Self-denial is an awesomely powerful management tool.

Your goals and KPI’s are business focused

Metrics are bits of data, Key Performance Indicators indicate the success of your business.  Here’s how to tell if you have a good KPI: if your KPI directly impacts your ability to continue to get a paycheck, it’s a good KPI.   Good KPI’s are things like money, volunteers, visitors to your facility.  If your digital marketing makes these things go up, you will probably continue to get a paycheck.

Less desirable KPIs are things like email addresses, likes and follows on social media.   If these things go up, you may or may not be able to make money from them, and you may not be able to continue receiving a paycheck.

One staffer pulls your metrics every week on the same day and talks through them with your colleagues

The kiss of death for any non-profit analytics program is to have to share a spreadsheet between two different people who pull numbers from different sources.  Inevitably it takes most of a week to pull the numbers, and then when you get around to studying them, the data you’re looking at is two weeks old and your ability to react is slower.

I recommend for my clients that they end their weeks on a Sunday, pull their metrics on a Monday, and then meet to discuss them on a Tuesday, no earlier than 10:30am.   This way, if you’re out of the office on a Monday, there’s still time to pull them on Tuesday.

Your KPIs are all actionable

There’s a variation on an old saying that goes, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure”.   This implies as well, “You shouldn’t measure what you can’t manage.”   Nothing makes a non-profit analytics program irrelevant more quickly than looking at a number that varies week after week that you can’t do anything about.  After a while, smart people usually say, “Why is it important for us to study this number?”  And then they stop.

If you don’t have a very clear plan for what you will do to improve a degrading KPI, then perhaps it’s something that shouldn’t be a weekly KPI.  Perhaps you should pull it monthly (or even less often), because influencing it is going to require large, strategic changes, instead of the small tactical ones that you can do from week to week.

You have very few KPIs, and therefore don’t need a complex, full screen dashboard

Having too much data to pull makes the process take a long time, and can impact your ability to pull them on a regular basis.   If you feel that you need a large, full screen dashboard to present your KPIs, you’re probably doing it wrong by looking at too many numbers.  Having four or five for your executive team is a lot.

You occasionally dive down into channels and study their metrics, but you don’t confuse them with KPIs

Your open rate, your click thru rate, and your unsubscribe rate are all indicative of the health of your email marketing channel efforts, but they are not indicative of your business success.  The amount of money an average email raises per delivered piece, however, is most certainly a KPI of your business.

This doesn’t mean you don’t study your email marketing program with analytical rigor, it just means you don’t confuse email-channel-metrics with business performance goals.

You keep your data in a very accessible format, such as Excel

Armed with nothing more than an Excel spreadsheet, you can conquer mountains.  ”But why should I pull that data out of my analytics program and put it into Excel?”  Because:

  • Analytics tools don’t keep data forever (Google Analytics drops your data after 24 months).
  • Graphing things is really easy when your data is already in Excel.
  • Excel is the lowest common denominator of office tools so everyone can view your data.
  • Excel also has some pretty bad ass statistical analysis tools, like correlation and standard deviation.
  • You won’t have to worry about your data changing out of from under you if something in the cloud changes.


Here’s to hoping you can find at least one of these flaws in your nonprofit analytics program, and change it for the better!

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