4 fundraising metrics to watch

Data-driven decisions continue to dominate the workplace, and a demand for leanness is inspiring nonprofits to find ways to turn their qualitative performance into a quantitative metric. Regardless of the size of your nonprofit, you can employ industry-leading analysis to improve your fundraising performance. Year over year, collecting and evaluating data can help you make big gains in money raised for your organization.

To help explain how these key metrics work, I’ll walk you through a fictional example.

Imagine it’s November at Well Valley Elder Services. The development team has just participated in its annual giving drive, and volunteers are working hard to get money counted. The board of directors and finance team have sheets of numbers and data, but as the majority of the staff is new, they don’t know what’s important to look at to evaluate the fundraiser and determine what changes to make for next year’s fundraiser.

Here are four metrics they—and you—should watch to make the best decisions for the future.

Year-over-year changes

Fundraising records at Well Valley aren’t in the greatest shape, but the development team at least knows what they’ve raised year over year for the past seven years, and about how many donors gave. This should be the bare minimum in terms of data collected and stored for your nonprofit, even if it’s just in a spreadsheet. These numbers become more meaningful when analyzed as a trend in context.

Well Valley could benefit by putting these numbers into context through plotting the year-over-year growth (or decline) in a simple line chart. They’ll be able to tell if profits are generally moving up or down over time without having to rely on a gut check to know for sure. They’ll also be able to tell the rate of this change by how steep the trendline is.

These fundamental analyses are macro-level performance indicators that may seem obvious, but might be lost if your organization is only looking at the past two or three years.

The development team can also plot different annual metrics alongside one another on the same chart to analyze trends in different areas. This will help them see how certain tweaks in the fundraising have affected the overall performance.

Donor volume

Fundraising revenue at Well Valley has been stagnant for a couple years. They’re coming in shy of their goal, despite feeling like they’ve been good stewards of their donor relationships and kept them apprised of how their dollars are doing good work by providing services like healthcare advocates. If this is the case, volume might be the key for Well Valley to reach new levels of fundraising success.

At larger nonprofit organizations, fundraising revenue typically comes in through annual gifts and events. If both of these revenue streams are stable, it’s time to consider looking at the number of new, retained, and lost donors.

If donor attrition is high, consider that something might be going on in your donor relationship space. Donors who are falling off might not feel engaged, especially new donors who are testing the waters.

If, however, you’re retaining the same donors for years at a time, consider the following tactics:

  • Create a campaign focused on a complementary demographic.
  • Host a matched giving campaign where one donor will match every new gift up to a certain amount.
  • Start an affinity group that adds a networking component in your nonprofit’s area of influence.

These tactics may help move volume, and donations, upward. If you can consistently add more donors than you lose, you have a much better shot at achieving sustainable growth.

Volunteer participation

Fundraising programs are often inherently reliant on a volunteer base to be successful. In many nonprofits, the board of directors and even fundraisers are volunteer community members who are invested in your mission.

Well Valley has also noticed that their volunteers are falling off, leaving them with increased workload and fewer feet on the ground. They’ve been hosting an annual giving drive with grassroots giving locations at various shops throughout the city. They’ve had to reduce their staffed locations in recent years, however, which has meant eliminating potential donation sources.

Well Valley has the potential to unlock the power of increasing volunteer participation. They currently lose about 10 volunteers annually, with each volunteer providing about 20 hours a week for about 6 weeks.  With the average volunteer hour valued at around $20, Well Valley is losing $24,000 in free labor while also eliminating revenue sources in their giving drive.

Paying attention to volunteer engagement could clue them in to places where they’re losing volunteers, and end up having to spend more in order to get less. Well Valley could keep more volunteers by creating more opportunities for engagement.

Staff satisfaction

Nonprofit workplace satisfaction is a hot topic, especially because it’s an easy thing to measure and has major implications for fundraising performance. A happy staff will put in more quality work if they feel connected to the mission and supported in their role.

Well Valley has a team of 20 who work tirelessly to meet their fundraising goals and deliver quality programming. But nobody has done a pulse check on the team in quite some time, and turnover seems to be increasing.

Measuring staff satisfaction can be as easy as conducting an anonymous feedback survey. Work with an HR manager or consultant to create a broad and in-depth assessment of how people feel like they’re doing and how they feel like the organization is doing. Ask them to rate things on a Lichter scale, and address areas like morale, work-life balance, physical facilities, client satisfaction, compensation, public perception, and growth potential.

Well Valley can give their team an opportunity to be heard, but it should do so only if it plans on actually responding to grievances. Of course, not every team member will ever be entirely satisfied, but if senior leadership is willing to make some changes, it can go a long way in expressing value. Remember, culture change isn’t easy, but it may be necessary, especially if it’s affecting fundraising success.

These macro-level, micro-level, internal, and external metrics are powerful and simple ways to keep tabs on the performance of your organization. If you want to see giving increase, check in on these metrics annually and track them in a data management system to monitor trends and chart success.

Clay Boggess