Google Data Studio for nonprofits: A step-by-step guide (plus template)

Data Studio Video Walkthrough!

If you work with data at your organization, you know the work that goes into presenting the right metrics in a clear, concise, and visually-appealing way. You love data, but you don’t love cluttered Excel sheets. And while Google Analytics’s default dashboards are informative, they aren’t visually-appealing. 

Reports can get even more complicated when you’re combining several data sources into one view. Want to analyze your Google Ads and Facebook advertising campaigns side by side? Want to track digital fundraising progress across multiple donation sources? A spreadsheet doesn’t cut it. 

Google also knows how much work this can be. That’s why they developed Google Data Studio, a data visualization tool to create beautiful, shareable, and easy to assemble reports. Data Studio makes it easy to load, present, and share data in customized reports. Visualizations include bar charts, pie charts, and time series. Look at all that data! You can even customize fonts, colors, and logos to stay on brand. 

How to use Google Data Studio dashboard

 

One of the coolest Data Studio features is the ability to add multiple data sources to one report. You can seamlessly mix and match Google Analytics, Google Ad Grant, and YouTube analytics data. You can even upload your Facebook analytics or Twitter analytics data, as long as you put it in Google Sheets first. Basically, any data you put in Google Sheets can be uploaded to Data Studio too.

Reports are dynamic, meaning you can refresh data sources to get up to the minute data.

Data Studio has the same functionality as Google Docs and Sheets, so reports are viewable and editable for multiple users simultaneously. Sharing is a piece of cake, too: Just click Share and copy the link to send to team members, or schedule the report for automatic delivery.

How to use Google Data Studio dashboard

 

We’ve even created a Google Data Studio Template for Nonprofits to help you get started. Make a copy of the template file, connect your org’s data sources, and you’re off! Don’t worry — we’ll help you navigate along the way.

How to use a Google Data Studio Template

After clicking the template link, accept Google’s terms and conditions. Then go to File » Make a Copy to copy the file into your own account.

The first step to creating a new report is connecting your data sources. Click on Create New Data Source to navigate to the data source menu.

How to use Google Data Studio Create Report

 

Our nonprofit Google Data Studio template incorporates Google Analytics and Google Ads data, so you’ll want to connect both your Analytics and Ad Grant accounts. To connect Google Analytics, authorize access for Data Studio and choose the desired account, property, and view.

Click Connect in the upper-right-hand corner to add the data source to your report. You can follow the same process to connect your Google Ads data. Then click Create Report, and you’re ready to go.

How to use Google Data Studio create new report

 

Note: Google will tell you that “one or more of the Data Sources used in this Report is not attached.” Don’t worry about this message. This refers to the original data sources we used to make the template, which you don’t need for internal reporting. Simply click Maybe later and proceed to your report.

Properties Panel

Once inside, the Properties Panel is where you can configure and customize your charts.

How to use Google Data Studio dashboard

Data Tab

The Data tab is your control panel for changing data sources. Use the Style tab to experiment with fonts, color scheme, and display options.

How to use Google Data Studio edits

Google Ads

Connecting Google Analytics and Google Ads allows you to see data from both sources side by side on the Google Ads page.

How to use Google Data Studio revenue tracking

Data Studio’s top menu bar is where you can find available chart options. You can customize your report here, changing existing charts or adding new ones to tell a story with your data.

This template is a great starter, but it only scratches the surface with what you can do in Data Studio. That includes connecting YouTube Analytics, MySQL, and DCM data directly, as well as any data that can be transferred to Google Sheets. You’re just a few clicks away from an all inclusive, easy to understand, customizable report to share with your team. 

In our experience, the best way to learn Data Studio is by diving in and trying it. Google also offers great video tutorials to help you learn. We shared resource links throughout the template to help, too.

How to use segments in Data Studio

As of March 2017, Google introduced Google Analytics segments in Data Studio. This feature has been much sought after and requested by Data Studio users. Ask (Google) and you shall receive. Segments in Data Studio work exactly the way they do in Google Analytics. Applying a segment to your Data Studio widget filters data the same way it would in a Google Analytics dashboard or report. There are 3 types of segments available:

System

Predefined GA segments available to all users in any view. Automatically usable in Data Studio.

Custom

User defined segments, like custom metrics and dimensions, that aren’t available in all GA views. Must be added to Data Studio report to use.

Shared

Segment created and shared by another Analytics user. Must be added to data studio report to use.

Once a segment is added to Data Studio, all report editors can apply it to any combination of widgets. This includes a single chart, a group of charts, a page, or the entire report.

To add a segment to Data Studio, you must be able to edit the report and you must have access to the segment in GA. The data source for the widget must be based on the GA view in which the segment is defined. Only one segment at a time can be applied to a widget, group of widgets, or page.

Segments in Data Studio synchronize with Google Analytics. This means that updates to a segment’s configuration in GA carry over to Data Studio. Synchronization occurs when you refresh the data in your report or when the cache expires. You can turn off synchronization using the Resources » Segments menu.

How to use Google Data Studio template

 

Be careful when changing data sources for a widget where a custom segment is applied. If you connect a new data source, and its configuration is different from the view in which the segment was created, the segment can break. Ideally, you should avoid changing data sources for widgets where custom segments are applied – unless you’re certain that the new data source supports that segment.

Let’s do a quick tour of segments in Data Studio. Segments are located below Filters, in the bottom right of the data editing panel.

How to use Google Data Studio Segmenting

 

Choose ‘system segment’, ‘custom segment’, or ‘shared segment’. When you apply a custom segment, you’re giving all report editors access. To apply a segment to an individual widget, click on the widget and then select the desired segment.

How to use Google Data Studio Widgets

 

To add a segment to the entire report, click on Report and Theme Settings. Then choose the segment you want. The segment will now apply to your entire report.

To continue learning how to use Google Data Studio, check out this awesome tutorial from MarketLytics and this Facebook ad template from Supermetrics. Or if you feel like you’re ready to start creating dashboards of your own, here is our Ultimate Guide to Nonprofit Dashboards.

 

 


Walkthrough of the Custom Template