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By the Numbers: How to Determine and Track Your Nonprofit's Marketing Metrics

April 10, 2022
14 minutes

How to Track Your Nonprofit's Marketing Metrics

Are you BFFs with your marketing data yet? You absolutely should be! By regularly tracking and using your marketing data, you set your nonprofit up for marketing success. When you focus more of your resources on what’s working, you allow yourself to explore new opportunities that'll supercharge your marketing.

Here's the kicker: in order to do any of these things, you need to regularly track your marketing metrics.

Tracking your marketing data doesn't have to be complicated or time-consuming. Today we’re going to talk about how to track your nonprofit's marketing metrics so that you can be a total marketing boss!

What to track

Before you can set up a system for tracking metrics, you need to know which stuff you want to measure. There are endless marketing data points that you couuuuuuld track:

  • Website traffic
  • Website conversion rates for donations, volunteers, email list growth, etc
  • Social media channel growth
  • Social media channel engagement
  • Email open rates, click-through rates and conversions
  • Email list growth
  • Email list health
  • Earned media
  • Paid advertising
  • SEO success

Should you track all of these (and more)? Not necessarily. Think about it... the numbers you're interested in are probably ones that directly relate to your marketing goals. So pick those! For instance, if your marketing goal is to grow your email list by 10% this year, measure data points like list growth (obvs), landing page traffic and conversion rates, and opt-in conversions.

Before you go nuts creating a complicated marketing metrics tracking system, write a list of the metrics you could use to gauge the success of each of your goals. If you find you have a big list of metrics for each goal, it's time to question the usefulness of all the metrics on your list—you can probably cut a few to make your work simpler.

What about UTMs?

Great question! For those that don’t know, UTMs are marketing metrics that help website owners trace their visitors back to specific digital marketing campaigns, ads, or sources. They help marketers understand which ads and campaigns are working and which aren't, so they know what to throw marketing dollars at.

So that's what they do, but what are they?

UTMs, or Urchin Tracking Modules, are tags you add to your links. The tags act as breadcrumbs, identifying where the visitor clicked on the link. And one of the best things about them—a sigh-of-relief element, if you will—is that you can see them. Setting up a UTM parameter is as easy as adding it to your link. Changing it is as easy as updating the link with new UTMs.

Tracking them, that's the hard part. And, seriously, that's not even so hard! Tons of programs out there are designed to identify UTMs—Funraise, your marketing platform, maybe your email sending platform, and, if all else fails, Google Analytics.

UTMs come in five flavors, and just like Ben & Jerry, they work better together.

Medium

Medium is the most general record of donor origination—use something like "email" or "social media" or "AdWords" here.

Source

The Source is the quick answer you'd give someone if they asked where the donor came from:

"Oooh, $500 donation! Where'd that donor come from?

"They clicked through our newsletter." or "Facebook."

Campaign

The Campaign parameter is where it gets good... This narrows down the medium and source even further, showing you exactly which tactic or ad or image or post or email got the donor to click. Now you reallllly know what your marketing dollars are doing.

Term

The Term mostly applies when you're using different search terms with Google AdWords. And since we know that nonprofits can get $10,000 to spend on Google Ads with the Google Ad Grants... this could be a game-changer for you.

Content

Content is one that you may not need, but we love here at Funraise. It separates different links to one page. Here are the two most common examples:

  1. A/B testing. You send out two emails, each with a different image. Use the Content UTM to differentiate clicks on the images so you know which one worked better.
  1. Two links to the same place on one page. For example... You probably have multiple Donate buttons on your homepage, yes? Use the Content UTM to differentiate the links so you know if one of those is getting lost in the shuffle.

When you track UTM parameters, you get to see a fuller picture of who your donors are, what they're interested in and what catches their eye, and how much you need to spend to reel them in.

As you're starting your UTM journey, don't forget that you can track donor UTMs using Funraise's donation forms!

Where to get those marketing metrics

Most digital tools you might use for marketing have a backend analytics system that allows you to see the most important metrics at a glance. Here’s where to find some of the ones mentioned above.

Google Analytics

  • Website traffic
  • Website conversion rates for donations, volunteers, email list growth, etc

Social Media Platforms

  • Social media channel growth
  • Social media channel engagement

Email Service Provider

  • Email open rates, click-through rates, and conversions
  • Email list growth
  • Email list health

Google AdWords and/or Social Media Platforms

  • Paid ad impressions
  • Paid clicks
  • Paid conversions

Google Search Console

  • SEO success

Funraise Donor CRM

  • UTMs (website visitor sources)
  • Donor conversions
  • Peer-to-peer activity
  • Donation historic trends

Once you know where to find your metrics, the best thing you can do for your nonprofit’s marketing program is set up a recurring time to review these metrics. Maybe it’s every Monday or the last day of the month. 

When you sit down to review your metrics, ask your data some questions. What is the data trying to tell you? What trends are you seeing? What’s working or not working? The more questions you ask of the data, the more insight you can harvest and roll into future work.

Pro-Tip: Many of these programs, including Funraise, offer a super simple way to access the data you need—recurring reports. Instead of seeking data out when you're in a rush, set up these programs to automatically email the reports weekly, monthly, or as often as you want.

10+ Questions Your Nonprofit's Marketing Metrics Should Be Answering

A green pie chart is the pupil of an eyeball on a green gridded background

Before you create your marketing metrics tracking system, a word of wisdom: marketing metrics are only useful if you use them. So, put this practice into your marketing work by asking questions of your data. Here's a list of questions to ask when you update your marketing metrics tracking system.

The 4 essential questions

Blue Ocean Strategy is a must-read for any nonprofit professional, no matter what kind of work you do. The premise of the book is all about developing strategy based on your organization’s unfair advantages. These are typically tactics that come easy to your organization and ones that tend to get great results. The authors have a four-question framework they use to help organizations determine this. 

The questions below have been altered slightly to make them useful for your marketing data so that you can find your unfair marketing advantages.

  1. Based on this month’s marketing data, what should we keep doing at the same level?
  2. Based on this month’s marketing data, what should we do more of?
  3. Based on this month’s marketing data, what should we stop doing?
  4. Based on this month’s marketing data, what should we start doing?

These questions are designed to help you clearly see what’s working and what’s not in order to adjust your strategies and tactics. Personally, we really love question 3—nonprofits often keep doing #AllTheThings because they think they should when in fact there are likely things that just aren’t working that they would be better off stopping. Consider it permission to pare back.

Once you’ve answered these questions for yourself, make a quick list of changes you want to implement for the next month. You may be tempted to make a huge laundry list of new ideas and changes, but challenge yourself to focus. Pick one to three changes you’ll focus on for the next 90 days. You’re more likely to follow through and see measurable results when you focus.

More metrics-to-insights questions to ask

Asking questions of your data is the best way to use your marketing metrics to improve your marketing outcomes. Here are some more questions that you can use to drill down into insights from specific aspects of your marketing program.

  • What pages or posts are the most popular with your donor base? Can you leverage these to send traffic to other places on your website?
  • What are your top traffic referrals to your website? Can you do anything to improve your average monthly results?
  • Did you have a particular social post that got especially good engagement from your supporters? What factors might have played a role in its success? Can you integrate these factors into other content?
  • What’s driving your email list growth? What other tactics could get donors to sign up to get emails from you?
  • Considering your website's stats, what can you try to increase the time donors spend on your site and decrease your bounce rate?
  • How can you use your marketing tools to increase donation conversion rates once donors are on your site?

The theme of these questions is trying to identify which 20% of your marketing efforts are driving 80% of your results. This is the Pareto Principle in action. The idea is to understand the (usually) small portion of your efforts that drive the majority of the outcomes. Knowing this for the different aspects of your marketing program will help you continue to focus on what’s working for your donors and your nonprofit rather than pouring too many resources into tactics and channels that simply aren’t getting results.

Make an action plan

The most important advice we can give you about using your metrics to improve your nonprofit’s marketing is that you actually have to use your insights. It’s easy to track your metrics but never really do anything with them. It’s also easy to ask questions of your metrics, but again... never really do anything with the answers. The best thing you can do to change this pattern is to create a clear action plan for the next 90 days every time you finish updating your metrics tracking system.

This shouldn't be an entirely new marketing plan or a massive laundry list of to-dos; be strategic and create a short list of high-impact action items. Try this quick list:

  1. Restate your goals for each month.
  2. Break out the spaces you want to focus your marketing efforts in, like email, direct mail, Google AdWords, and social media.
  3. Add email or mailer send dates, social media posting dates, or AdWords updates to your planner or calendar.

And finally, the biggest question your marketing metrics should be answering: Is awareness for your mission growing? All signs should point to "Yes!" 

Take These 3 Steps to Measure Your Nonprofit Marketing Effectiveness

A yellow measuring tape wiggles across the screen like a snake in disguise on a red background

It’s time to ask yourself: is my marketing effective? Because whatever your nonprofit's marketing is rolled into, one thing's certain—you shouldn't be wasting precious resources on ineffective marketing. However, according to the 2019 Nonprofit Communications Trend Report, only about one-third of survey participants are regularly measuring their marketing effectiveness (inconceivable!).

To make your marketing exponentially more effective, you need to define your goals, set strategic metrics, and create tools for regular measurement. First, let’s talk about some of the challenges of measuring marketing effectiveness and how to set your organization up for marketing success.

Challenges of measuring marketing effectiveness

Before we discuss how to measure marketing effectiveness at your nonprofit, let’s look at some of the top challenges nonprofit professionals deal with when taking on this kind of initiative. 

  1. Unclear goals—If your organization doesn't have clear marketing goals or objectives, it's going to be much more difficult to measure the effectiveness of your efforts. After all, how can you measure success if you don’t know what the heck you're aiming for? Not to mention, it's difficult to decide on strategies and tactics you’ll use if you don’t have a goal in mind.
  2. Undefined metrics—If you've defined your marketing goals or objectives, but haven’t spent time thinking about what metrics can help you evaluate your success, we get it. It can be hard to measure something like increasing awareness. But without defined metrics, it's gonna be a challenge to measure your marketing effectiveness.
  3. Mistaking causality for results—One of the biggest challenges in measuring marketing effectiveness is trying to avoid mistaking causality for results. What the heck does that even mean you ask? Basically, seeing an uptick in social post engagement doesn't necessarily mean it came from an increase in page likes. It could be from a number of factors. If those factors aren't identified and defined, it will be difficult to determine why or how the increase in engagement happened. 

Set your organization up for marketing success

Now that you're caught up on some of the common challenges of measuring marketing, you might be wondering what you can do to set your organization up for marketing success. We can help with that! There are tons of things you can do to build a solid marketing foundation for your organization.

To help you get started on the path, we recommend following these three steps.

Step #1—Set a clear goal for your overall marketing plan and all marketing campaigns

We've established that unclear marketing goals are a major challenge for measuring marketing, so, guess what the first step is gonna be? That's right, setting clear goals from the get-go! Specifically, we recommend you set a clear goal (or goals) for your overall marketing plan and any marketing campaigns you run. Why? Having a goal in place not only helps you make decisions about strategies and tactics, but it also helps you measure your progress towards your goal.

On average, nonprofits are generally working towards 12 or so core communications and marketing goals. Some of these include: 

  • Raising awareness of your issues to educate people on your cause
  • Brand building and reputation management for the organization
  • Communicating internally with our staff or board
  • Supporting major donor fundraising
  • Supporting event fundraising (galas, walks, etc.)

To prevent overwhelm, prioritize your goals so that you know which one is most important and focus on working on that one first. 

Step #2—Define “success” for each of your goals

Let’s get really real for a sec. Tracking marketing metrics isn’t a perfect science because we have a lot of imperfect options for measurement. Generally, we have to pick a few metrics to help us capture the full picture of our work and results. To select the right metrics, we need to first define what success looks like for our marketing goals.

For example, success for a goal like “raising awareness of our issues to educate people on our cause” could have a number of different outcomes such as:

  • Increasing the number of people who come to your organization for support
  • Gaining more notoriety through earned media and being a sought-out issue area expert
  • Increasing the number of local online conversations about the issue

These outcomes are very different and would be measured differently. That’s why it’s important for your organization to thoroughly define what your marketing success looks like so you can pick the appropriate metrics to measure.

Let’s say we decided success looks like increasing the number of people who come to your organization for support. A few metrics we could track include number of program inquiries, number of program sign-ups, and number of program page views on the website. This is just to name a few, but you get the gist.

Step #3—Create a system for regular and ongoing measurement

Nonprofit friend, you’re well on your way to marketing success at this point. But let’s keep the momentum going and develop a system to measure your marketing on the regular.

For starters, you’ll need a metrics dashboard. A dashboard might sound fancy, but it could be as simple as a spreadsheet where you track your key metrics. Ready to build your own? Zapier can help you build a metrics dashboard, including how to auto-import data from Google Analytics. Now that’s a fancy time saver!

Next, you’ll need to decide how often you’re going to update your metrics dashboard. Most nonprofit professionals find a monthly update sufficient. To stay on top of this task, set up a recurring calendar appointment for one hour each month to update the spreadsheet, review the numbers, and update any future marketing plans.

Finally, metrics are only useful if you truly use them so make it a point to not only look at the metrics but ask questions often. Why are you seeing certain trends? Could you scale certain marketing activities that are seeing good results? Should you eliminate what’s not working? If you do a monthly or quarterly review of your marketing plans, incorporate these questions into your process. 

Measuring your marketing’s effectiveness doesn’t have to be difficult. If you follow these three steps, you can be well on your way to ensuring your organization maximizes its marketing initiatives. We know a lot of creativity and awesome goes into your marketing, so let’s make the most of it!

Social Impact Measurement of Nonprofit Organizations

Blue tonal shapes sit on a blue background with a drone photo of a busy freeway interchange on the left side of the image

Marketing metrics measure whether your marketing efforts are getting results—but what about measuring whether your nonprofit’s work is getting the kind of results you want? Enter social impact measurement. In our data-driven world, folks want your organization to go beyond good intentions. They want to know you’re having an impact.

What do we mean by social impact?

Social impact is having a positive effect on a specific social challenge.

And why would you want to measure that?

By measuring social impact, you can prove that your nonprofit is truly making a difference—and if you’re truly making a difference, more people will want to step up and support you.

But here’s the thing: measuring social impact is hard.

Measuring social impact is pretty darn tricky for a number of reasons. First, there’s no one way to measure it, and there are no agreed-upon metrics of success. Additionally, you’re often measuring concepts like “increase well-being” or “raise awareness” or working on huge issues like “alleviate poverty.” Finally, your social impact is a long-term goal. In fact, if you’re doing a good job, you’ll keep finding new problems to solve and new ways to make an impact over the years. 

What to keep in mind

While your funding comes from donors and grants, remember that you can’t be accountable to everyone all at once. Focus on what matters most to you and your mission, and don’t get bogged down in bureaucracy and numbers. Instead, measure your social impact as it makes sense to your cause. For example, if you provide free meals for houseless folks, it’s easy to report on how many meals you served last quarter. However, if your mission includes solving hunger in your community, that’s much more complicated to prove, as it involves housing, education, and a number of other complex issues.  

So, repeat after us: You can’t prove everything to everyone. Just do your best and try to stay on top of the numbers where it makes sense.

Ultimately, measuring social impact isn’t a one-off project; it’s an organization-wide initiative that continues for the life of your nonprofit. By developing and sharing simple, practical tools, you’ll be in a better position to secure funding and deliver value to everyone, from donors to clients. 

Your marketing data (like your fundraising data) is a super valuable tool. With these tips, you can make the most of it, as well as your other data, and get ready to experience a new level of marketing momentum and organizational success.

Nonprofit Marketing Metrics: FAQs

How can you track your organization’s marketing success?

You can use tools like Google Analytics, HootSuite, Facebook, and, of course, Funraise, to track various success metrics. 

What marketing metrics should nonprofits track?

It depends on what matters to you! If you’re trying to grow your community engagement, track your social media follower count and newsletter subscription rate. If you’re focused on your volunteer program, track volunteer retention rate. And if it’s a single campaign that matters to you now, measure campaign conversion. 

How much should a nonprofit spend on marketing?

Again, it depends on you—and your budget! The more important question is “Is your marketing spend effective?” If you’re not spending wisely, rethink that marketing budget and reallocate those funds.

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