Digital Marketing, Strategy & Planning

This high-level overview of email, web and social marketing key metrics is for anyone who has been thinking about starting a digital fundraising program or has started using digital but isn’t quite sure how they’re doing or what measures they should be focusing on.


Hey, thanks everybody for participating in this Digital Key Metrics 101 webinar from Allegiance Fundraising Group. My name is JC Bouvier. Thank you again for your time and your participation today. I’ll need about 20 minutes and we’ll go through our perspective on what these metrics are.

Here’s our agenda. I am again, JC Bouvier, I’m the VP of Digital here with the Allegiance Fundraising Group. I come from the nonprofit fundraising world. I worked for an international nonprofit for about gosh, a little bit over 11 years. My last role was with them as a director of digital fundraising, where we drove a multi-million-dollar fundraising revenue bottom line with a whole bunch of teams in a bunch of markets.

And so now that I’m on the agency side, I work primarily to help nonprofits around the country improve and create fundraising programs specifically for digital. I want to go through some other elements. In the course of this presentation, we’ll have an overview of what we’re going to go over.

We’re going to have a a conversation quickly about digital versus other fundraising channels. We will talk about the big three, email, website, and social key metrics. And then we will do a Q and A. So let’s get into it. The overview section, I really just wanted to talk about our philosophy really, about digital fundraising and why key metrics are so important. So digital or online is it sometimes called, it’s really about measurement, which is no surprise. If you’re coming from any other channel, if you are a direct response fundraiser or work in telemarketing or what have you, measurement is one of the key aspects of the program that you really need to establish. And collecting the data from the thing that you’re measuring over time is how you are able to better turn your process as it needs to be turned to all the things that are working versus the things that aren’t. And we really are talking in this presentation about the main channels again.

So that’s email and your website and your social activity. Those three things really are what drives the bulk of fundraising through the digital fundraising process. And so that’s what we’ll focus on in the context of this presentation. I did want to call out a couple of differences of digital versus other fundraising channels or, again, from a philosophical perspective, digital is not a replacement for your offline fundraising channels.

Digital is from our perspective, really a supporting player in the mix of fundraising. We really want to be working with all the other areas of the organization, including marketing and direct mail and customer, constituent service to make sure that digital can help inform all of those efforts. And really digital, we see it as the way to really sustainably build your file.  File growth using digital should be happening as the internet is open 24 seven and 365 days a year. We should be using the tools of the internet or the tools from your organization to get an email address anytime we really can. And then properly managed, really by growing that audience in the same way that you would grow a direct mail audience, growing that donor audience is about having as many qualified leads to convert as possible. So in the same way that you would utilize a mail list, we want to be growing our e-file so that we can drive the new donor growth.

Again, our three main areas of digital focus will be email, website, and social marketing. So let’s get into that.

For email metrics we bucket it into two spots here, stewardship and fundraising. As I’m sure you’re all aware, email stewardship, donor stewardship really, is a key to any successful fundraising program. And the donors who give, even the newsletter subscribers who are just fans of the organization but haven’t given, really want to see how the support they’ve given to you has impacted the world from your mission.

Telling donors those stories is really important. And particularly as a leading to the times when you’re going to be asking, those are really key messages to send so that when donors are presented with a fundraising request that they understand why they’re responding to continue the good work that you’re doing.

Overall, stewardship emails outperform all other types of emails, typically, largely because they are those feel good moments for the supporter.  Everybody loves to read them versus a fundraising ask, which not everybody is all the time ready to give. So they do typically outperform. And the metrics that we’re really focused on are really no surprise, but just to go through them specifically from how we look at it, active list size is a biggie for us. Our first real metric. And active list size is different than just say your email list size. If you have a hundred thousand names on your email list, but only a thousand people on the email list are actually opening and responding to your emails, then really you only have an active list of a thousand people.  That’s an important distinction. If you don’t know how many active email addresses you have on your file, I would work with your team to try and get to that answer. It’s an important distinction and one that we really focus on as digital fundraisers. Open rate, click through rate, and conversion rate, even for stewardship emails are important, are your top level metrics.

And these are out-of-the-box reports for most service providers or email platforms. Open rate is, as it sounds, the number of people open email, click-through is the number of people who click. And then ask conversion rates in stewardship. Sometimes you attach maybe an annual report or a wallpaper, the people who download those things is a good measure of how, much interaction people are having with your stewardship emails.

On the other side of the email metrics channel are the fundraising emails themselves. Many of the same suspects here, active list size, open rate, click through rate, conversion rate. Again, no real surprises, but these are the top point metrics. Where we add a couple, and really unsubscribes is everywhere, but where we really add them certainly around fundraising, is in the number of, or the average gift amount, the number of gifts, and then the average size of the gift are key metrics that we want to be keeping an eye on over time. Any particular or any, one email can, vary greatly for many of your baseline metrics, so you want to be sure to establish that baseline. But it obviously varies by organization for the number of, and the average amount of a gift. Unsubscribes however, really should be a fraction of a percent with each send. Every now and then you may see a spike and sometimes that can be about a controversial message or an error in a send that can cause an unsubscribe spike.

It’s just something you generally want to keep an eye on as you continue to send emails to your subscriber list. And this is an out-of-the-box standard report. Again, many email platforms provide standard reporting like this out of the box.  If you haven’t seen a report like this, if you dig a little into your platform, I’m sure there’s one available for you to start measuring with.

Moving into top level key metrics for the website that your organization runs. Again, we’ve bucketed into two different areas to focus on for performance metrics. One is the landing page and the other is your overall site performance. For site performance and for landing pages, there’s again, common metrics, but there are some nuances to how they differ.

These days, mobile is the default for consumption of web content.  if you aren’t thinking mobile-first in your site design and site construction and even copy length on sites, and the same is true for landing pages, then you should start thinking that way because most people are interacting with your organization on a mobile device first, and then perhaps on a desktop device. Load time for your organizational website is a big deal, and for any website, really. If you haven’t recently visited your organization website on your smartphone, I encourage you to do that.

Look at your donation page, look at your homepage, look at your interior pages and get a sense of how long they take to load. If those load times are taking more than four seconds, a four count, then I would encourage you to work with your web team to reduce that load time. Sometimes it can be as simple as a really large image that accidentally got loaded instead of the compressed version, or it can be something like a broken link that can cause problems. But it’s definitely something you want to keep an eye on, particularly ahead of large fundraising campaigns. Bounce rate for websites overall, typically between 40 and 60% is a good, healthy bounce rate.

And what bounce rate means is that when people hit your website, how often are they leaving directly after they hit it? You want roughly 40 to 60% of your web traffic to be on your site because they want to be there and 40 to 60%, depending on your website averages, will just be like, Oh Nope, this isn’t for me, and they leave right away.  That’s one of the things that bounce rates measure. And then referring sites. I like to keep an eye on who is sending traffic my way. And I also like to keep an eye on that all the time, because it can change.  Sometimes you’ll get a spike from a site that you hadn’t realized was referring traffic and perhaps it’s a partnership opportunity. On the landing page side of things, what’s important is that, again, you’re loading that page as you test in a mobile device to get a sense of how someone might be interacting with it. And so you want to keep an eye on that metric and see if there’s a drop-off particularly as you look at the next metric, which is time on page.

I like to look at my split between mobile and desktop traffic, and then what is my split between the time on page for mobile versus the time on page on the landing page for desktop.  That’s a good way to get a sense of which is working or if they’re both working or if perhaps someone is seeing some trouble. Again, bounce rate, it’s typically higher for a landing page because you’re driving to a landing page probably from an email or some other area maybe a social post and people will hit the page, do what they’re asked to do, and then leave. So not unusual to see a 70 or 80 or even 90% bounce rate on a landing page. So don’t be alarmed if you see that number. Obviously, conversion rate is a big key metric. You want to know how the page is converting against your goals. So if you have a fundraising goal, how did it convert versus the last time you sent people to that page?

And then of course, referring sites again. Sometimes donation pages, particularly the main donation page, maybe linked to from another organization or a news article.  Understanding where those references are coming from, how those sites are driving traffic is really helpful. And I just wanted to note here at the bottom of the slide that this data, you can get all this data and all this reporting for free using the service that Google offers.

And it really is pretty simple to install. Usually any web person can make simple work of including it into your website. I encourage you to deploy that if you haven’t already. Here’s an example, report from Google Analytics, again, calling out many of the key metrics we were just discussing, and you can utilize this tool to really hone in on all kinds of different audience information that Google collects and offers back to you as someone who deploys their code.

I wanted to talk also about organic social key metrics. Organic social has become a mainstay now. It’s no longer just a fad. Facebook is here to stay by all accounts. So no surprises there and all the other social networks or social platforms that either Facebook owns or that you might be using in your organization.

We tend to look at this in two different buckets again.  That’s the channel itself.  How is your Facebook page working overall, your Facebook strategy? And then how are your Facebook posts performing?  Again, no real surprises here. But the number of fans and followers for your channel used to be more important than I think it is today.

But it helps you understand how well your reach is performing when you’re posting.  To understand how many fans and followers you have using a reach number, you can understand what your organic social reach is by post, which is really helpful.

They also give you an average. Facebook or even Twitter or Instagram reporting tools can help you understand that. Engagement rate and channel performance, a little different than engagement rate at the post level performance. This again is an average. It’s really helpful to understand whether or not your page is active and working to do what it should be doing inside of Facebook, which is driving awareness of your mission and all the other things that you’re doing as an organization. So a good healthy metric to keep an eye on. Again, reach. I just wanted to make sure that everybody understood reach is really just talking about the number of people potentially who saw your post or your page, not the actual number who did.  It’s the potential audience. One of the other things we keep an eye on from the channel performance side is the frequency of posts.

Obviously, a page that only posts once a year is going to have a completely different performance or set of key performance metrics than a page that posts three times a day. So that’s not necessarily something that Facebook specifically reports on, but when we’re doing our work to try and understand how effective organizational social is, we’d look at that number because that really tells us how active the page is.

And then I call out reviews because oftentimes it’s an overlooked area of social channels who offer them.  I believe Facebook and Twitter offer reviews. But Facebook reviews, I encourage you if you have a page to look at those reviews, sometimes there’s some great comments there that have been overlooked, and sometimes there are disgruntled supporters who need to be spoken to about what happened. If they had a bad experience with the organization, you want to engage them and try and change their perspective on your org. I encourage you to take a look at that. I’d also encourage you to look at your post performance. That’s the other side of the key metrics. I would encourage you to look again at reach, just so you understand what your potential audience is.

And then the actual engaged in terms of the post level. If you are including a call to action, which I recommend you do frequently, if you have one that drives back to your website, I encourage you to include that in your postings on a regular, maybe not on every, but as frequently as you think it makes sense. That’s an important metric. And then of course, all of the standard stuff that you see on Facebook or Instagram posts, whether that’s a share or like, or on Twitter, a retweet. Here’s an example of a page dashboard in Facebook and the kinds of key metrics that you can see here.

So all kinds of really detailed levels of activity that you can drill into in Facebook’s insights tools. Those tools are also available for Instagram. Twitter has it, I think it’s  All these tools are really helpful. And one of the things I like about working in digital, is that each of the platforms typically does offer those types of reporting tools just for using their platform and free of charge. I encourage you to check those out. I did put in a bonus slide about paid metrics or paid social marketing key metrics. Again, we do a lot of paid social advertising, largely really trying to drive return on investment around program goals for our clients.

We’ve run a lot of Facebook Lead Ads. We’re really trying to drive net new names to the email file so that when the time comes and we’re helping to run fundraising asks, we’ve got as many qualified people on the file as possible. I encourage you to take a look at that as a program area that you should consider if you have available budget to run ads. I also encourage you to look at your ad performance, obviously. We want to be looking at all sorts of things that you want to have for each specific ad.  That’s the number of conversions, the cost per click, the cost per conversion. We want to look at segment performance if you’re using custom audiences in the Facebook advertisement tools. And we want to look at the performance versus other advertising channels, if you’re using other ad channels. Here’s a screen grab of a dashboard that came from an ad set from Facebook. So you get a sense again of how these reports give you these details over time.

And so we really encourage, if you are going to do some social advertising, that obviously you’re doing your best to get the reporting that helps tell you how you performed. To conclude, to help establish an ongoing digital program, we really think gathering, reviewing and establishing your program base level of key performance indicators is the first step.

And that’s something that we help clients with all the time. And so while doing it once, is really great, you really want to be doing it for each sub channel. So again, the big three, email, web, and social, and then over each period of time, which for us roughly translates to each month, each quarter, every year, and then for your campaign period, so that you can measure campaign success year in and year out.

I really appreciate everybody’s time today and thank you for your attention. My name is JC Bouvier and I am the VP of digital here at Allegiance Fundraising.

And there’s my contact information. Have a great rest of your week. And I look forward to seeing you on the internet. Take care.