Sep 1, 2020

Complete guide to using Google Analytics for nonprofits

google analytics

Image courtesy of Morning Brew

The world is changing fast, and fundraising is changing just as rapidly. To accommodate these transformations, nonprofits are strategizing ways to improve their digital presence and reach donors online, most turning to Google Analytics to achieve their goals.

Whether you’re already familiar with Google Analytics or run from the mention of data statistics, we’ve created a complete guide outlining the many ways your nonprofit can benefit from what Google has to offer.

What is Google Analytics? How does it work?

Google Analytics is a powerful tool that acts as a specially trained eye for your website’s traffic.

Looking at your homepage, you can see photographs, videos, text, call to action (CTA) buttons, testimonials, links to other pages and so on. Google Analytics sees more than that. It sees who you are, how you got there, where you are in the world, how you’re interacting with the page, where you’re going next, how long you’re spending on each page, and if you’ve been there before.

Google Analytics works on three funneled levels:

  1. Account level: Your organization has a single account that acts as a place for Google to send you the data it gathers.
  2. Property level: Now that Google knows where to send information, it needs a place to gather it. Think of properties as a place for Google to set up a home — in this case, it’s your organization’s website or subdomain.
  3. View: With this home established, Google is ready to look for information. The view is a filtered perspective of a specific property, and you can customize it to look for goal-specific data.

We’ll get into the different types of data you can track to maximize your campaign’s capabilities, but first, why is Google Analytics better than any other software?

5 reasons why every nonprofit should consider using Google Analytics

Operating any part of a nonprofit organization requires a lot of work. Google Analytics supports your decision-making and ensures you’re learning in real-time using the most accurate information.

Of the many reasons to use Google Analytics, here are the top five we feel can truly help your nonprofit thrive and get the recognition it deserves:

1. Benefit from using Google Ad Grants

Google recognizes its power to help nonprofit organizations. With this understanding, it started Google Ad Grants, providing a monthly $10,000 in-kind advertising fund for text ads and access to campaign-building tools.

You can create, target, and optimize your organization’s campaigns with this funding. When people search for your nonprofit organization or efforts similar to yours, Google will place an advertisement toward the top of the search engine results page (SERP) to maximize your exposure.

Before Google grants you the funding, you’ll need to see if your organization is eligible for a Nonprofits account. Once you’re verified, all you’ll need to do is activate your account and start advertising!

2. Receive greater accuracy

Your annual reports are indispensable — there’s no denying that. Sharing real, personal stories about your organization’s mission and community impact is inspirational and sparks interest in members with shared values. Although indispensable, annual reports can sometimes be misleading, creating a courtesy bias of sorts.

Google Analytics tracks accurate data from every webpage visitor, even if the visitor’s values don’t entirely align with your mission statement. You can see the unconcealed interactions with your company and discover what people like — and more importantly, what they don’t.

3. Measure ROI

For a nonprofit, you want to know where your money is going and if it’s generating revenue. If so, great! If not, where else can you funnel that money?

Google Analytics measures your return on investment (ROI), showing you with dollar amounts and visual representations what your advertising spending is generating. Once you set goals, you can prompt Google Analytics to track specific advertising efforts to see what’s worth your time, effort, and money.

4. Track goals

Once you integrate into Google Analytics, you can set organizational goals and put a laser focus on those objectives and interaction rates. Track goal types like:

  • Destination goals: When a donor donates, navigate them from the submission page to a “thank you” page URL. This URL is an example of a destination page. You can track the action with this page, which indicates the number of people who have donated.
  • Smart goals: Using Google’s sophisticated algorithm, smart goals sort, and analyze your visitors and transform their interactions into objectives. Specifically, the algorithm determines what content the top 5% of your traffic is engaging with based on signals like session duration, location, and device type.
  • Event tracking: An event, as defined by Google Analytics, is a triggered action. Examples of an event include clicking a contact or donation button, engaging with an advertisement, or pressing play on an embedded video. Events can’t be tracked using destination goals, so use event tracking as an equal alternative.

Goal tracking is particularly useful for conversion tracking, a strategic decision-making tool we’ll explain in detail later in this guide.

5. Save money

The best part about Google Analytics is that it’s free!

In 2019, public charities — which account for over three-quarters of revenue and expenses for nonprofits — generated $2.04 trillion, with over 95% spent on expenses. Using Google Analytics, nonprofits can increase revenue and better support their community and mission statement.

Most important Google Analytics reports for nonprofits

For some people, the amount of information Google Analytics presents feels like a puzzle. Starting from the ground level, we’ve outlined the most important Google Analytics reports you’ll want to keep an eye on to help eliminate the noise.


In the old days, you could refresh your webpage and rack up website views with each refresh, resulting in inaccurate engagement rates. Users track the unique number of people who visit your campaign, meaning one person can view your link 10 times, but Google Analytics will record one unique user.


Let’s say that a user interacts with your website on Monday. Then, on Wednesday, they visit again. These are two different sessions, defined as a single user’s interaction within a given time frame. Because a user can have multiple sessions, you’ll most likely find that session reports are higher than the number of users.


A single session can have multiple pageviews depending on the user’s navigation and interaction rate. You can also break this down into pages per session, which provides a more detailed overlook of the quality of your traffic. The higher the number, the better.


Bounce rate

A “bounce” refers to whenever a user leaves your website without any interaction. An interaction includes visiting another page within your website, clicking a video, or responding to a CTA. If only one user visits your page then leaves immediately, Google Analytics will report a 100% bounce rate. So, the lower the number, the better the traffic quality.

Exit rate

When a user doesn’t “bounce,” they can exit from any page, which Google Analytics tracks and calculates as an exit rate.

For example, say a user started at the homepage, navigated to the about page, then landed on the donation page and exited your website. Even though three pages were visited, the algorithm counts the exit rate based on the last page visited. Each page will have its own rate.

Average session duration

Calculated by dividing the total time spent on every session by the total number of sessions within a given time frame, the average session duration is an estimation of how long a visitor spends engaging with your site.

New vs. returning users

Google Analytics segments page visitors into two groups — people who have never visited your site before and those who have. This estimation allows you to determine if you’re attracting new audiences and keeping the loyalty of existing ones.

Website traffic

Found under the Acquisition tab, the website traffic element can be broken down into categories to pinpoint exactly where visitors are coming from and how different segments are performing. Aside from unidentified channels, your traffic splits into five categories:

  • Organic search: These are users who visit your website based on relevant keywords or search terms, often from a SERP.
  • Direct: This occurs when a user visits your website by directly typing or searching your site’s URL.
  • Referral: You get a referral if a user clicks on your website’s link from another site.
  • Social: This happens when users navigate to your website from a social media link.
  • Paid search: This category comes up after a user arrives at your website from a paid advertisement link.

By learning which category generates the most traffic, you can make data-based decisions when dedicating advertising efforts, like increasing pay-per-click (PPC) marketing or producing more search engine optimization (SEO)-friendly content.

Behavior flow

The behavior flow is a visual tool that shows your users’ journey throughout their sessions. Specifically, Google Analytics shows you what content your users find most engaging and what content they aren’t as interested in. You can also pinpoint which pages are bringing in new traffic — often your homepage or about page.

Acquisition device report

Equally important is knowing what content your users prefer, you should know what device they’re using to view it. Google Analytics breaks down device categories into desktop, tablet, and mobile, further detailing how much revenue each group generates. Usually, most people engage with websites using mobile devices.

Conversion tracking for nonprofits

Going back to organization goals, what are you hoping to achieve through your website? Do you want to increase ticket sales, attract more volunteers, or encourage more email sign-ups?

Nonprofits that use conversion tracking can see whether the number of visitors who engage with their site is higher or lower than that of competitors. They can also discover how those users respond to specific advertising efforts.

What is conversion tracking?

Conversion tracking is a Google tool that tracks users’ actions specifically related to your goals, whereas clicks only measure generalized website traffic.

You can import your goals directly from Google Analytics. Set up your conversions to read accurate information, as not every key performance indicator (KPI) is equally influential to your objective. When setting up conversions, Google will prompt you to assign weights, values, and time frames to your KPIs for the most authentic data.

What should nonprofits track?

Google recommends tracking these aspects, broken down into four main categories:

  1. Purchases: This includes any donations, memberships, ticket sales, or other sales.
  2. Sign-ups: Sign-ups include volunteers, newsletters, new memberships, accounts, or other events.
  3. Leads: This category encompasses any lead generation through call or email buttons, contact forms, information downloads, or links to other social media accounts.
  4. Key pageviews: This involves contact page visits, session durations, and pages per session.

Consider your organization’s strengths and areas for improvement when determining your goals and tracking conversions.

How to evaluate website performance

Ultimately, Google Analytics’ reports show you the health and overall impact of your website. Depending on the quality and quantity of content, your website performs on a spectrum between good and bad, and Google gives you the tools to determine where it is performing.

You can evaluate your website’s performance in many ways, including:

1. Landing page conversion rate

A landing page conversion rate tells you how effective your CTAs are at encouraging people to donate. In this context, the landing page is your donation page, and you’re measuring the total number of visitors against the total number of donations made.

To calculate, divide the number of visitors by the number of donations and multiply that value by 100.

2. Donations conversion by traffic channel

By seeing what traffic channel — organic, direct, referral, social, or paid — brings the most donors, you’ll know where to dedicate targeted advertising efforts and interest. More so, this information tells you what attracts other users to your website and how you can improve both sides.

To quantify donations conversion by traffic channel, segment the total number of donors into categories of individuals who responded to a channel-specific CTA, as estimated by Google Analytics. Divide the total number of donors by each donor segment, then multiply that value by 100.

donation conversions

3. Donor growth rate

Most likely, one of your goals is to increase donor rates either monthly or annually. To see how effective your efforts are at attracting new donors, use the following formula:

  • Donor growth = ((most recent year’s donors – last year’s donors) ÷ last year’s donors) × 100

Using the same formula, you can also calculate the overall donation growth rate. If you’re using different time goals, ensure the numbers follow the same measurements. For example, this month’s donors subtracted by last month’s donors.

4. Donor retention rate

Comparatively, another goal you might have is to retain relationships with existing donors. A good donor retention rate indicates high brand loyalty, possibly demonstrating that you’re publishing content that maintains your organization’s image and mission.

To calculate your donor retention rate, determine last year’s donors and quantify how many donated again this year. Then, divide the number of returning donors by last year’s total donors.

5. Advertising ROI

Your goal for advertising is to generate a positive ROI, meaning for every dollar you spend trying to attract a donor, you want them to donate $2. If you’re in the positive, that may indicate you’re funneling your money into the right strategies.

Calculate advertising ROI by dividing your total advertising costs by the donations raised.

You can also calculate your advertising strategy’s health by comparing last year’s and the current year’s ROI. Your method may be generating more funds, but if it’s steadily decreasing efficiency, you may want to start brainstorming other plans.

4 ideas to grow your mission via your website

Your website is the window into your organization, where you communicate who you are and what your mission is. Based on how you share that information, you can attract loyal donors and volunteers to help you achieve your goals in serving your community.

Based on Google Analytics reports, you can grow your mission visibility by:

  1. Making your mission clear: Without scrolling, your visitor should know who your organization is and what you stand for. Put your mission statement front and center, then engage the user from there.
  2. Creating a donor-friendly experience: If a donor is ready to make a contribution, they don’t want to navigate through mazes of pages and information. Odds are, they’re eager to donate, so make the donation button easy to find and save the extra information for the thank you page.
  3. Encouraging volunteer recruitment: Your mission relies equally on volunteers as it does donors, so make volunteering buttons and CTAs easy to find, too.
  4. Designing mobile-friendly navigation: Worldwide, there are approximately 4 billion unique mobile users. Make sure your website accommodates this mobile expansion and is easy for these users to navigate.

As you improve your website, continually track your Google Analytics reports to see how your users respond.

Connect with donors online and find success #OutsideTheRoom 

Many nonprofits are seeking success #OutsideTheRoom, and websites are a big part of that. Learn how others have succeeded in adapting their fundraising strategies for 2020 and beyond by checking out our GiveSmart resources on #OutsideTheRoom fundraising!



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Register for any of their free courses through GA Academy.


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