Posted , by Abbie Hacker, Consultant. Topic: Crisis Fundraising, Development Plan, Donor Prospects, Donor Retention, Donors, Fundraising, Gift Solicitation, Major Donors, Major Gifts Programs, Preparing for a Campaign.

By Abbie Hacker

For the most part, we can’t even begin to predict what the fall will look like. In the nonprofit community, this uncertainty plays out in numerous ways… should you move forward with your in-person event? Will you be able to meet face-to-face with your donors? Can you offer tours of your new facility? Will your fundraising results be impacted?

Even in the midst of this uncertainty, there are certain things that are in our control. Using fundraising metrics and a data-driven approach can grow your fundraising success and strategy. Below I will provide a high-level overview of what metrics you should consider tracking and how to incorporate this data into your cultivation and solicitation strategy.


Why track metrics?

  1. While intuition is great, having relevant data about your organization to back it up will strengthen your ideas, strategies and results.
  2. You and your team will be empowered to make informed and educated decisions.
  3. Metrics transcend time. Aren’t you curious to know whether your strategy is in fact more successful than previous years?
  4. Metrics also enable you to benchmark your organization against other nonprofits.

What you need to be successful?

  • Data and a database — Invest in a robust fundraising-specific database. Then make sure that the data you are putting into the system is accurate and up to date. In addition to tracking gifts, your database should serve as a source of institutional knowledge about a donor’s relationship with your organization.
  • Staff commitment and buy-in — Having a data-driven culture takes time. Consider checking out our friend and colleague Steve MacLaughlin’s book, Data Driven Nonprofits. He talks about the ABCs of data-driven culture of philanthropy and how to move your organization in this direction. You can watch Victoria’s conversation with him about the 2020 Charitable Giving report here. 
  • Visual Displays — You have pulled the information, but now what? Presenting this information in an easy-to-digest dashboard format will help your team and board understand the metrics and what you are recommending as a result.

What to track?

It is easy to both get overwhelmed by the possibilities and bogged down in the nitty-gritty details. I recommend that you choose 10 metrics to measure. Then, make sure you are consistent in measuring them. Check out my top 10 list below.

  1. Total raised
  2. Number of gifts received
  3. Average gift size
  4. Total raised and number of gifts by type (individual, corporate, foundation)
  5. Donor retention rate — Total number of repeat donors this year/total number of donors last year x 100
  6. Percentage of donors upgraded to higher giving levels
  7. Number or percentage of lapsed donors and reactivated donors
  8. Donor acquisition cost — Total cost/Total # of acquired donors
  9. Number of face-to-face visits
  10. Asks made

For specific components of your fundraising program, such as appeals and events, you should also calculate cost per dollar raised (total expenses/total revenue) to determine return on investment.

Who should I be talking to?

Data-driven fundraising can help with this too. Use data to identify on which donors you should focus your time to yield the best results. Especially in these uncertain times, you need to be flexible. You might not be able to host your typical event or meet face-to-face, but you can still strengthen donor relationships and solicit your supporters. Regularly run these reports in your database to identify your largest and most loyal donors and develop individualized cultivation and solicitation plans to continue to engage them. Check out my colleague Victoria’s recent webinar on Making the Ask… Even Virtually for more information.

  1. Top 100 donors of all time
  2. Top 50 annual fund donors from last three fiscal years
  3. Top 15 corporate supporters (last five years)
  4. Top 15 foundation supporters (last 10 years)
  5. Longevity member/donors (10+ years)
  6. Wealth screening results
  7. Crisis donors

Interested in learning more about growing your fundraising program and incorporating data into your strategy? Reach out to me today. Our development assessment is a great tool that will help you understand the strengths, weaknesses and effectiveness of your current fundraising efforts as well as provide you with the opportunities you should consider going forward.

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