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Data is confusing right? It’s the reserve of the techies in the IT department isn’t it? It’s probably your most useful asset after your staff. The trick with data is to know what is useful and reliable and what is not. In essence there are two things about data that everyone should realise. 1) How to capture and store data and 2) How to analyse and understand what it tells you.

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It’s the exam question for every charity: how do I know what success looks like and how will I know when I’ve got there? Data and its interpretation is key to answering this question. In this chapter our experts Clare Bamberger and Matt Collins will explain how to manage data, what to measure and how to set meaningful goals.



  • So think, what are the business questions we need answering?
  • Who is going to be looking at the results of the analysis?
  • What information will I need to capture to answer these questions?
  • How can I store/order this data so that I can easily access it in the future?


  • What is insight? (Insightful)
  • Data for charities (NCVO)
  • Making use of public data (ONS)
  • ICO data protection guides for charities (ICO)



  • Make time for analytics. Train your team and make them understand its importance. 
  • Learn from your data and make sure you feed it back into your next campaign. It will make your next activities more successful and save you money.
  • Avoid detailed reports that no one can understand. Keep things simple and be sure to include annotations that outline exactly what the data means and what you plan to do with it.


  • The biggest mistakes web analysts make and how to avoid them (Avinash Kaushik
  • 10 useful Google Analytics custom dashboard (Econsultancy)
  • Goooooal - why social media is nothing without Analytics goals (Platypus Digital)
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When capturing data think hard about what you are going to use that data for. That focuses your data capture techniques. So if you are promoting a regional campaign aimed at 30 year olds, location (postcode) and age are essential items to data capture.


For the vast majority of human beings spreadsheets are a very scary thing. Why do you think on election night the BBC have maps, graphics and opinion pieces to explain the goings on of a general election. Jeremy Vine isn’t stood on a big spreadsheet is he?


Essentially there are two types of data - Quantitative & Qualitative data. Quantitative data is numbers/massive amounts of information - things you can put in a spreadsheet. Qualitative data is opinions, thoughts, words, feelings maybe even pictures. Separately they both have their merits, but together they are very powerful.

In an odd way, you can actually have too much data.


Analytics simply means the gathering and analysing of data which will tell you whether your charity has succeeded as its digital activities or not. The data might be how many clicks your Facebook ad has had, or how many donations an email campaign helped generate.

Example campaign metrics - see below for definitions of these terms

Measuring success for charities
Jonathan Cook

We’ve probably all got databases, but they are so much more than simply a filing cabinet. Coding your data will enable you to easily find it again - that’s why libraries have the dewey decimal system, so they can locate a specific book quickly. We worked with Diabetes UK to design and implement a data-coding system across their fundraising and finance databases that allows one click analysis by product, channel, region, month, year, and team.

Getting the data out of a database is as important as putting it in. Think about what reports you can run on your database. For the above campaign example - can you easily produce a list of contacts which looks at age and/or location?

 Understanding the data you have is about turning it into something the majority can understand. Q: What do your customers look like? A: Draw a picture. Q: Where do they live? A: Plot them on a map. Q: What products are they buying? A: Make a nice pie chart.

There are many free tools out there including: 
Power BIQlikFreemaptools Google Data Studio

Map data charity digital toolkit


GDPR is a piece of EU regulation reinforcing the rights of “data subjects” (i.e. the person the data is about) and applies from 25th May 2018 to existing and new data you hold. If you are not sure how compliant you are, conduct a data protection self-assessment. You can also ask the ICO to conduct an audit. You must report any breaches to the ICO and fines for misconduct can be up to €20m or 4% of turnover. NCVO have an array of resources available on this subject. ICO also have numerous toolkits and guides available here. ICO recently held a webinar which is a very useful primer on data protection around fundraising: 


Because data should be used to make business decisions, agreement on what data you are looking at is essential. Too often people do not trust the data, so make bad (or worse, no) decisions. From the outset, agree on what you are looking at - “we want to look at lapsed customers”, then define a lapsed customer and apply those rules to the analysis.

Matt Collins


When it comes to running digital campaigns, analytics should be one of the fundamental parts of the process. Yet, even in 2017 it is still often an afterthought. How are you going to know what success looks like unless you measure it? If you’re doing digital right, this will demonstrate its value to your board.


If you’re measuring the success of a digital campaign, compare the data you’re getting with past data from similar activity to establish whether it was successful. This doesn’t need to be complicated - just do a simple spreadsheet with some key metrics, like this one.

Campaign metrics example


Google offer a free certification in Google Analytics which everyone involved in charity digital should undertake. It offers a grounding not just in analytics, but in website strategy - forcing you to ask the question - so why do you even have a website?

Here’s an example website strategy for a modern slavery charity:

Example website strategy

Each strategy exists to achieve the overall objective, with various tactics used to deliver the strategies. Finally, KPIs are set to measure the success of your activities. For example, to support the strategy of increasing the charity's supporter base, one of the tactics is to increase sign ups to the email newsletter. A KPI for this strategy is the number of newsletter sign up clicks. 


If you are sending out an email asking a supporter for a donation, will you be able to use Google Analytics to see that a supporter made a donation on your website from your email, and what link they clicked to get there? 

1) eCommerce tracking: If you take donations or shop purchases on your website, ensure that eCommerce tracking is set up. It will open up a whole world of useful data for you. If you are looking to re-design your website at any point, ensure that it has donations and eCommerce ‘on page’ not only will this increase revenue, it would also make it easier for you to analyse the data. 

2) Goal tracking: The simplest goals you can create in Google Analytics are destination goals such as your donation thank-you page or a campaign page. Other more complex goals to track might include someone registering their details, signing up to your newsletter, watching a video or spending more than two minutes on your site. 

Goal setting example

Example destination goal example

3) UTM tracking: If you are sending out an email asking a supporter for a donation, will you be able to use Google Analytics to see that a supporter made a donation on your website from your email, and what link they clicked to get there? Google Analytics will help you track your sources of traffic, but won’t by default tell you which particular campaign was effective from Facebook. By using a unique URL for each campaign, you can really gain some useful insights.

4) Internal site search: If you have a search box on your website, tracking the queries that people are making is highly valuable. You can find out if there are gaps in your service offering and the words that your supporters use to describe what they’re looking for.

This charity website shows that just 7% of visitors use the site search, but these visitors have a much higher conversion rate. 

5) Goal Funnels: You can set up funnels in Google Analytics to see where people drop out in the process. Tweaking your donation or service sign up process could result in an increased take up for your services or donations. Hotjar also offers a nifty funnel tracking tool.

Here are just some of the metrics that you can apply to your marketing campaigns


KPI examples
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Jonathan Cook
Matt Collins