How to Measure the Success of Your Annual and Year-End Campaigns


Can you believe the year is almost over? As we move into the season of giving, it’s important you not only have your year-end strategy in place, but that you know how to measure the outcomes. If you didn’t know, we’re big fans of data here at Whole Whale, and we believe the best way to measure success is to let the numbers speak for themselves.

A brief disclaimer: Like beauty, success is in the eye of the campaign planner. In order to measure it, you first have to remember the goal of the campaign and how it fits into your overall marketing funnel. Was it to get more volunteer signups? To build your email lists? To drive donations? Only when you keep this goal in mind can you truly conclude if your campaign was a success. Then you can use the steps below to measure the success of your annual year-end campaigns.

1. Focus on Metrics That Matter

Running digital advertising campaigns on platforms like Facebook or Google can lead to an overwhelming amount of data to analyze. That’s why it’s important to try to focus on only the metrics that matter the most, the ones that “make the boat go faster.” If you’re running ads on Facebook to recruit volunteers, you want to make sure you’re focusing on the Google Analytics goals related to driving volunteer signups. How many sessions did you drive to your volunteer page? How many volunteer forms were filled out and what are your plans to nurture these people to help further your cause but may still be at the top of the funnel? It’s all too easy to get lost in metrics like CTR or CPC, which are both good to check on to optimize the campaign while it’s running, but once the campaign is over those metrics only tell part of the story. While they’re good to report on and to use as benchmarks (see tip #3!), focus on the bigger picture to avoid getting overwhelmed.   

2. Visualize The Results

Once you’ve narrowed down the metrics that matter, it can be helpful to make that data more visually appealing and actionable. Google Analytics dashboards are a great place to start, but they have their limits. For example, chances are you’re running your year-end campaigns across multiple platforms, but you can’t compare the success of both your Google Ads and Facebook ads in one report in Google Analytics. We recommend monitoring and reporting on your campaigns using Google Data Studio, a free tool from Google that allows you to input multiple data sources into one customizable and beautiful report. Not only does it make it easy to see and compare the metrics that matter the most, but reports can be shared with executive or external stakeholders with just a couple of button clicks. There’s a wide range of capabilities, which is why we put together a Data Studio template for nonprofits to get you started.

3. Compare Against Benchmarks

One of the best ways to measure success is to try beating yourself, because who’s better than you?! Unless you’re a brand new organization, this probably isn’t your first time in the year-end rodeo. And if you’ve been building a data culture at your organization, you have the numbers to form proper benchmarks from previous campaigns to measure whether or not you’ve improved year-over-year. How many conversions did last year’s holiday ad campaign drive? Did the changes made to your strategy lead to an increase this year? While we know your nonprofit is trying to change the world, Rome wasn’t built in a day, so it’s important to celebrate incremental success from time to time that can attest to the growth and impact of your org. Comparing against the performance of other organizations in your cause vertical can be a great measure of success, and can push you and your team to think more creatively to outperform last year’s numbers.

4. Calculate Your Return On Investment

Your ROI, or return on investment, answers the question, “Was it worth it?” Calculating the ROI is especially important in the nonprofit space, where resources are limited and running any digital campaign can seem like a big risk. Ideally, your “profit,” whether non-monetary conversions like email sign-ups or actual donation dollars, should be more valuable to you than the amount of money or effort you spend to get them. If the former statement is true, then it’s a great indicator that the campaign was a success. In other words, you didn’t waste your money! Part of having a high ROI is having clear goals from the start: Ideas of what one email acquisition is worth, or what you’re willing to spend on recruiting a volunteer. At Whole Whale, we measure the ROI of our year-end campaigns by taking the number of hours we put into a project divided by the number of people who derive value from our ads. This calculation will (and should) differ depending on the goals and priorities set by your organization.

So go on and get measuring! We’d love to hear how your org has measured success in the past, tweet us @WholeWhale.

Looking for more? Check out Whole Whale University’s End of Year Campaign Guide! For only $30, get access to our best resources, guides, and templates that will help you to understand the basics of end-of-year fundraising, set goals, optimize your donation experience, and write killer email content.