  • Use data to establish or strengthen stakeholder relationships and build credibility
  • Tap into your organization’s competitive nature
  • Play to individual strengths and weaknesses
  • Communicate regularly with stakeholders through mechanisms such as debriefs or “Think & Drinks”

If you’re struggling with demonstrating the value of your digital efforts or need a little help demonstrating to your boss and colleagues what an awesome job you’re doing, we invite you to join us to for an interactive and informative session on digital metrics. Here’s what you’ll come away with:

  • A better understanding of which digital metrics to measure, how, and why
  • Deeper knowledge of how to use online reporting functions from different analytics platforms
  • User-friendly analytics/report templates
  • Tips for simple and easy data visualization

As one of the most common communications pieces produced by nonprofits, annual reports have grown to be one of the central storytelling tools an organization uses to reach its existing donors and other key audiences. Many organizations put significant employee hours into these reports—brainstorming, gathering content, designing, printing, mailing, etc.

Unfortunately, despite the importance of and resources poured into annual reports each year, a large number of organizations are stuck producing print reports that lack important measurement and storytelling tools.

Are annual reports worth the effort?

My design studio conducted a series of informational interviews with communications professionals to better understand how this medium is and is not working. Starting off with 15 in-depth conversations and then surveying about 50 others, we saw a number of important themes emerge. Sixty percent of the organizations we surveyed put out an annual report each year, while 15% said they rarely or never did. The size range of our organization’s annual report audiences was mixed—30% had an audience of 100-500, 28% had 500-1,000, and 26% had 1,000-10,000 recipients.

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Measurement is key

The first insight we uncovered was about measurement. In a social sector that is increasingly enamored with, and simultaneously confused by, the power of data, most organizations had little to no means of measuring the effectiveness of their reports. This was true even of organizations that had spent in excess of $20,000 and months of staff time on the reports. While a handful of organizations had anecdotal accounts in support of the importance of their reports to donors, these were often based more on casual conversations than on any kind of systematic measurement.

Digital reports, by contrast, can harness the power of Google Analytics to deliver detailed feedback on the total number of visitors and the popularity of individual sections. Organizations can A/B test possibilities to develop a much clearer idea of who is seeing what content and to what variations people respond.

There are new ways of engaging audiences

Our research also found a strong preference for storytelling tools that many organizations already use on their websites, but which obviously cannot exist in print form. The most common of these were video and interactive data visualizations. Far more engaging than print reports, which are often skimmed, these storytelling tools allow organizations to capture attention in a variety of ways.

Another advantage of going digital is to remove steps involved in taking a specific action. Often called “friction,” the greater the number of steps or duration of time in between the content that inspires action and the ability to take the action, the greater the drop-off in response rates. In soliciting donations, a print report might require a donor to shift from print to digital to make a donation, or even worse, to write a check and mail it in. While these steps are relatively easy, they are far more work than clicking a button on a digital report and making the donation in that moment. Removing even just a small bit of friction can produce wildly different outcomes. Additionally, for organizations not wishing to solicit donations through their annual report, no other obvious call to action may come to mind. With a digital report, many smaller steps can guide viewers to do things such as follow social media pages, support a campaign, or sign up for a newsletter.

A summary of some key insights

For organizations considering going digital with their annual reports, here are a few of the insights we got from our research. Based on what we heard below, we developed a tool that can be found here.

  • Only 21% of respondents had previously created a digital annual report, with 77% saying they would do so in the future
  • Of the features surveyed for the report, the most popular were Dynamic Data Visualization, Responsiveness (for mobile and tablet), and Metrics and Analytics
  • The desire to supplement print with digital was strong, with only 21% saying they would drop the print report entirely to go digital. 55% said they would send out a smaller summary in print
  • More than half of the organizations had budgets between $1 million and $10 million

Print reports can be a beautiful way to send donors and other important constituents a summary of the organization’s accomplishments over the last year. For those recipients that don’t treat it as junk mail or only briefly scan the report, a meaningful interaction can occur between the reader and the organization. However, the quality of these interactions can be extremely hard to measure. By supplementing or replacing printed annual reports with digital ones, both measurement and engagement can increase dramatically.

For this month’s Connect theme, a number of speakers are previewing the great breakout sessions they are preparing for the 2015 Nonprofit Technology Conference in Austin, TX March 4-6. Following is a preview of one of over 100 breakout sessions.

Stop spinning your wheels trying to improve your nonprofit’s website! There is a treasure chest of information in your website’s analytics — and you can learn how to unlock it.

In this preview of an upcoming Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC) session, you’ll learn about the six (6) most important website analytics data points and what they’re telling you about your nonprofit’s website.

At the NTC, you’ll have the opportunity to dive deeper into each of the terms. You’ll also get useful tips to help you improve the specific area where your site needs the most help.

Is your organization’s outreach effective?
If your organization’s outreach is effective, you should see an overall increase in sessions and pageviews. For example, if your Executive Director is interviewed on the radio and the interview was effective, your website should experience an increase in sessions and pageviews. Or, if you run a series of advertisements and they’re effective, your website should experience an increase in sessions and pageviews.

Sessions (formerly known as a Visit)
A session represents one person browsing your site, regardless of how many pages they visit. Google Analytics considers a session to be closed once your visitor has been inactive for more than 30 minutes.

Pageviews
A pageview represents one person browsing one page, one time. Pageviews are usually your biggest analytics number because they’re counted all the time, such as when a visitor refreshes the page.

Is your website’s content effective?
If your website’s content is effective, you should see an overall decrease in bounce rate and an overall increase in average time on site.

Bounce Rate
A bounce rate represents the percentage of visitors who came to your site, loaded one page, and left the site without loading any other pages. I regularly observe bounce rates above 70% on many nonprofit sites and pages. I recommend you revamp sites or pages that have a bounce rate of 80% or higher, as those sites/pages need immediate improvement.

Average Time on Site
The time on site represents the length of time between when a visitor loaded their first page on your site and their last page on your site. I’ve seen average times on nonprofit websites that were anywhere between 30 seconds and 30 minutes.

How is your website’s audience changing?
Together, top landing pages and top exit pages help you understand the changing interests of your audience. For example, in December, your top landing page might include an article about keeping pets safe in the winter cold; in June, your top landing page might include an article about keeping kids safe in the summer sun.

Landing Pages
A landing page is the first page that a visitor loads during their visit (session). The same visitor may have multiple landing pages throughout their relationship with your nonprofit. Perhaps the first time they visit, their landing page is your homepage. Then, a month later, when you send your enewsletter, they may click on an article link in your email message.

Exit Pages
An exit page is the last page that a visitor loads during their visit (session). As with landing pages, the same visitor may have multiple exit pages throughout their relationship with your nonprofit. Exit pages may also represent areas of your site that caused a visitor to feel frustrated, causing them to leave the site altogether.

Finish unlocking the power of your website’s analytics at the 15NTC
Bring your questions and your notebook, because the “Use Analytics to Improve Your Nonprofit Website” workshop is your opportunity to get real answers.

You’ll learn where to find this information in your Google Analytics account and helpful tips that you can use to improve each of these key analytics for your site’s unique needs.

(You’ll also receive a handy dashboard template that you can “save as” and use directly in your own Analytics account.)

Bonus Resources
If you’re not yet set up on Google Analytics, or if you’d like a training video that shows you exactly where to find these six key data points in your own Google Analytics account, download this free analytics training video.

Until we see each other in Austin in March, here’s a handy reference image to help you remember the six most important analytics terms for your nonprofit’s website:

For this month’s Connect theme, a number of speakers are previewing the great breakout sessions they are preparing for the 2015 Nonprofit Technology Conference in Austin, TX March 4-6. Following is a preview of one of over 100 breakout sessions.

Your website, blog, social media, and other digital platforms are doing really well, and you even have metrics to prove it. That’s awesome! But now what? How do you know if your efforts are worthwhile? Do you know what success looks like?

These are just a few key questions we should consistently ask ourselves as we develop and execute digital strategies that advance the missions of our organizations. Continuously evaluating our digital efforts is also important in order to demonstrate return on investment and to make the case for change or for new resources to sustain our work and take it to the next level. That’s why Briana Kerensky, Senior Digital Content Coordinator at Food & Water Watch, Matt Ott, co-founder of Black Fret, and I will be talking at this year’s Nonprofit Technology Conference about how to track and measure metrics that really matter and create concise and understandable reports that illustrate for your boss and colleagues how much you rock!

The Challenge

Sometimes we may feel like digital trends are evolving so quickly that it’s impossible to keep up with them all. It can be easy to get caught up in chasing the next big thing. But the secret to keeping up in an ever-evolving digital world is one four-letter word: data — that is, metrics. When you understand which digital metrics to measure and how and why to do so, as well as tracking overall trends in the sector, you can create an effective long-term digital strategy for your nonprofit.

But how do you effectively communicate all that to your less web-savvy staff, who can’t tell an exit rate from an open rate? How do you create and execute a digital strategy based on what’s working and have the proof to back it up while avoiding opening a Pandora’s box of data on unprepared staff? The last things you want to do are confuse or frustrate them and then, eventually, fail to get the buy-in you need for future projects. Our challenge is to determine which metrics matter and effectively explain and report these metrics to people who don’t spend all day on the web, in a way that doesn’t talk over or under them.

Strategies and Tools

There are a number of strategies and tools out there — from benchmarking and A/B testing, to infographics and spreadsheets. Wouldn’t you love to know which ones to use and how to make the most of them? Briana, Matt, and I will be on hand to share a few tips and tricks to wow your boss and colleagues at the 15NTC in March. During our workshop, we’ll walk through effective strategies and tools for communicating digital metrics to non-tech-savvy staff. We’ll use case studies of successes and failures from our work and yours. We’ll also dive a bit into Google Analytics, Facebook, Twitter, email platforms, and URL shorteners to discuss how to make the most of them.

Recommendations

At the heart of all effective communication is a solid understanding of your audience and the best way to connect with them. Once you understand a bit about which metrics to capture and how to use some of the tools and strategies we’ll discuss, we’ll walk through some tips and recommendations for communicating effectively to your boss and other stakeholders such as the following:

  • Know your audience and key decision-makers
  • Use data to establish or strengthen stakeholder relationships and build credibility
  • Tap into your organization’s competitive nature
  • Play to individual strengths and weaknesses
  • Communicate regularly with stakeholders through mechanisms such as debriefs or “Think & Drinks”

If you’re struggling with demonstrating the value of your digital efforts or need a little help demonstrating to your boss and colleagues what an awesome job you’re doing, we invite you to join us to for an interactive and informative session on digital metrics. Here’s what you’ll come away with:

  • A better understanding of which digital metrics to measure, how, and why
  • Deeper knowledge of how to use online reporting functions from different analytics platforms
  • User-friendly analytics/report templates
  • Tips for simple and easy data visualization

We look forward to diving into digital metrics with you at this year’s NTC! Our session is Friday, March 6, 10:30am to 12:00pm.