ROI in Non-profit – What Web Metrics to Use

Return-on-Investment – ROI is a common concept used in the business world. Here it is common to argue that “measuring the right metrics — metrics that are in line with your business objectives — can shorten the investigation and ultimately put more profits in your pocket.”

I have been wondering about appropriate metrics to measure impact of various online campaigns by Non-profit organizations.

In his recent posting What Will Replace the Almighty Page View? Steve Rubel – Micro Persuasion provides quick overview of challenges one will need to address while defining and measuring web performance metrics.

Use of RSS, Flash and Ajax (at least in the form of mashups with Google Maps / Yahoo Maps) has been steadily growing on sites for non-profit.

Today it is hard to say what metric most non-profit organizations use to measure their impact of online activities. Quick look at couple of big NGO sites like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, ACLU, Environmental Defense Fund WorldWide one find very little / old information about their web traffic. In case of both AI and HRW web traffic data is quoted in terms of page views and visitors. While in case of ACLU and EDF Google search didn’t yield any useful information. Number of non-profits use free services offered by Alexa to measure their traffic (which is also quotes page views and visitors) .

It appears Non-profit world may take some time before they finetune their web performance measurements and share this data with public.

It is usual that for non-profit world to define impact (of their online advocacy/campaigns) in terms of end results / actions. These actions could include number of letters sent, number of signatures collected (online petitions), growth in donations, number of reports downloaded etc.

Performance of big websites in for-profit world is monitored / estimated by companies like Nielsen, Comscore and Alexa. Finally they have begun reworking their web traffic metrics.

It will be interesting to see how non-profit world (and foundations supporting their activities) respond to these technology led changes in usage patterns to rework their web performance metrics.

PS: After posting above I came across a blogs discussing how NGOs can measure ROI for their investment in Usability. This post summaries original article: Do Government Agencies and Non-Profits Get ROI From Usability? by Jakob Nielsen (February 12, 2007).

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