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Google Analytics 4 and fundraising: what charities need to know

On Saturday the 1st of July 2023, the standard version of Google Analytics - Universal Analytics (UA) was replaced by Google Analytics 4 (GA4). Many charities may already have GA4 up and running and understand its features and metrics. However, if that isn’t the case, you are not alone! In this article, we explain some of the key differences between the two analytics platforms and how charities can use this opportunity to develop deeper insights into their supporters and fundraising campaigns.

What is Google Analytics 4?

GA4 is the latest iteration of Google’s web analytics platform, designed to provide organisations with a more comprehensive understanding of their users’ behaviour and engagement. GA4 uses an event-based tracking model, which means it focuses on individual user interactions and journeys rather than traditional session-based tracking. Its aim is to provide a more advanced way for organisations to monitor user behaviour on their websites and mobile apps.

What are the key differences between Google Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics?

Although GA4 and UA look similar on the surface, they operate quite differently. Rule Analytics provides a comprehensive breakdown of the differences between the two platforms, but we have picked out three of the top distinctions for charities to note.

Data collection and privacy: Perhaps the most fundamental difference between the two platforms is their data collection model. Universal Analytics uses a cookie-based approach, relying on unique client IDs and third-party cookies for tracking users. However, in response to calls for enhanced data security, Google has been phasing out cookies for several years. GA4 focuses on individual user actions or events, and attributes them to specific users without the need for cookies.

Event tracking: GA4 places significant emphasis on event tracking, allowing users to track and measure various actions such as form downloads, button clicks or video plays, rather than just page views and sessions as is the case with Universal Analytics. This gives organisations a deeper understanding of the way their users navigate the site and the actions they take.

Reporting interface: GA4 introduces a redesigned reporting interface with improved data visualisation and navigation. Charities can access key performance metrics and customise their reporting more effectively, facilitating data-driven decision making.

How will the transition to Google Analytics 4 impact charities’ fundraising performance tracking?

Charities shouldn’t be intimidated by GA4: it provides an opportunity to understand and serve their supporters better. Here are some key considerations:

1. User-centric tracking: GA4’s tracking approach provides a more comprehensive view of user behaviour across devices and platforms. Charities can gain deeper insights into donor journeys, identify patterns, and understand the impact of different touchpoints and channels on fundraising conversions. This can help optimise your fundraising strategies and personalise the donor experience.

2. More customisation: GA4’s user interface offers more flexibility and customisation options, enabling charities to monitor the data that is most important to them. Organisations can track specific fundraising-related actions such as donation clicks, form submissions, or campaign interactions. By capturing these events, charities can more accurately measure the effectiveness of their fundraising efforts.

3. Improved cross-domain tracking: Fundraising campaigns often utilise multiple digital channels to spread the word. GA4 simplifies cross-domain tracking, allowing charities to monitor donor interactions across multiple websites or subdomains. This is particularly useful for charities that operate separate donation sites or make use of third-party donation platforms. The ability to track donor engagement seamlessly across domains provides a more holistic understanding of donor behaviour.

4. Machine learning-powered insights: GA4 uses machine learning to provide deeper insights and predictive metrics. This can help identify potential donor segments, forecast fundraising outcomes, and optimise campaigns.

5. Privacy and personal data management: GA4 offers enhanced privacy features, which align with evolving regulations and user consent preferences. Charities can manage data deletion requests, customise consent options, and ensure compliance with privacy regulations such as GDPR. This helps build trust with donors and demonstrates a commitment to data security.

6. Reporting on campaign performance: The redesigned reporting interface in GA4 provides charities with a more user-friendly experience for navigating and accessing key performance metrics. Charities can easily explore and visualise data related to their fundraising campaigns, making it easier to identify trends, track conversions and measure campaign effectiveness. GA4 offers comprehensive reports, enabling charities to share insights with stakeholders and make data-driven decisions.

In summary, the transition to Google Analytics 4 offers charities the opportunity to gain deeper insights into their fundraising performance, step up their analytics, and align with evolving privacy regulations. With the Enthuse Charity Pulse Report 2023 revealing that 60% of donations are now done online, the move to GA4 is a valuable step forward for charities, enabling them to effectively monitor and enhance their fundraising activities in an increasingly digital environment.

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