How to Master Google Analytics 4 (GA4 Nonprofit Guide)

Written by Mate Tagaj

15 min read

Published on May 03, 2024

Updated on Jun 11, 2024

Google Analytics 4, or GA4 in short, is an extremely powerful tool for anyone who has a presence online. It gives you quality insights into how your website is performing, how many people are visiting your site, and how they interact with your pages. But what is GA4? Is Google Analytics free for nonprofits?

In this guide, we give you a quick overview of what GA4 is, Google Analytics GDPR compliance, how GA4 is different from Universal Analytics, where to find the bounce rate in GA4, why you should do your GA4 migration as soon as possible, how to do a GA4 setup quickly and how to export google analytics data from the old dashboard before it’s too late.
2D Illustration of a woman illustrating the shift from Google Analytics 3 to Google Analytics 4

What is GA4 or Google Analytics 4?

Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is the latest version of Google’s popular analytics platform that offers an impressive fleet of features to help organisations get more meaningful data from their analytics. If you already have an account, you’re probably all set on Universal Analytics, maybe even for multiple websites, including your organisation’s main website and several project websites. 
However, this new version is a lot more powerful and insightful than what you’ve already got access to and it’s fundamental to set it up correctly as soon as possible.

Is Google Analytics Free for Nonprofits?

In brief, Google Analytics 4 has a free version used by most nonprofits, and a premium version called Analytics 360, mostly used by big enterprises for an entry-level of approximately $50,000 per year.
In fact, Google Analytics 360 pricing is typically for enterprise-level customers, and huge corporations negotiate its price with Google’s sales team, leading to different prices on a case-by-case basis.
Nevertheless, in general, there is no cost for Google Analytics. It is completely free, which makes it an ideal tool for nonprofits operating on a budget.
Google Marketing Cloud Google Analytics Homepage highlighting that the use of GA4 is free of charge
Sounds a bit too good to be true, right? Well, you are not wrong. Just like in the case of any other free tool, you still have to pay the price of Google Analytics. Basically, you pay for that with the data of your users, which Google then reuses to power its complex data ecosystem, including its advertising tool called Google Ads. 
But is this GA4 pricing model fair? It’s up to you to decide. 
However, paying for the tool with user data also brings certain privacy concerns to many people who talk about Google Analytics being illegal in the EU or not GDPR compliant. Let’s take a look at this misconception.

Is Google Analytics GDPR Compliant? 

We all know that complying with General Data Protection Rules (GDPR) is necessary if you are based in the EU. So before implementing Google Analytics 4, we must ask two questions:
1. Is Google Analytics GDPR compliant?
2. Is GA4 GDPR compliant?
Unfortunately, Google Analytics is definitely not GDPR compliant by default. Google partially retired Universal Analytics due to its lack of user privacy considerations, and even though GA4 has many built-in privacy features, it’s also not GDPR compliant in itself. But don’t worry! With some extra steps, you can definitely make it comply with the European privacy regulations.
Nonetheless, as we are talking about a highly technical compliance setup, we recommend looking for external support from an experienced Google Analytics consultant to properly adjust your analytics settings in a way that complies with GDPR. Check out this super useful GDPR compliance checklist to help you assess your current state.

GA4 Cookie Consent: The Most Overlooked Task

One of the most important steps where most organisations fail – despite counting on the support of a trusted web design and development agency – is properly setting up your GA4 cookie consent.
99% of the time, even though you check most of the compliance boxes, there is still a technical step missing. This step includes registering your users’ consent before launching the Google Analytics tracking ID when your target audiences visit your website, and before data transfer to Google happens without their permission.
Consequently, you are most probably sending personal data outside of the EU without the permission of your users, ultimately leading to the violation of GDPR. You must properly set up your cookie form and block the analytics cookies until users grant their consent. 
Google Tag Manager Screen Recording Showing How Consent Is Changing By Selecting Preferences on the CookieYes Cookie Form

GA4 Consent Mode

Additionally, user consent has been one of the hottest topics lately. GA4 consent mode v2 is a new Google technology that enables conversion and analytics modelling to fill in data gaps when users do not consent to access their personal data and browser storage. Google specifically implemented this for GDPR and privacy regulation compliance.
As of March 2024, Google has started showing notifications across its tools to gradually force users to use the consent mode for accessing audience personalisation in its services when targeting users in the EU or EEA.
That’s a lot of information about GA4 GDPR compliance, but what’s the ultimate message? Before using Google’s analytics platform, check all the boxes from your Cookie Management Platform’s (CMP) compliance checklist, and test whether your cookie consent form implementation is linking correctly to your Google Analytics 4 account. If this sounds too technical, seek external support to ensure the legality of your website.

Why should you switch to GA4 ASAP?

As of July 1, 2023, Universal Analytics (UA) stopped processing new data and as of July 1, 2024, you will no longer be able to access your old data.
Therefore, it’s extremely important that you switch to GA4 and retrieve your data from the previous tool as soon as possible.
As a nonprofit, this is extremely valuable data that will be very important when planning or reporting on your campaigns and tracking your website’s performance.
Moreover, if you haven’t plugged GA4 into your website yet, it means that you have not been collecting any data since July 1, 2023. The longer you wait, the more data you will miss out on collecting. Unfortunately, we cannot collect data retrospectively and there’s no way to recover this gap in data.
In addition, on July 1, 2024, Google will delete all the past data you have collected so far in Universal Analytics. This is why it’s indispensable to export and store that data before you lose invaluable insights about your site’s past performance.
However, there is a catch. You cannot import UA data to GA4 due to the different data models used in the two platforms. We recommend exporting all Google Analytics data to spreadsheets and then visualising that in Looker Studio.
Screen Recording of Universal Analytics Exporting Data to Excel
So, why should you switch to GA4 as soon as possible? Well, if you don’t make the switch over to GA4 and don’t export your data from Universal Analytics before the GA4 deadline, you risk losing your data. It’s that simple.

Top 8 Differences Between UA vs GA4

Google Analytics 4 (GA4) goes one step further than Universal Analytics (UA), which makes it a really valuable tool for nonprofits. However, there are a couple of things that have changed on Google Analytics 4. Firstly, where is the bounce rate in GA4, you may ask.
We have collected the main differences between UA vs GA4 below for you to understand all the changes more easily.
Universal Analytics vs Google Analytics 4 Comparison 8 Differences

Metrics, Events and Conversions (Key events)

  1. Metrics in GA4 may differ from Universal Analytics, highlighting the importance of understanding these variations. Therefore, utilising the Google Analytics support site becomes crucial for clarifying differences in metric measurement. For instance, good examples could be the complete removal of unique pageviews or the bounce rate in GA4.
  2. One major shift in GA4 is the focus on events. Unlike Universal Analytics, where hits and different hit types were prevalent, GA4 simplifies every interaction as an event, providing a streamlined approach to data. What’s more, GA4 introduced enhanced measurement, which (if enabled) will automatically track events for you including actions like scroll, click, video engagement, file downloads, site search and form interactions. 
Comparison of UA Hit Types with GA4 Events in a table
  1. Goals from UA are now called Key Events (previously Conversions) in GA4. GA4 has done away with the concept of goals, and instead, every metric is framed within the context of key events (formerly conversions). This shift emphasises a more streamlined and comprehensive approach to tracking success in your organisation.

Privacy and AI-Driven Features

  1. GA4 is built with privacy and GDPR in mind. While traditional web analytics depended on third-party cookies, which are being phased out due to privacy concerns, GA4’s reliance on first-party data ensures user privacy. By default, it has extra privacy features like IP anonymisation, shorter data storage times, consent mode, and the deletion of personal data by users.
  2. GA4 uses machine learning and AI to provide valuable insights that help you identify trends and patterns that Universal Analytics may have missed.

Tracking Implementation

  1. While Universal Analytics counts sessions using the sessions made metric, a session in GA4 is completely different. GA4 sessions rely on a unique GA4 user ID that also enables cross-platform tracking. This means that data between the two platforms will never be the same.
  2. You can track user behaviour across different platforms – like your website, microsites, and apps – thanks to the GA4 user ID, so you can get a full picture of how people interact with your content.

Analytics Dashboard and Account Structure

  1. The GA4’s reporting interface is designed for simplicity and user-friendliness. Unlike Universal Analytics, which relied heavily on a set group of standard reports, GA4 offers flexibility with standard reports, additional custom reports, and an emphasis on making reporting more straightforward.
  2. GA4 introduces a departure from views. View in GA4 is now replaced with data filters within your property using the “comparisons” or “explorations” features.
Account Structure Differences between UA vs GA4
GA4 is essentially a new and improved version of UA so, is GA4 better than Universal Analytics? Definitely!
Expect ongoing changes in GA4. Google Analytics 4 is designed to be more future-proof, constantly evolving to handle upcoming challenges. Don’t be surprised if the interface undergoes alterations – it’s a part of the dynamic nature of GA4.

Getting Started: A Step-by-Step Guide for an Optimal GA4 Setup

Whether you haven’t checked on your Google Analytics account in some time, are not sure how to do your GA4 migration, or your Google Analytics 4 setup, or have never even tracked your analytics before, here is a quick step-by-step guide to all the GA4 basics you need to know about to make sure you’re all set up correctly.

How to Set Up GA4 From Scratch?

Step 1: Create an Account

You can skip this step if you already have an account.
1. Search for Google Analytics: This ensures you’re on the current version (things change fast!).
2. Click “Get Started Today”: Give your new account a name relevant to your organisation (e.g., “YourOrganisations GA4”).
3. Data Sharing Settings: These settings affect how your data is used and shared. Consider your organisation’s privacy policies before making any selections.
4. Click “Next”: Let’s move on to property setup!
How to Create a Google Analytics Account Step by Step Screen Recording

Step 2: Create a Property

1. Name your property: Keep it simple and descriptive (e.g., “YourNonprofitWebsite”).
2. Set your Country and Time Zone: Google needs to know where you are to track things accurately.
3. Set your currency: Euros (€)
4. Click “Next” to move on to business details!
How to Create a Google Analytics Property Step by Step Screen Recording
5. Add Business Information:
6. Choose your business objectives: check “Generate leads”, “Raise brand awareness” and “Examine user behaviour”. If you are a charity getting donations online, you can also check “Drive online sales”.
7. Click “Create” to move on to the Terms of Service Agreement
8. Review Terms of Service
  1. Select your country for your language, read the terms and make sure you’re happy with how your data will be handled.
  2. Check “I also accept the Data Processing Terms as required by GDPR.” Consent box
  3. Click on “I Accept”
How to Set Business Detaill, Business Objectives and how to accept the Terms of Service in the end of the Google Analytics setup
9. Start collecting data
a) Select the applicable platform
  1. Web for websites and web applications
  2. Android or iOS app for native mobile apps
b) Enter your website URL and Stream Name: Keep it consistent for easy reference.
  1. Careful with https:// or http://
  2. Leave Enhanced Measurement turned on 
c) Click “Create Stream”: Now, you will need to install the tracking code (G-XXXXXXXXX) on your website.
Start Collecting Data in GA4. How to turn on enhanced measurement? Step by Step Screen Recording

Step 3: Create a GA4 Data Stream if You Already Have an Account and a Property

1. Go to “Admin” within your Google Analytics account
2. Select “Data Streams” from the “Data Collection and Modification” box
3. Click on the “Add Stream” button and select the applicable platform
  1. Web for websites and web applications
  2. Android or iOS app for native mobile apps
4. Click “Yes” in the popup Notice window, when you are asked whether you are sure that you want to create another web stream.
5. Enter your website URL and Stream Name: Keep it consistent for easy reference.
  1. Careful with https:// or http://
  2. Leave Enhanced Measurement turned on
6. Click “Create Stream”: Now, you will need to install the tracking code (G-XXXXXXXXX) on your website.
How to Create a New Data Stream in an Existing GA4 Account

Step 4: Find Your Google Analytics Tracking ID and Use It to Setup GA4 On Your Site

Retrieve your Google Analytics Measurement ID from Google Analytics by following the following simple steps:
1. Go to “Admin”
2. Find and click on “Data Streams”
3. Open your new GA4 data stream
4. Copy your Google Analytics Measurement ID from the “Stream Details” panel.
How to find your Google Analytics 4 Tracking ID
Once you have your Google Analytics tracking ID, you can set up Google Analytics 4 on your website by implementing the tracking code in one of the following ways:
1. Manual Installation
  1. Once you are in your “Data Stream”, scroll to the bottom and click on “View Tag Instructions”
  2. Copy the code snippet and ask your developer to paste it into the code of every page of your website immediately after the <head> element.
How to install GA4 manually with a code snippet
2. Integration or Plugin: Utilise a website builder or other integrations with content management systems (CMS) to streamline the process. For instance, in WordPress, you can install a plugin and input your Google Analytics Measurement ID, and the platform handles the rest.
How to Install GA4 with Integration or Plugin
3. Use Google Tag Manager (GTM): Opt for Google Tag Manager, or GTM for short, a preferred tag management system, which provides a more dynamic and organised approach to handling your tracking code.
We recommend installing GA4 with Tag Manager and adding your Google Analytics Measurement ID to your website using GTM since this is the best way to ensure a GDPR-compliant setup.
Follow Google’s guide to set up GA4 on your site using tag manager and don’t forget to condition firing your tag in exchange for user consent to comply with privacy regulations. Alternatively, if you are not confident with this method, please feel free to book a meeting with us to get professional help.

GA4 Migration Guide

1. Navigate to the ‘Admin’ section of your Google Analytics account
2. Go to the ‘Account’ column and make sure the correct account is selected
3. In the ‘Property’ column, select your current GA4 property and then click ‘Setup Assistant’
4. The Setup Assistant will then guide you through the rest of the Google Analytics 4 migration with a handy GA4 migration checklist, which is also covered in this help guide from Google
How to find the GA4 Migration Setup Assistant

Get to Know Your GA4 Dashboard

Once your website is linked, you should be able to access your GA4 property. The dashboard may look a little bit different to what you’re used to, but once you start looking around and testing out the platform, it’s very easy to get the hang of it.
Here are some of the main features of the Google Analytics 4 dashboard where you’ll get all the data you’re interested in, illustrated through Google’s Merchandise Store Demo Account:

Lifecycle Section

This section provides insights into acquisition, engagement, monetisation (if applicable) and retention-related metrics.
We recommend spending most of your time experimenting with the “User acquisition”, “Traffic acquisition”, “Events”, “Key Events”, “Pages and screens” and “Landing page” reports here. Monitoring the reports within “Monetisation” is also highly recommended if you are also fundraising online and have a donation form.
GA4 Dashboard Lifecycle Section
While the “Overview” reports are nice, we advise you to avoid getting obsessed with the fancy charts and graphs. Instead, dive deeper into data by analysing and manipulating the tables in the aforementioned reports or create your custom reports within Explorations (see below) or by using Looker Studio.

User Section

This section allows you to analyse user attributes, such as “Demographic details” and custom “Audiences”, as well as technology-related attributes in the “Tech details” report like browsers, devices, screen sizes and operating systems used by your visitors.
While the “Audiences” require your prior setup of user segments based on dimensions, metrics, and events available within your GA4 property, it is highly recommended to create these custom subsets of users following Google’s Guide on how to “Create, edit, and archive audiences”. This will not only give you invaluable data about your target audiences to power your communication strategy, but you can also reuse these Audiences to run targeted ad campaigns on Google Ads.
GA4 Dashboard User Section

Explore (aka. Explorations)

This section allows you to create custom reports within your account and analyse them using a drag-and-drop interface. This is particularly useful for ad-hoc analysis.
Here, you’ll find three main options: starting a new blank exploration, beginning with templates, or reviewing existing explorations.
In this article, we take a look at the free-form template. It’s similar to a table, making it a solid foundation for any report. 
GA4 Dashboard Explorations
On the right, you can edit the report name, add tabs, and duplicate reports. Meanwhile, on the left, you’ll find variables like date range and dimensions, allowing for customisation.
GA4 Dashboard Explore Custom Reports
Moving to the report itself, you can adjust the type and visualisation. We recommend starting with a table for foundational clarity. Explore segment comparisons, rows, columns, and values to tailor the report to your needs. Filters provide additional control, allowing you to focus on specific data points. Remember, start simple and expand as needed for effective ad hoc analysis.
GA4 Dashboard Explorations Rows Columns Values and Filters
By default, in explorations, Google Analytics 4 shows data only for the last two months. However, this can be extended to 14 months. To change this, go to the “Admin” panel of your Google Analytics 4 property and then “Data Retention”. Change Event data retention to 14 months and hit save.
How to change data retention settings in Google Analytics 4

Configuring Events and Conversions (Key Events)

Understanding Events in GA4

The standard GA4 dashboard will automatically track some of the most important metrics or ‘Events’, like Page Views, but there are several ways to add further ‘Events’ and turn them into ‘Key Events’.
If you work at a nonprofit, you may be interested in knowing how many people are signing up for your newsletter, downloading your resources, registering for your upcoming events, sending individual or recurring donations on your website or reading your annual reports. 
Despite GA4’s automatic data collection, several crucial actions may go unnoticed, such as button clicks and form submissions.
GA4 events fall into four main event categories:
1. Automatically collected events
2. Enhanced measurement events
3. Recommended events
4. Custom events

1. Automatically Collected Events

GA4 configures automatically collected events upon installing the configuration tag. For instance, examples include ‘Page Views’, ‘Sessions’, and ‘User Engagement’ events.

2. Enhanced Measurement Events

Enhanced Measurement is automatically enabled when setting up GA4 data streams in Google Analytics (see above). These events encompass actions like ‘Scroll’, ‘Click’, ‘Video engagement’, ‘File downloads’, and ‘Form interactions’. However, their functionality may vary depending on specific circumstances.

3. Recommended Events

Recommended events require intentional implementation and adherence to specific naming conventions. Google provides recommendations for various properties, such as search, login, share, sign up and more.

4. Custom Events

Offering flexibility, custom events cover anything outside the other three categories. For instance, examples include “donate,” “subscription,” or unique identifiers like “test event 1.0.”
For nonprofits, mapping conversions (recently renamed to key events) from your strategy to events is crucial. If automatic or recommended events don’t align with your goals, creating custom events is a viable option.
To add these extra custom events, we recommend to
1. Contact your web developers to set up more sophisticated custom events triggered by actions you would like to track. Ask them to add custom parameters you want showcased within your Google Analytics dashboard.
2. Go to ‘Admin’ > ‘Data Display’ > ‘Events’
3. Click on the ‘Create Event’ button
4. Click on the ‘Create’ button
5. Name your event and add the value provided by your developer into the ‘event_name’ equals row’s value field to listen to your custom events
6. Don’t forget to configure the parameters.
How to Create Custom Events in GA4

Top 5 Events Your Nonprofit Should Track

We have collected below the top 5 most popular events nonprofits should pay attention to within their Google Analytics 4 dashboard:
1. Newsletter sign-ups 
2. Button (Call To Action – CTA) clicks
3. File downloads
4. Donations (if applicable)
5. Event registration (if applicable)

Setting Up GA4 Key Events (formerly conversions)

Now that you’ve carefully planned your events and parameters, let’s dive into the crucial aspect of key events. First of all, if you haven’t logged into your GA4 lately, you will likely see the following popup window.
GA4 Changes Conversions to Key Events Popup Notification
This is to inform you that as of 22 March 2024, Analytics conversions are called key events to distinguish them in Google Analytics from those in Google Ads.
Key events allow you to track important user actions on your site, allowing you to measure & optimise for them. You’ve already set up events to track each action. Now we are telling GA4 which of these are our most important ones.
Once you have created your key events in Google Analytics 4, you can turn them into conversions for your advertising campaign reporting and bidding in Google Ads.
Watch out for updates in the advertising section of Google Analytics 4, which will soon include new extra conversion reporting features and tools. Learn more about this Event → Key Event → Conversion GA4 change here.

How to turn your events into key events?

It’s important to understand that key events are just certain events that you mark as more important than others. To configure this within GA4:
1. To access your property, navigate to your ‘Admin’ area and click on ‘Events’ under the ‘Data Display’ section.
2. Review all the events listed and identify the critical conversion event for your organisation. (e.g. file_download)
3. Designate your selected priority events as ‘key events’ in the ‘Mark as a key event’ column by simply switching the toggle next to the chosen events.
4. Once ready, you will see a “your_event has now been enabled as a conversion” success message in the bottom left corner of your screen.
How to turn events into Key Events in Google Analytics 4

Need Help Getting to Grips With Google Analytics 4?

We know that working at a nonprofit as a Communication specialist can be overwhelming. While wearing multiple hats and juggling between tasks, taking time out of your schedule to look at Google Analytics might seem like a daunting task if you’re not confident with the platform.
However, you’re missing out on a treasure trove of information! Once you’ve got everything set up, you’ll be able to gain valuable insights – it can help you get in front of the right audience and create content that your target audience is genuinely interested in.

Google Analytics 4 (GA4) Training for Nonprofits

You can also access our recent GA4 training, which gives you a much more in-depth understanding of how the new platform works. Book a meeting with us today to discuss a tailored GA4 training for your team to learn how to make the most out of this free platform, how to set up tracking and custom events using Google Tag Manager, and how to create streamlined reports with Looker Studio for effective reporting.

If you need more help with setting up GA4, using the platform correctly or with any other digital communication aspect, get in touch with our team at Boostern today or sign up to our newsletter to stay up date with our latest content.

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