If 2013 was the year everyone was TALKING about multi-channel, 2014 might actually be the year that nonprofits actually start DOING multi-channel.

And I’m not talking sissy multi-channel. You know, when people try to be all “yeah, we sent emails AND had a web banner on our site for our campaign…” I mean big, fact, juicy campaigns that measure the impact of email, web, social and a few other minor channels like direct mail and telemarketing!

You see, for a little over a year, Google has been beta-ing (is that a word? It should be) a new service called Universal Analytics. It’s got tons of great features, like better tracking of the user experience on mobilized sites and apps (you spent all that time and money building that app – don’t you owe to yourself to spend a little time figuring out how your constituents are using it?)

But the feature that really got our attention is the ability to use Universal Analytics to upload offline data from your CRM and add that intel to your analytics. Imagine marrying your phone, mail, social and digital activity in one set of analytics. Now we’re talking REAL multi-channel marketing!

Imagine, no more guessing about how that direct mail appeal impacted your web giving last Tuesday. Or how about being able to confirm that those members who told your call center staff that they were going to go online and make their annual gift actually did (or were they just trying to get off the phone?). And picture the office silos falling like the Walls of Jericho, when you are able to share credit for your success with other offices that manage different pieces of the digital realm.

Seriously, this one feature of Universal Analytics holds the promise of helping nonprofits make marketing budget decisions based on much more complete data than we’ve been able to get our hands on until now.

Until recently, Universal Analytics has been marketed as an ‘upgrade,’ one that hasn’t been on many nonprofits’ radar screens. But Google has now announced that all their GA updates will be built on top of the Universal Analytics infrastructure. To make sure all properties upgrade, “Classic Analytics properties that don’t initiate a transfer will be auto-transferred to Universal Analytics in the coming months.” So the fact that you don’t really have a choice. Universal Analytics is coming. The question is how are you going to make the most of it?

Did I mention that UA (like GA) is FREE? Of course, ‘free’ is a relative term. In order to access the upgraded capabilities, you will need to replace your current GA analytics tags with different code snippets. And depending on how much you’re tracking, that could be a lot of tags to replace. And you will have to put on your thinking cap and prioritize what offline data elements are worth compiling and uploading. But it’s worth it. Plus, it’s an opportunity to look at a few other nonprofit marketing resolutions like trying Conversion Funnels or tagging outbound links to better understand your bounce rate.

But even if you don’t have the time or staff for a full GA makeover, you can still benefit from many of UA’s new features by utilizing free open source tools like Airlock that will automatically convert your existing GA tags to the new, improved UA ones.

So I hope 2014 is the year that more nonprofits get serious about multi-channel marketing. Because don’t we owe it to our constituents to use all the tools at our disposal to use their donations as efficiently as possible in our marketing efforts? Thanks to Universal Analytics, we can do that AND treat our donors with the respect they deserve by relating to them in all the channels they like to use.

Happy New Year!