Basic digital metrics nonprofits should know and understand

by Amy Wong, president, Dot Org Solutions | Jun 10, 2021 |

Marketing and Communications, Leadership, Strategy and Planning |

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The pandemic has forced many people to do more things online, from grocery shopping to work and many things in between.

That familiarity and regularity of being online for consumer goods and services is translating to increased online traffic for nonprofits. Not only are people searching for consumer goods, but they are also searching for nonprofits to support financially, help them with services and provide important information that will help them solve a problem.

Here are some basic digital metrics that all nonprofits should know and understand.

EMAIL

Delivery rate

  • What is it? The percentage of emails that have been delivered to their intended recipients (delivery rate = emails sent/bounces).
  • Why does it matter? The higher the delivery rate, the better job you are doing at reaching your intended recipients. Organizations with low delivery rates are more likely to be marked as spam by email service providers, which reduces the opportunity for your email to reach your constituents.
  • What is a good delivery rate? A rate of 95% is considered good. Hard bounce rates shouldn’t be higher than 3%.

Open rate

  • What is it? The number of emails you send that have been opened, divided by the recipients (open rate = the number of email opens/the total recipients x 100).
  • Why does it matter? The more people that open your emails, the better chance you have of them taking the action of the intended email – donate, register, read an article, etc.
  • What is a good open rate? The industry average is 25.5%; well-performing organizations (the top quartile) average 46.2%.

Click-to-open rate (CTOR)

  • What is it? The percentage of unique people who open your email and click on something (click to open rate = number of unique people who clicked on a link or ad/total email opens x 100).
  • Why does it matter? Click to open rates help you understand the effectiveness of the solicitation, ad or information you are sharing.
  • What is a good CTOR? The industry average is 15.8%.

Click through rate (CTR)

SOCIAL MEDIA

Page likes and follows

  • What are they? Indicators that people support your page/organization. Likes show support and follows indicate interest in content appearing higher in a feed.
  • Why do they matter? When you have a high number of likes and follows, your organization has a larger audience for its messages.
  • What do your numbers mean? The number of likes and follows can help you understand where to spend your time and set digital marketing goals for your organization.

Shares

  • What are they? When a post is forwarded to a user’s audience – i.e. sharing a post, video, link, etc.
  • Why do they matter? Shares mean your content is being distributed to a wider audience and has a likelihood of accomplishing a particular marketing goal (i.e. program registrations, donations, job applicants, etc.).
  • What do your numbers mean? It depends. Shares can be very valuable when a user with many followers or an influencer shares your content and people take a desired action. Or they can be detrimental if there was a negative story about your organization that was shared with a wide audience.
Clicks
  • What are they? When a user takes the desired action from your social post or ad – clicks a link, plays a video, etc.
  • Why do they matter? As a nonprofit, one of your main social media goals is to get people to take actions with your posts. Clicks are indicators of action.
  • What do your numbers mean? A higher number of clicks should lead to more people completing your call to action.
Interactions
  • What are they? A combination of likes, shares and clicks
  • Why do they matter? These numbers help marketers understand the most relevant content for their audiences.
  • What do your numbers mean? This depends on the goals of your content strategy. Do you want more donations, more registrations, more clients? Your post interactions can tell you what works for each communications goal.

Impressions

  • What are they? The number of times a post appears in someone’s feed.
  • Why do they matter? These don’t really matter too much if your goal isn’t to have someone to take action on your post. (Hint… you always want your posts to have purpose.) Impressions don’t mean that someone has done anything relevant (donated, followed a link, etc.).
  • What do your numbers mean? Not much, frankly, unless this information is combined with other relevant metrics such as interactions, clicks and shares.

WEBSITE

Traffic
  • What is it? The number of visits to your website over a specified period of time.
  • Why does it matter? More people are researching nonprofits online. Understanding your website traffic and visitor habits will help you better plan your content and marketing efforts.
  • What number should I be looking at? The amount of traffic and types of traffic are important. If you have a high number of mobile users, make sure your site is optimized for mobile. If you are seeing increases in traffic and new users, determine what is causing those increases and if those increases are good for your organization. On the flip side, if you see decreases in traffic and users, find out what may be happening and adjust.
Bounce rate
  • What is it? The percentage of website visitors who leave your site after visiting one page.
  • Why does it matter? The lower your bounce rate, the more pages/information your users see and the more likely they are to take the action on the page that you want them to take.
  • What is a good bounce rate? Nonprofits average a 60-70% bounce rate. A good bounce rate is between 41-55%.
Conversion rate
  • What is it? The percentage of time that people perform the action you want them to on a page (fill out the form, submit the contact us button, donate). (Conversion rate = number of actions/number of page visits)
  • Why does it matter? When you are sending people to a particular page via a link, it is good to know how many people are actually doing something with it and taking the action you want them to take.
  • What are the benchmark rates? The nonprofit average is 1% for the entire website. Donation pages average 22%. (Source: M=R Benchmarks)
Content performance
  • What is it? The frequency that content on your website is being viewed combined with the bounce rates on those particular pages.
  • Why does it matter? Informative content for your audiences is why your website exists in the first place. If people aren’t interacting with your pages, then you aren’t leading them to complete any calls to action.
  • What should I be analyzing? Look at content that is performing well via Google Analytics – high traffic, low bounce rates – and see if you can determine what is working. Also look at poorly performing content and determine why people are leaving your site via that page (bouncing) or not coming to it at all.
The great thing about digital marketing is that the information can help us determine what is working and not is working because of the readily available data. Understanding some basic digital concepts and putting them into practice will help your nonprofit reach its audience in a way that is more thoughtful, targeted and effective.