Measuring Engagement Online
For a non-profit organization, it is critical that people become engaged. The organization has a mission, and advancing that mission inevitably involves engaging people for financial, volunteer, or other kinds of support. Society doesn’t change without a push, and the organization is there to provide that motivation. The website plays a role. Exactly what that role is may change between organizations, and in today’s world, it’s almost guaranteed to be an important factor.
But meeting the goals of a non-profit organization is an ongoing process. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to advance the mission without being able to measure progress. In measuring engagment with people through a website and other online strategies, having tracking tools such as Google Analytics and social media analytics is only the tip of the iceberg. Even more important than gathering the numbers is having the ability to understand and interpret what the data is saying.
Engagement is not a yes/no option – different people will engage with your organization at different levels. It is up to each organization to build their own model for levels of engagement, and to use their website to support their efforts.
In the for-profit world, this is a well-studied topic, often referred to by terms like “marketing funnel” or “customer path”. It is the process that their customers pass through that eventually leads to buying a company’s products or services. It usually looks something like the picture below, although each business will have their own terms, and may add or subtract stages to the process depending on their particular situation.
For non-profits, there are similar paths and stages for how people are engaged. Although there are quite a few models out there for a “non-profit marketing funnel”, the reality is that the goals of non-profits are much more varied than in the for-profit world, so the models are themselves more varied. What is your ultimate level of engagement? Is it a volunteer? Is it a regular donor? Is it a commitment to action? Is it a participant? Maybe there are multiple streams that are applicable to the organization. Perhaps it looks like the diagram below, or perhaps it looks more like a plate of spaghetti, with multiple directions.
Although the web site is an important component of engagement, it has to be remembered that a website is simply a tool to help a non-profit meet its goal. It should be designed keeping in mind people who are at the various levels of engagement in your model, and the website can encourage them to advance up the chain. It should be easy for someone at each level to find the information that they can relate to, and it should provide what they need to move to the next level. And it should be measured as it happens.
There are a variety of website actions that can be recorded, and they can be interpreted in terms of the levels of engagement model for the organization, such as:
- visiting multiple pages
- downloading white papers or fact sheets
- making an on-line donation
- engaging with or sharing social media posts
- joining a mailing list
- sending a contact email
- filling out an on-line quiz
- accessing or downloading resources
- inquiring for nearest location
- signing an on-line petition
Studying your analytics can link your email campaigns, e-news, social media posts, on-line advertising and search traffic to successful user interactions, known as conversions, on your website. Armed with knowledge about which channels are successful in connecting with and converting your target audience helps a non-profit better target its resources and increase its return on investment in marketing and communications.