I often ask nonprofits, “What is your model for measuring online success?” This question leads to a long silence because, in all honesty, while many nonprofits create metrics for the success of their organization, they do not do the same for their websites.
The failure to formulate standards for measuring the success of a fundraising and advocacy website is not defined by a lack of creativity, it is simply a misunderstanding of the actual purpose of the website and the need to establish an objective set of measurements to help identify and correct weaknesses on the site.
I recommend three key areas that must be covered: 1) acquisition, 2) behavior, and 3) outcomes. Each area includes a set of questions that must be answered.
How do you plan to acquire traffic for your website? Did you include: Direct, Organic, Social and Paid Search? How much time do you spend on each media source?
What do you expect people to do when they visit your website? Should they download an ebook? Is there a video about your organization that they should watch? How many pages should they visit? Are there certain tasks that you would like them to complete? What is original about your content that creates a unique experience for your visitors?
What actions are valuable to your organization? Is it an online donation? A completion of an advocacy action? Subscribing to a newsletter? Registering for an event?
We need to determine why we are putting all of this effort into our website?
I hope these questions have you thinking in the right direction.
Let's look at five steps a typical small organization might use to create a Nonprofit Website Measure Model (NWMM). Our model will take into consideration Acquisition, Behaviors and Outcomes. A complete model must consider all three aspects.
Step 1: Determine the Organization's Objectives
Why do you have a website? This is a difficult question to answer. Think about Acquisition, Behaviors and Outcomes.
You should come up with something similar to this chart:
Determining the organization's objectives will require many conversations with the leadership team. If you work with them, you can determine the purpose of your website.
Three common objectives are: create awareness, generate supporters and highlight events.
Step 2: Determine the goals for each objective.
Goals are specific strategies used to accomplish your objectives. Gather your leadership team to identify the objectives for your website.
When you have answered the acquisition and behavior questions, you may arrive at a model similar to this:
Having a clean line between your goals and objectives creates clarity for the organization.
In order to deliver on the “Create Awareness” goal, the site needs to support your traffic acquisition strategies.
"Generating Supporters" covers two goals: providing information that will help potential supporters make decisions to register for newsletters or download resources and to support the organization through online donations and actions.
"Highlighting Events" is for engaging supporters. Activating your supporters through participation in events will encourage them to take actions, become donors and connect with your nonprofit.
Step 3: Determine the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
You need to assign a KPI to each of your goals. These are metrics that help you determine how you are doing against your objectives.
They should look similar to the chart below:
The possibilities are endless. I am sure your mind is racing with new ideas. Let's not stop here; there are two more steps.
Remember, don't just look for KPIs, look for awesome KPIs. The chart below may help:
Step 4: Determine the Targets
Targets are numerical values that you determine before taking any measurements. They are indicators of success or failure.
Why do you need targets? Consider this: You had 28k visitors view a video on your website last month. Is that great or awful? How do you decide? That is why you need targets!
If you were supposed to secure 1,000 donations / actions from your website this month, would your actions be different than if the goal was 100. Would you know which marketing channels to target? Would you remember that your largest donors didn’t come from Social Media last year? That’s also why you need targets.
Your nonprofit website measurement model will now look like this…
Now when you open up Google Analytics and know what targets you are trying to reach, you can either dance for joy or get back to work fast.
What if you don't have any targets? Look back at past performance, ask your leadership team for targets or just make up some reasonable targets the first month. You can always adjust these targets once you have collected enough new data. The most critical part is that you know how a way to determine whether the website's performance is good or bad.
Step 5: Determine Valuable Segments for Analysis
A segment is a group of people, their sources, behaviors and outcomes.
Google Analytics is a great tool, but it's easy to lose focus with all of the data.
Identify traffic sources, demographics, attributes, behaviors and outcomes that your visitors want to see your organization accomplish. What do your supporters want to accomplish? Try to strike a balance between the needs of the visitors and the organization.
This might look like the chart below:
Which groups of visitors were important? What behaviors are desirable? What media source was marketing focused on? Who are we trying to attract? What on our site was important - To us? - To our supporters? Keep asking these questions until you determine the ideal segments.
This is a lot of work, but it is worth the effort. You now have a Nonprofit Website Measurement Model that works. When you make recommendations, they will be based upon real data, not opinions or unquantifiable emotion. And guess what, you will get results.
Now you know what is important and where to start. Your organization will know what success or failure looks like and how to connect the organizations objectives to your data.
I would like to give credit to Avinash Kaushik, Digital Marketing Evangelist for Google, and Market Motive, leading curriculum publisher for online marketing training. My personal experience and training from these sources was adapted to create this article.