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The Nonprofit Engagement Metrics You May Have Overlooked

9 min read
June 02, 2023
Neon One Staff
There are a lot of nonprofit engagement metrics that are easy to overlook because they're difficult to track. With a purpose-built CRM, you can gain better insight into your organization by tracking and analyzing what’s important.

Nonprofit engagement metrics can help you understand your organization, but you’ve probably seen the same terms over and over again in your research. While understanding your donor’s lifetime value or your email open rate is great, these numbers alone won’t give you the insight you need to engage your constituents. By embracing a few overlooked metrics, you will be able to go deeper into that information. 

Tracking User Interactions Reveals Valuable Metrics

How someone reacts to content is just as important as how they found that content in the first place. Unfortunately, a lot of the common metrics we use track the first part of their journey but miss the mark on the second. Email open rates, social media followers, and website visits are great starting points, but there are deeper metrics that will help you understand your constituents.

Email Open Rates vs. Email Click-Through Rates

Email open rates are important because they’re going to tell you how many people look at the messages you send—but that’s not the end of it! Your email had a purpose, whether it was a donation request, newsletter, or program update. The email click-through rate will tell you how close you’re getting to that goal. This data point represents the number of individuals who click on a link in your email, which means it gives you valuable insight into the types of calls to action your supporters find compelling.

Your email open rate only gives you insight into factors like your subject line, how effective that is, and the best days and times to send an email. The click-through rate will tell you if the content itself is working the way it’s supposed to or if you need to change your messaging. 

Did you know that the average email open rate for nonprofits is 28.59%, and that the open rate for orgs with smaller email lists is actually higher than the open rate for orgs with large ones? Those are just some of the findings The Nonprofit Email Report: Data-Backed Insights for Better Engagement. This original study from Neon One surveyed over 37,000 email campaigns sent by Neon One clients in 2022.

Want to learn more about the nonprofit email benchmarks that your organization should be using to measure success? Download the full report today!

Visits vs. Time Spent on Page

A high number of visits to a website can mean that a social media or search engine optimization campaign is really paying off. A piece of content on your site or page is getting a lot of attention for some reason. That’s great because it tells you how well you make a first impression on your readers. But it doesn’t give you insight into how well the content itself performs. 

Time spent on page is a more critical metric because it translates to actual engagement. You may have 1,000 clicks but if your average time spent on a page is four seconds, chances are your viewers aren’t getting a lot out of those sessions. Most likely, high page visits and low time spent on page means your nonprofit’s website didn’t deliver what someone  expected when they clicked on your link. While it’s always important to get people to your website, what leads to donations and ongoing support is keeping them there. If you notice a page on your site gets lots of visits but doesn’t engage people once they’re there, you try improving the page’s content or revisiting how you present the information people will discover when they click on a link. 

Social Media Followers vs. Social Media Engagement

The number of social media followers you have is considered an important metric because it shows the reach of your organization on a particular platform. A lot of nonprofits will set goals specifically around getting a certain number of followers to grow their reach. However, this metric doesn’t truly measure social media engagement. It’s like website visits: It doesn’t matter if you have thousands if they never lead to anything. You may have thousands of social media followers, but a large audience isn’t useful if they’re not engaging with your posts.

What you should look at to determine the value of that audience is your social media engagement rate. That compares the number of likes, shares, and comments of various posts to your overall follower count.

So if you posted a tweet to your audience of 10,000 followers and you received 500 likes, 50 comments, and 100 retweets, your engagement rate would be calculated as follows: 

(500 + 50 + 100) / 10,000 x 100 = 6.5%

6.5% is actually a pretty strong social media engagement rate, as most hover between one and 5% because of inflated follower counts. Social media channels typically prioritize showing posts with high engagement rates. Since that’s the case, having a high follower count may be tricky: You’ll also need a higher number of comments, shares, and likes if you want to appear in your followers’ channels. If your engagement rate is low, focus on the quality of your content over the quantity of your followers.

Donation Form Conversion vs. Abandonment

There’s a thing called survivorship bias: We tend to focus on and examine the things we’ve done right versus identifying mistakes and using them to help us improve. That’s the problem with focusing on donation form conversion versus abandonment. Conversion rates—the percentage of people who land on your page and complete a gift—can help you understand what motivates your supporters. But if you’re focusing exclusively on how you got the conversions, you’re missing another important metric: Why people abandon the form without completing their donation. 

Of course, donation form conversion is important. It tells you how many visitors are moving on to donate. But what about the people who start to fill out the form and just abandon it? That tells you that there is a problem with your form. You almost have someone ready to donate and either your form is confusing or too cumbersome to fill out. That is such an easy thing to fix! But you don’t know how to fix it unless you review that abandonment rate. Instead of focusing only on the number of conversions, compare your conversion rate and your abandonment rate. If your abandonment rate is significantly higher than your conversion rate, you’ll know that it’s time to evaluate your donation form and look for areas to improve.

With the right system, you could even narrow down the points where your donors abandon the form—zeroing in on exactly what the problem is. So while both are important, don’t overlook your abandonment rate in favor of focusing only on conversions.

Lifetime Donor Value vs. Net Promoter Score

The total amount that you can expect from a donor throughout their relationship with your organization—the lifetime donor value—is often used as a key metric of engagement. Higher dollar amounts generally equal higher engagement or satisfaction with someone’s relationship with your organization. But that’s not always the case. Your average lifetime donor value can be thrown off by large single donations or a high number of one-time donors. If you want to know how engaged donors are with your organization, the best thing you can do is ask!

One valuable way to gauge your donors’ opinion of your nonprofit is by tracking your net promoter score. It’s a very simple measure of engagement that’s often used in the for-profit sector. It’s a very simple survey where you ask your constituents, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely are you to recommend this organization to a friend?” Scores are then broken down into three groups: 

Promoters (score 9-10)Passives (score 7-8)Detractors (score 0-6)
Promoters are individuals who are very pleased with your organization and would recommend it to a friend.Passives are individuals who are content in your relationship but are not so enthusiastic that they would recommend it to others.Detractors are those who are disengaged or unhappy with the relationship and would possibly discourage others from supporting it as well.

The calculation of the net promoters score is pretty easy. Subtract the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters. So if 30% of your constituents are promoters and 10% are detractors, your net promoter score would be 20%. While that looks low, any net promoter score in the positive is considered good, as it means those who would grow your organization outweigh those who would leave it. 

Tips for Tracking Nonprofit Engagement Metrics With a CRM

A lot of nonprofits’ engagement metrics barely scratch the surface because they’re easy to monitor. It’s easy to calculate lifetime donor value in an Excel spreadsheet—net promoter value or email click-through rates are a little bit harder. That’s why to get the best metrics, you’ll need to use a constituent relationship management platform (CRM). Specifically, look for one that offers: 

AutomationAutomated tracking, data entry, reports, and alerts make it easier for you to follow granular-level interactions that will give you greater insight into your constituents. 
CustomizationNonprofits have different metrics they need to monitor. A system that allows you to customize the fields and information you collect will make it easier to adapt it to your needs.
IntegrationsYour CRM should work with your email management platforms, accounting software, donor databases, websites, and other tools so you can pull all of the information into a single space.
Reporting and AnalyticsA good CRM will offer templated reports for tracking a wide range of metrics and will also allow you to build your own for your specific needs.
ScalabilityLots of CRMs bill based on the number of donor records you need to manage. That can get expensive during periods of high growth! For a more scalable option, choose the CRM that offers a revenue-based billing model that doesn’t penalize you for growing your audience.

With these features, it will be easier to track not just simple metrics but complex ones that can show you the true level of engagement your constituents have with your organization. For more information on using technology to improve engagement, see our resource, Donor Management Software Comparison: What’s Right for Your Nonprofit?

Get the Metrics That Matter With Neon CRM 

The more granular you can get with your nonprofit engagement metrics, the better. That level of information helps you understand your constituents and build relationships with them. A good CRM will help you collect and organize the details that your organization needs to achieve its mission.

Neon CRM is a purpose-built platform that’s designed for tracking a wide range of nonprofit engagement metrics. To see how it could help you engage your constituents, reach out to us for a demo

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