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So you work at Nonprofit XYZ and increasingly you hear about other organizations' success in utilizing Google Analytics to increase impact. Worried about being left behind, you bring it up at your next staff meeting, and you're surprised! You hear lots of your colleagues agree about how great it would be to have this information.
So, what next? You spend a ton of time crafting a plan for the organization so that you can begin and gathering baseline numbers, while also setting up tracking systems. To be effective, you need some more information from your co-workers, but something has changed since that initial meeting.
Now that you need information and help from them (which translates into time out of their busy days), no one is responding! When they realize you aren't just going to be able to implement this yourself, they see you as a nuisance.First, they stop replying to your emails, and then they begin ducking behind walls to avoid you in the hallway.
You soldier on and set up Google Analytics, hoping that the data can start a conversation with everyone, despite the initial reluctance. However, after a few months, you realize no one is tracking their progress or using any of information gleaned from Google Analytics. Instead, the account remains untouched except when you log in. Pretty soon, you stop caring also ... it is just too much work when no one is supporting your efforts.
Sound familiar? Is the fear of this situation preventing you from even approaching the topic in the first place?
Integrating data and analytics into your organizational culture can be a huge hurdle to overcome. While a 2014 IBM study on organizational change found that 88 percent of respondents believed leveraging new technologies would be the biggest change they would encounter in the next five years, 74 percent also admitted that their organizations were not fully prepared to adapt to an increasingly digital world.
People might find it confusing, they don't want to learn new tools, and since you are at a nonprofit, you are probably already working long hours with a ton on your plate.
The rewards of integrating analytics tracking can have huge payoffs, from attracting more donations to increasing visibility and impact to gaining more volunteers with creative, smart, and targeted messaging. But the only way to do this is through figuring out what works — and having organization-wide buy-in.
Well, you know your organization best, but in general, the best ways to speak to your colleagues about integrating analytics into everyday functioning are through a three-pronged approach focused on vision, participation, and presenting prototypes.
Vision: What is your organization's mission and what is the long-term impact of using your web analytics? How can learning about your performance and modifying it appropriately help your organization realize its long-term vision? Creating an overlap of between your goals and the organizational change you are trying to implement is key in creating successful buy-in. At a basic level, this stems from the idea of making a compelling case for change that fits with the already existing organizational objectives.
Don't create all new goals — explain how the change in methods will contribute towards the objectives you have always had. For example, knowing how a new donor heard about your website can help you target outreach towards those sources to increase future fundraising goals. Looking for new newsletter signups? You can increase that number exponentially if you know where previous conversions came from.
Participation: Change in organizational culture stems from successful participation at every staff level. This begins with the CEO or president, who needs to articulate what she or he sees as the fundamental importance of dedicating staff time towards these goals. The top management of your organization helps to provide a role model by setting a meaningful example of how the rest of the staff should follow and embrace change.
However, change also needs to include buy-in from managers, coordinators, and directors who can articulate why analytical tracking should be part of employees' personal goals, development plans, and strategic thinking. At every level, colleagues in various positions will need to participate in best practices, training, and tracking to make the shift successful.
One way to foster this begins with open dialogue discussions for staff to ask questions, surveys to learn about attitudes and pre-existing skill level, staff-wide training, and dedicated staff time.
But you can also make it fun! Data might seem boring, but what if you hosted weekly analytics meetings on Tuesday mornings over coffee? What if you brought in lunch for the office if you were able to hit key benchmark goals? Maybe you can even set up a raffle for people who are able to guess the target numbers for a certain period. All these methods can create a fun atmosphere around your new data culture.
Prototype: It is one thing for you to articulate why integrating data is important, and it's another to show your colleagues why. Running data insight reports after the first few weeks, or months, of monitoring your change in behavior can show your colleagues concretely why it is so important to monitor and modify web analytics as part of your organizational functioning.
Oftentimes, when your colleagues can see the results of their hard work and time, it is easier to convince them to further put in the effort. Therefore, reports and monitoring, especially at the earlier stages, are important to getting over the initial buy-in hurdle.
What if these ideas don't work? Well, show them these case studies of organizations that we have seen benefit enormously from utilizing Google Analytics.
Whole Whale has been working with Power Poetry, the largest online platform for teen poets in the U.S., for more than two years to build a more data-informed culture. In the early days of the site, the organization's goal was to bring in more poets, but its staffers didn't know exactly where to find them. Looking at the data in Google Analytics, we found that certain referral sources brought in very high-quality traffic (users who stayed on the site for a long time and were more likely to submit a poem).
Learning which sites were sending highly interested users gave us more ideas for places to post about Power Poetry and websites to strengthen the relationship with. Ultimately these strategies helped grow the community to more than 225,000 poets, 75 percent of which came from the referral network we built.
Whole Whale worked with Salvation Army to help recruit new preschoolers for their first year Universal Pre-Kindergarten program. By implementing Google Analytics tracking on parent information and sign-up pages, we could see which channels were sending the most qualified parents.
We were advertising on several different platforms, and instead of dividing our budget evenly and hoping for the best, we used analytics to continually check how different platforms were performing. We then updated our budgets accordingly so we could spend more money on the platforms that were creating the most leads for the program.
When Whole Whale first started working with the National Stroke Association, Google Analytics was in place but it was used mostly to report vanity metrics like total sessions and total PDF downloads.
After a year of looking at monthly insights together and configuring goals that relate more directly to the organization's true impact (spreading stroke awareness), the team members have built an impressive data culture, using past data to project future performance and make decisions about how to budget marketing dollars. Instead of relying on hunches, they trust the data and use it to broaden their impact.
It might not be easy, but it's worth the work you put in.
Image: Fabrice Florin / CC BY-SA