How Nonprofits Can Use Google Analytics for Virtual Fundraisers
Data is at the core of modern nonprofit fundraising. Want to secure a major gift? Attract new supporters to your nonprofit? Understand why supporters are lapsing after making a donation? Donor data analysis is your new best friend.
With this in mind, it’s no surprise that supporter data is key to improving your virtual fundraisers, as well. However, considering much of the internet can feel like a mysterious Wild West, especially for nonprofits that are used to on-the-ground fundraising, it can feel challenging to collect and analyze this data.
That’s where Google Analytics comes into play.
At Cornershop Creative, we help nonprofits make the most of the web to amplify their causes. Through this work, we’ve seen firsthand how Google Analytics can provide key data and insights to help organizations elevate their virtual fundraising efforts.
Whether you’re using WordPress, Wix, Squarespace, or another popular website builder, Google Analytics can help level up your virtual fundraising efforts on your website.
Note that Google Analytics will shift to its newest version soon, Google Analytics 4 (GA4), so you should keep an eye out for new guidance coming soon.
However, the information in this post will provide you with a strong foundation for using Google Analytics in general. Let’s begin with an overview of Google Analytics before discussing how you can use it for virtual fundraising.
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What is Google Analytics?
Google Analytics is a website analytics solution that Google provides for free to nonprofits, for-profits, and any individuals who would like to use it to understand their website’s performance better.
Let’s say you’ve built the perfect nonprofit website. It’s beautiful, informative, clever, helpful — we could go on. But, for whatever reason, your supporters aren’t visiting it or submitting information through your event sign-up/volunteer/donation forms.
While you could spend hours scrolling through your pages, guessing which elements of your site or overall strategy are failing to connect with your supporters… that certainly doesn’t sound like a productive (let alone fun) way to solve your issue.
Google Analytics “pulls back the curtain” on why your website performs the way that it does. It provides insight into a few key aspects of performance, including:
This tool empowers your organization to discover how people arrive on your website initially. This is generally broken down into six categories:
- Organic Search Traffic: Cornershop Creative’s guide to SEO for nonprofits defines organic search traffic as “visitors who find your website by searching for something in a search engine and deciding to click on a link to your content.”
- Paid Search Traffic: Paid search traffic refers to the traffic from a paid-for ad placed on a search engine for a specific search query.
- Referral Traffic: This refers to visitors who find your website through a link on another website. For example, say one of your partners writes a blog post about your cause and includes a link to your website’s homepage.
- Direct Traffic: This is traffic from people who type your website’s name directly into their web browser. More than likely, these will be individuals who have some familiarity with your organization, to begin with.
- Social Traffic: This is traffic that occurs from supporters clicking on a social media link.
- Email Traffic: Email traffic is the visitors to your site who land on your website after clicking a website link in an email.
The power of understanding acquisition data is that you can see which traffic sources are currently most effective at bringing individuals to your site, and further optimize your strategy from there.
For example, if you want to compare the effectiveness of Facebook ads against Twitter ads, your acquisition report will let you know which platform receives more clicks and which brings users who go on to interact with your website. Let’s say that Facebook ads perform better. Then, you’d probably be well-off investing more into ads on that platform, rather than on Twitter!
Google Analytics can help you understand the actions your audience is taking by measuring behavior on an individual level. You can track information about your supporters in broad segments (i.e., site-wide visitors) and on a more granular level (i.e., particular campaign or page visitors). This information includes details such as:
- Users, or the unique number of people who visit your site and individual pages.
- Bounce rate, or the rate of users who leave your website after viewing one page.
- Average session duration, or the amount of time spent during each interaction with your site.
- Behavior flow, or which pages visitors view and the order in which they do so.
This is just a short overview of what your organization can learn about your site audience behavior. Each data point gives information about how your audience engages with your site once they land on it.
Conversion tools allow you to set and track specific goals in Google Analytics. For instance, you might set an end-action goal of donors submitting your donation form. From there, you can discern the particular paths people took before accomplishing the goal using information from the conversions section.
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 conversion data to determine if your campaigns are reaching the audiences you hoped for and if user behavior matches your intended goals.
How can you add Google Analytics to your nonprofit’s website?
Creating a Google Analytics account is free, meaning 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. It’s also possible to set up an embedded analytics dashboard with the API, which is slightly more challenging. However, for most organizations getting started with Google Analytics, the process should look like this after signing up:
- Create an account name.
- Check all of the “Account Data Sharing Settings” optional boxes.
- Enter basic details about your website, such as its name, time zone, and currency.
- Click “Advanced Options” at the end of the “Property Setup” page and turn on “Create a Universal Analytics Property.”
- Enter your website URL.
- Enable “Create a Universal Analytics Property Only.”
- Enter your website’s details, such as your industry, the size of your nonprofit, and more.
- Accept the terms of service and conditions.
- Copy the provided Google Analytics tracking code script and add it to your website. (Your nonprofit website builder or CMS should be able to provide additional guidance for this step.)
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.
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3 Ways to Leverage Google Analytics for Virtual Fundraising
Well before the pandemic, many nonprofits used digital fundraising methods such as donation pages on their websites to raise funds. Unsurprisingly, the importance of virtual fundraising — including the donation pages but also fully online virtual events — has only increased in importance as many folks have opted to stay home and give from afar.
There are numerous guides on the internet that discuss how organizations can use Google Analytics to improve their websites overall. However, with the previous paragraph in mind, let’s focus on three ways that you can use the tool to level up your virtual fundraising efforts, in particular:
a. Discover which platforms work best to market your virtual fundraisers.
Supporters can’t give to your virtual fundraisers if they can’t find them to begin with! Take a look at your Google Analytics traffic data to see which channels of the previously mentioned six options are sending the most folks to your site. From there, ramp up your fundraiser communications on those channels, in particular.
b. Understand which aspects of your website could be improved to elevate your virtual fundraiser.
Using audience behavior data, take a look at the paths that supporters take through your site. Are there any pages that are causing people to bounce before they give to your fundraiser? Are there any calls to action that are failing to lead to conversions, such as an online donation page that sees few actual donations completed?
Figure out which pages are hindering your fundraiser’s performance, and make page-by-page adjustments.
c. Monitor changes in your fundraiser’s performance.
As you make changes to your website, track how those changes actually affect your virtual fundraising efforts. It may take a bit of trial and error, but data will show you which adjustments your supporters are most receptive to.
Google Analytics can help your team gather and identify key data points for improving your website and virtual fundraisers. Planning, measuring, and tracking your campaigns will become easier over time, leading to improved outreach and a more optimized website. Good luck!
About the author:
With 15 years of 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.