How to Use Google Analytics for Virtual Fundraising

Ira Horowitz • May 04, 2021
Google Analytics for Nonprofits

Your online presence is one of your nonprofit’s most valuable outreach and communication tools. Visitors to your website can learn about your organization and start to recognize your brand identity, while those who visit your virtual fundraisers can participate online and make a generous donation.

However, many nonprofits are in the dark about how their website is actually being received and engaged with. 

Outside of obvious engagement metrics such as comments, responses, and page hits, it’s difficult to know if your website and virtual fundraising pages are being seen without the use of a web analytics tool. While simply gathering data doesn’t necessarily mean your nonprofit is on the right track, operating your fundraisers without clear metrics can leave your nonprofit without direction for its online outreach. 

This is where Google Analytics comes in. 

As the name implies, Google Analytics is a web analytics tool created by Google to collect and manage data relevant to your nonprofit website. It tracks and measures how users interact with every page of your website.  This information can then be used to improve your online presence and make strategic, data-driven decisions about your digital fundraising campaign

It can take time to familiarize yourself with Google Analytics and experiment to discover the most useful features for your nonprofit. However, after putting in the time and effort to set up your account and learn how it works, Google Analytics can quickly become invaluable for your fundraising campaigns.

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How to Set Up Your Nonprofit’s Google Analytics Account

Creating a Google Analytics account is free, which means your nonprofit can set one up at any time without fear of subscription fees. All you need to get started is your website and the main Google account for your nonprofit.

Setting up a Google Analytics account is a relatively simple process, though users have run into technical errors in the past that can lead to complications. However, for most organizations getting started with Google Analytics, the process should look like this after signing up:

  1. Create an account name
  2. Check all of the “Account Data Sharing Settings” optional boxes
  3. Enter basic details about your website, such as its name, time zone, and currency
  4. Click “Advanced Options” at the end of the “Property Setup” page and turn on “Create a Universal Analytics Property.”
  5. Enter your website URL.
  6. Enable “Create a Universal Analytics Property Only.”
  7. Enter your website’s details, such as your industry, the size of your nonprofit, and more
  8. Accept the terms of service and conditions 
  9. Copy the provided Google Analytics tracking code script and add it to your website: Your website builder or CMS should be able to provide additional guidance for this step.

The Google Analytics tracking code allows the tool to measure activity on your website. Once installed, it will use cookies to monitor the activities of all visitors to your website, measuring how long they stay on certain pages, where they came from, what links they click on, their relevant demographic information, and more. 

Google Analytics can sometimes take a few hours to get fully up and running. Once it is in working order, you can log back into your Google Analytics account to get a detailed report of what users are doing when they visit your website.

Understanding Google Analytics for Nonprofits

Google Analytics has a variety of reporting tools that assist your nonprofit in improving its online presence. To help your nonprofit find data that can lead to increased traffic, improved website maintenance, and higher levels of engagement, we’ll address a few key reports:

a. Audience

Understand who your audience is by taking a closer look at demographics, lifetime engagement, and behavior on an individual level. These reports help you see your audience members as individuals, allowing your nonprofit to track information about your supporters both in broad segments and down to a more granular level on particular pages or campaigns.

b. Acquisition

Discover how people are arriving on your website. This is especially effective for online fundraisers as you can examine what search queries, ad campaigns, and other referrals brought people to your website.

For example, if you want to compare the effectiveness of Facebook ads against Twitter ads, your acquisition report will let you know which receives more clicks and which brings users who go on to interact with your website. Use acquisition reports to understand which of your emails, social media announcements, or other communication strategies were most effective. 

c. Conversions

In addition to providing insight on your users’ behavior while visiting your site, conversion tools also allow you to set and track specific goals in Google Analytics.. For instance, your nonprofit likely will set a goal for donors to navigate to your donation form for a particular campaign and successfully submit their gift. You can then actively track your progress towards that conversion goal to identify steps in the donation process where users might be dropping off or experiencing errors. 

These reports should go hand-in-hand with your virtual fundraising strategy. Consider who your current fundraising messages are aimed at and what they encourage donors to do. Then use reporting tools to determine if they are reaching the audiences you hoped for and if user behavior matches your intended goals.

How Nonprofits Can Use Google Analytics Reports

What can Google Analytics do for your nonprofit? Ultimately, Google Analytics is a data gathering and reporting tool that allows your nonprofit to collect key information and identify relevant trends. However, like marketing, fundraising, and prospecting reports your nonprofit can create itself, this data only matters when it’s actually put to use. 

Take a moment to consider what your nonprofit aims to accomplish by collecting web engagement data. While your nonprofit likely has larger goals such as hosting a successful fundraiser, take a moment to break down those goals into more specific, manageable pieces such as increasing your clickthrough rates from your emails to your campaign’s landing page. 

Your exact approach depends on your nonprofit’s specific goals, but many nonprofits find it useful to engage with their Google Analytics reports through the following steps:

1. Choose a specific aspect of your website you want to improve

There are two ways to approach your Google Analytics reports. You can either 1) decide on an element of your website that you feel needs improvement and pull reports specifically related to that feature. Or, you can 2) browse Google Analytics to see if the data shows any elements are in need of specific attention. Both approaches are valid ways to approach improving your website, and your nonprofit will likely make use of both as you leverage Google Analytics over time. 

2. Filter information and find key reports

Google Analytics can be overwhelming, which is where filters come in. Once you have a sense of what you’re looking for or hope to identify, start using filters to isolate the key data relationships you need without getting confused by coincidental trends.

For example, you might discover that pages on your website have high bounce rates. This could be linked to a number of factors, and through proper filtering, you can drill down to determine if it’s due to misleading content, lack of engaging links, or long loading times. 

3. Identify data trends and compare them with similar organizations

After comparing data and finding trends that can lead to actionable recommendations for change, look to see what your competitors are doing. It’s highly unlikely they’ll share their analytics data, but you can still browse their website to compare how they handle the website feature you are analyzing. This is called benchmarking, and it can help you determine what is standard in your industry, making it especially useful when implementing new features on your website. 

4. Implement updates and monitor changes in data

You’ll only know if your change is successful by continuing to collect data in order to compare your website to its previous iteration. Remember to conduct user testing before implementing new features to create a prediction about how users will react to your change. For example, if you want to direct traffic to your virtual fundraising pages, you might visually enhance the link by creating a button or centering it at the top of your news page. 

Consider reaching out to a nonprofit web design consultant if you feel confused about what your data is telling you or just unsure what actionable changes you can make. Consultants are an invaluable source of knowledge, but it’s helpful to know exactly what kind of support you need ahead of time. 

Resources like Cornershop Creative’s guide on nonprofit consultants highlight what to look for in a consultant. You can also reach out to your own network of colleagues and peers for consulting referrals to find partners already trusted by members of your community.

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Google Analytics can help your team gather and identify key data points for improving your website and virtual fundraisers. However, remember that leveraging your data to make effective change requires setting a goal, applying strategic improvements, and continuing to improve by monitoring new data in response to your updated website. 

With Google Analytics, planning, measuring, and tracking your campaigns will become easier over time, leading to improved outreach and a more optimized home website.

About the author:

Ira Horowitz
Co-founder, Cornershop Creative

With 15 years experience, Ira is an expert in nonprofit online communications and online fundraising. His work has resulted in increased funds and resounding supporter engagement for hundreds of organizations. Ira oversees our project management team and works with clients to provide our clients with the best possible final product. He also manages all of our strategic engagements and helps guide nonprofits to determine their long-term strategic goals for online communications.