Reaching Your Nonprofit Goals with Marketing Benchmarks

Created by Jackie Lalley


Marketing-Benchmarking-101Whenever the time comes to create a new marketing plan, one of the biggest challenges is knowing where to start. Maybe some colleagues want to begin with the budget, while others dive straight into website updates, the social media calendar, or a new blogging strategy. 

All of those things should inform your marketing plan, but they shouldn’t be your starting point. Before creating a marketing plan, look at your organization’s big-picture goals for the coming year. Now, consider: What marketing activities and resources are necessary to achieve those goals? 

This concept, known as “backward planning” or “backward design” is common in educator circles. It’s also the second habit in Dr. Stephen Covey’s bestseller, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People — that is, “Begin with the end in mind.” 

So, begin with your nonprofit’s end goals for the year. The next step is identifying your starting point. This is where you’ll dive into benchmarking.

What Is Benchmarking?

Benchmarking is the act of recording your current marketing and website efforts and how they’re performing. This record serves as a reference point for your team to look back and compare to in the future. 

By taking time for marketing benchmarks, you acknowledge that you can only set effective, appropriate goals by clearly defining your organization's current state of affairs. Benchmarking takes some time on the front end, but it will save you time and frustration throughout the rest of the year.

How to Begin Benchmarking

To know where to go, you have to know where your organization is now. So, how can you identify and define your current marketing reality? With data. 

Use these key tools for collecting key data about your current online performance:

  • Google Analytics — website traffic data
  • Google Search Console — indexing status and website visibility data
  • Facebook Page Insights — demographics data and audience response data
  • Twitter Analytics — tweet activity and follower data
  • LinkedIn Page Analytics — data about the effectiveness of page updates and follower/visitor data

Key Benchmarking Metrics: What Should You Measure?

While key metrics are relative to your organization’s size and the community you serve, many nonprofits start with the following metrics:

Website Metrics

  • Number of visits, visitors, and unique visitors to your website
  • Website bounce rate
  • Time on website
  • Current SEO rankings for important keywords
  • Domain authority

Social Metrics

  • Number of followers, new followers, and unfollows
  • Likes, comments, shares, and saves

Marketing Metrics

  • Number of new leads or form submissions
  • Number of new e-newsletter subscribers
  • Number of donors
  • The total amount of donations brought in

Key Benchmarking Actions: First Steps

Now you know what benchmarking is, where to find relevant data, and which data to record. Compile this information in one place, disseminate it among relevant staff and board members, then move forward with the following action steps:

  1. Connect Google Analytics to your website.
  2. Connect and verify your site for Google Search Console.
  3. Create a spreadsheet to record key metrics (listed above)
  4. Enter at least three months of data into a spreadsheet.
  5. Claim your organization's local profiles on Google, Yelp, Bing, Yahoo, etc.

Once you have your benchmarks in place, you’re on your way to creating a nonprofit content marketing plan that will lead your organization toward greater impact.

Ultimate Guide to Nonprofit Content Marketing