Impact Hacking: Digital strategies for nonprofits
4.4 (37 ratings)
Course Ratings are calculated from individual students’ ratings and a variety of other signals, like age of rating and reliability, to ensure that they reflect course quality fairly and accurately.
388 students enrolled

Impact Hacking: Digital strategies for nonprofits

Tactics to measure, grow, and optimize your nonprofit impact
4.4 (37 ratings)
Course Ratings are calculated from individual students’ ratings and a variety of other signals, like age of rating and reliability, to ensure that they reflect course quality fairly and accurately.
388 students enrolled
Last updated 7/2019
English [Auto-generated]
Current price: $27.99 Original price: $39.99 Discount: 30% off
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This course includes
  • 2.5 hours on-demand video
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Certificate of Completion
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What you'll learn
  • Understand how web traffic relates to impact for your organization
  • Choose and implement the growth tactics that are right for your organization
  • Explore new tools for optimizing your website toward conversions
  • Google Analytics access for your organization so you can follow along on some of the videos will be helpful
  • Website access for your nonprofit will be helpful so you can implement these strategies

Impact hacking [working definition] – a process of rapid experimentation across marketing channels to identify the most effective, efficient ways to grow a nonprofit’s web traffic to grow its impact.

“Growth hacking” has gotten a lot of talk recently in Silicon Valley. Startups are trying to find the fastest ways to get their products in the hands of users and grow their revenue for investors. As nonprofits, we can adopt this mentality and harness it for good – which is why we are excited to bring you this course on #ImpactHacking.

We want to help you go from zero to 60 with your nonprofit’s web traffic. Why do we care so much about growing traffic? Because we know that, if done correctly, more traffic to your website will mean more impact for your organization. This course will move through four phases of Impact Hacking:

  1. Measure – Why does traffic even matter? How does it help your organization change the world for the better? Understand how to tie your organization’s mission to measurable, concrete goals on your website and other web platforms. Make sure you understand how to use the data to see what is working (driving more impact) and what isn’t. We’ll help you make the case that more website traffic equals more impact for your organization.

  2. Grow – Tried and true techniques to boost web traffic. We know that nonprofits don’t have the fancy ad agencies and huge marketing budgets to compete with the big brands. In this section, we’ll look at the free and cheap resources that nonprofits can use to game the system and get major traffic growth.

  3. Optimize – Now that you’ve boosted your web traffic, it’s time to make sure that you’re getting the most out of your users. One small tweak to your site could mean the difference between 100 and 1,000 conversions over time. In this section, we look at ways to improve your site over time through design and technology and make sure it’s working as hard as your marketing efforts are.

  4. Build capacity – This is not a one-time growth hack. We want you to integrate these techniques and approaches into the fabric of your nonprofit’s culture. We’ll look at some ways to build a data-savvy team and keep them connected to the data so that everyone has a stake in your organization’s growth. You may find that you need to bring in outside help to really take your growth to the next level, so we’ll talk about how to find trusted vendors for your web projects.

Along the way, we’ll share case studies from Power Poetry, an awesome nonprofit organization that used all of the strategies we discuss to build their poetry platform from 0 to 300,000 active users.

This course will give you all the fundamentals you need to build a digital strategy for your nonprofit team and jet-start your nonprofit’s impact hacking.

This is a shortened version of our full-length course. To get additional information about the Google Ad grant, tech tools, and hiring, check it out in the university section of Whole Whale's website.

Who this course is for:
  • Executive-level staff looking for new strategies and interested in “learning what they don’t know”
  • Marketing and communications directors looking for ways to boost website traffic
  • Marketing associates who want to build skills to take their work to the next level
Course content
Expand all 27 lectures 02:25:02
+ Introduction
1 lecture 01:34

Welcome to the course! Here’s an outline of what we’ll learn together.

Preview 01:34
+ Part 1: Measure
6 lectures 32:11

Why do we need to talk about impact? The first step toward Impact Hacking is to define the metrics that matter for your organization, so you know which numbers you want to grow over time. In this section we’ll help you build that bridge between online actions and offline impact to help you steer the ship correctly in your impact hacking pursuits.

Preview 01:45

Here’s a crash course on tracking your nonprofit’s impact. Define your purpose and intent, choose the predictive outcomes and indicators, and make a plan for tracking this data over time. For more information on nonprofit impact, check out

How to Measure Nonprofit Impact

In this video we walk you through two worksheets you can use to help track your nonprofit’s impact: the measurability chart and the funnel of digital engagement. Make your own copy of these charts and edit them using this template: 

Walkthrough: mapping impact through engagement funnels

We’ll give you four reason to use Google Analytics to track your nonprofit’s impact. 1. Anecdotal reports can be misleading, 2. Google Analytics counts everything, 3. Improve content that’s working, 4. Track the goals and indicators you outlined in your impact mapping!

More information on Google Analytics on the WW website:

How can Google Analytics measure impact?

Learn the difference between "how many" metrics and "how good" metrics and where to find them in Google Analytics.

Google Analytics basics

Learn how Power Poetry decided which metrics were important for their organization, and how they used data to make that decision. Also hear the Tale of the Spammers - a cautionary tale about measuring the metrics that truly matter and not getting distracted by bots, who don’t actually help your mission.

Power Poetry makes a lot of their web data public. Check it out at

For more on bot traffic, check out these two episodes from the Whole Whale podcast:

Case Study: How Power Poetry measures their impact
+ Part 2: Grow
7 lectures 39:42

Welcome to the fun part - grow! There are five channels that might drive traffic to your website. We’ll steer you towards the ones that are most helpful for nonprofits.

Introduction to growth hacking

Welcome to Digital Advertising 101! We’ll go over a few reasons you might want to “pay to play” with digital ads. We’ll also tell you about a free grant that you probably qualify for: The Google AdWords Grant. Go to to sign up. This article will guide you through the application process:

For more on the Google AdWords grant, check out our other course on this topic:

Digital advertising for impact

Go beyond boosted posts and learn about all the different types of ads you can run on Facebook. We’ll show you a few of our favorites: clicks-to-site ads, video ads, conversion ads, and lead generation ads.

Learn about Instagram ads:

Learn how to get creepy and find the best target audience for your ads:

Learn more about the Facebook Pixel:

If you don’t believe us when we say not to buy social media followers, here’s a cautionary tale:

Preview 05:40

Learn the basic recipe that will drive an awesome social media strategy. How often should you post? What should you post? We’ll give you a few ideas. Here are some more resources that will help you build out your following and engagement on all different platforms:

Your essential guide for growing your social media followers:

Is it worth it? Finding the ROI of social media:

23 Ideas for social media posts:

A beginners guide to Twitter Analytics:

How to dominate Pinterest:

Periscope for impact:

Take your social media to the next level with our full course on Social Media for nonprofits:

Using social media to drive impact

Learn how Power Poetry found the right type of content that increased their organic traffic 500% year-over-year. Then, learn how SEO (search engine optimization) and SMO (social media optimization) can help you market this content to drive traffic to your site.

16 tips for writing for the web:

Content doesn’t have to mean only written content! Check out 101 of the best nonprofit podcasts:

Writing content to capture more users

Get technical and learn how to put your content and site in the best position to rank high in search results. We’ll go over X tips to keep in mind.

More resources:

What the heck is a meta description?

SEO for images:

Check out for keyword research

Search engine optimization: getting technical

Power Poetry grew from 0 to 300,000 poets in three years and has 200,000 monthly active sessions each month by using each of the tactics in this section.

Check out some examples of content that has helped Power Poetry capture users searching for poetry writing tips:

Learn more about the growth Power Poetry has had:

Preview 04:35
+ Part 3: Optimize
7 lectures 42:29

Learn what we’ll cover in this section, and why optimization is so important to help you take advantage of all the growth hacking you’ve just done!

Introduction to Optimization

Learn what a conversion page is and how to design one for your organization that nudges users towards action. You’ll understand the BJ Fogg model and what it means for us in terms of web design.

More design tips for non-designers:

Preview 05:01

A/B testing is a way to improve your website based on user behavior. You show users two different versions of your site design and see which one drives them to take the action that you deem is important (like engagement or conversions). A/B testing helps you magnify your impact without even touching the top of your funnel (increasing traffic). Learn what to keep in mind and how to get started running your own A/B tests!

More resources:

  • - a great tool for running A/B tests

  • - another simple tool for designing and testing conversion pages

Increasing conversions with A/B testing

Newsletters are part of the optimization phase because they help you build a relationship with your users over time. You’ve probably identified email signups as one of your key conversion goals - here are some tips to take that to the next level and get more people to open your newsletter and engage with your cause.

Welcome series 101:

How to increase your email list:

Learn about email deliverability - make sure you get in user’s inbox and not the spam folder:

Driving deeper engagement with newsletters

Campaign tagging is a Google Analytics trick that will allow you to get better data about where your users are coming from. It’s great to use in digital advertising, emails, or other places that aren’t automatically recorded by Google Analytics.

Learn how to view and analyze your campaign tagging data in Google Analytics with this video:

Here’s a fancy schmancy spreadsheet that will auto-generate your campaign tagged URLs and even convert them into bitly links:

Know your users: tracking what matters with campaign tagging

Popups: love ‘em or hate ‘em, the data shows that they work! Popups can be a great way to ask users to take important actions, like signing up for a campaign, download an important resource, or subscribing to your email list. They help you battle inattentional blindness and nudge users to action.

Tools we love:

  • OptInMonster:
  • SumoMe: (free options!)
Engaging users with popups

Remember: working to optimize your site will help you multiply the impact higher up the funnel. Learn how Power Poetry used the tactics we discussed in this section to continuously improve their website and drive more conversions over time.

More on Front Door Disease:

Case Study: How Power Poetry optimized their web traffic
+ Part 4: Build capacity
5 lectures 26:05

All of these strategies are great, but they won’t work if you don’t have a team that is “bought in” to the idea of data culture. In this section we’ll discuss #datahacks to keep your team connected to the data, give you tips on hiring the best people for your team, and present a full strategy on bringing in outside vendors.

See Whole Whale’s infographic and full explanation of data culture here:

Introduction to Building Capacity

Google Analytics dashboards are a great way to keep staff members connected to the data that matters most to them, and get them in the habit of checking Google Analytics. Learn how to create your first dashboard in under 20 minutes with this step-by-step guide.

Learn more about the Google Solutions Gallery, along with a link to Whole Whale’s pre-fab dashboards for nonprofits, here:

More details on dashboards:

Keeping your team connected to the data with Google Analytics dashboards

Google Intelligence Alerts are a tool that you can use within Google Analytics that will let you know when there are major changes in your web traffic. This is just one more way to keep you or other staff members connected to the data.

Avoiding #FOMO with Google Intelligence Alerts

Sometimes you’ll have a major tech project and you’ll find that you need to bring in outside help along the way. Here we’ll present our trilogy of videos on bringing in tech vendors: how to write a great RFP (request for proposals), how to find reputable vendors, and how to find the right vendor for your needs.

More info, checklists, and decision matrix that you can download to help you find the best vendor for your needs:

Writing an RFP? Check out Snorkl, Whole Whale’s tool that will guide you through teh RFP writing process and will generate a great RFP for you to send to vendors. We can also connect you with vetted vendors.

Bringing in outside help: how to find reliable tech vendors

From the beginning, Power Poetry built a data culture both from the “ground up” and from the “top down” using the tactics we talked about in this section. Hear their story to get inspired to bring this approach back to your team.

Learn more about Power Poetry’s story from this presentation at the NTEN conference:

Case Study: How Power Poetry built its capacity
+ Closing Thoughts
1 lecture 03:01

Congrats - you’ve made it! You’re ready to get Impact Hacking. Check out all the most recent resources on all of the topics outlined in this course at Make sure to check out the resource section for each video for more links that will help you take these skills to the next level.

Tweet at us: 

Email us:

Go forth and hack that impact!

How much did you learn? Test your knowledge with a quick quiz on course topics.

Impact Hacking Quiz!
5 questions