Nonprofits Profit From Web Analytics Volunteers

You know it’s a great idea when it pops up in more than one place at the same time. There were lots of people working on the motor car, the airplane, and the telephone, but Karl Benz, the Wright brothers, and Alexander Graham Bell get the credit, respectively. Credit aside, these were great ideas whose time had come.

Such is the case with two Web analytics projects that appeared within weeks of each other after each had been in development for a long time, unbeknownst to the other. Credit, however, is due and can easily be attributed to two men who have worked long and hard to make online marketing more measurable, each in their own way.

The projects are Eric T. Peterson’s Analysis Exchange and Stéphane Hamel’s work within the Web Analytics Association on Web Analytics Without Borders.

Eric Peterson has been a one-man industry community builder from the beginning. He created the first online discussion group about Web analytics, the Yahoo Web Analytics Forum, as well as Web Analytics Wednesday, a self-service, open-source, distributed event. Translation: you want to get together with other Web analysts in your city? Click there and set it up! This isn’t a passing fancy. It is “Organized by local hosts, paid for by generous sponsors, and enjoyed by over 10,000 people worldwide.”

Now, Eric has established the Analysis Exchange. Once again, he capitalizes on the Internet as a self-service medium and offers the chance for self organization to bring together 1) new Web analysts who want to learn from mentors, 2) mentors who are willing to donate some of their time educating the next round of analysts, and 3) nonprofit organizations who don’t know how to do Web analysis and/or cannot afford to hire consultants or find interns with any experience.

In a nutshell, a nonprofit makes its data available for review by experts and their mentees for short-term projects, the experts volunteer their time to show novices how to do analysis, and novices sign up to get real-life tutoring from real-life experts and get to practice their skills on real-life data to help real-life organizations which help the disadvantaged. What’s not to love?

“Causes gain access to a global network of free web analytics resources, mentors contribute to the growth of the entire industry, and students gain experience mining data for actionable, analytics-driven business insights.”

A wonderful idea that has gained astonishing traction in a very short amount of time. Hundreds of analysts, students, and organizations signed up within weeks.

Web Analytics Without Borders (WAWB) has been equally successful on a more focused scale with a more specific assignment. Where the Analysis Exchange has gone for scale, WAWB has gone for depth.

Stéphane Hamel teaches a graduate class on Web analytics at the Université Laval and created the Web Analytics Solution Profiler. Most notably, he developed the Web Analytics Maturity Model as his MBA project, which he offers free from his website and on which he delivers workshops around the world.

A member of the Web Analytics Association board of directors, Stéphane is working closely with Adam Laughlin from Save the Children to create a collaborative, cooperative ensemble for helping this nonprofit become a data-driven organization. It is a long-term, limited participation effort intended to have a material and significant impact on a single nonprofit – a nonprofit that helps millions of children around the world every year.

Becoming a “data-driven” organization is not a trivial task. Yes, the team performs Web analytics and will do A/B testing and search engine optimization (SEO) and other search marketing work. But the team’s mission is to change Save the Children’s corporate culture. They have gathered to “develop stakeholder interaction, management buy-in, internal processes, and more.”

Along the way, WAWB will uncover what it means to be a 20-something strong, virtual team, as well as set the bar for waking up nonprofits to the power of Web business analysis.

These two projects, approaching the nonprofit sector from the bottom up and the top down, are one of the clearest indications that Web analytics as an industry is valuable, growing, and maturing. We have become good enough at what we do to donate our time and talent to others in need.

Eric and Stéphane, I am proud to know you.

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