The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

Fundraising Benchmarks, Donor Data, and You: A Q&A with Heather Yandow

I’m a big fan of Heather Yandow from Third Space Studio. Heather produces a labor of love for small and mighty nonprofits: The Individual Donor Benchmark Report (IDBR). The IDBR highlights fundraising data trends for nonprofit organizations with annual budgets under $2 million. If you’d like to share your organization’s data for the next IDBR,  please visit Heather’s website for more info.

Keep reading this post to discover why the IDBR’s data is so valuable and to collect a few nuggets of wisdom from Heather about donor data.

What is the IDBR and why should organizations care about the findings?

Heather Yandow (HY): The Individual Donor Benchmark Report digs into the fundraising data of small and mighty nonprofits, those with annual budgets under $2 million.

It’s a best practice that nonprofits need to set goals, track outcomes, and learn from past performance. But collecting and analyzing data in a vacuum only gives part of the picture. Organizations also need to the ability to measure the impact of their fundraising and compare it other organizations like theirs, as well as to the larger sector. That’s why we created the Individual Donor Benchmark Project.

There is no other benchmarking resource for smaller organizations with individual donor fundraising programs.  Simply put, the IDBR is a resource for nonprofits to see how they stack up. It helps answer questions like:

  • Where is our fundraising doing well?
  • What parts of our fundraising program might need a little more attention?
  • What experiments could we try to improve our fundraising program?

 

What data do you need to have in order to participate in the research?

HY: We’ve tried to streamline the data organizations need to participate to only the most critical metrics. To participate, you’ll need to report numbers like:

  • Organizational revenue and expenses
  • Total amount of individual donor revenue and number of donors
  • Amount raised online and number of online donors

You can preview of the full set of questions on this site .

We’ve also decided that none of the questions are required. So, if you are unable to answer a question or two (or five), that’s okay!

 

What are common challenges orgs face when trying to access the data they need and how can they overcome these challenges?

HY: The most common challenge is that organizations don’t have a database that they know and love. For some, it’s hard to get data out of their system. For others, they don’t trust the data they do access.

Here are four tips to help you start gathering this data:

  1. Take a look at this year’s survey questions. Print them out and identify what data you can easily find (like last year’s total income) and what might take a little more time to figure out (like retention rate).
  1. Set aside one hour to dig into your data. You’d be surprised how much you can accomplish with one focused hour! And you might just get on a roll and keep going.
  1. Consider all the many ways that you might get the data you need. Your database may produce a perfect report – but it might not! You may need to take a closer look at your data by putting it into Excel. Or, you might need to look at the report from your online payment processor to find information about online gifts and monthly donations.
  1. If you run into problems, know that you can skip a question or two on the survey. I know that sometimes a number just isn’t easily available, so you can just leave that question blank.

From Network for Good: Don’t have a user-friendly donor database that can help you store, access, and analyze your donor data? Network for Good’s new donor management system is everything you need and nothing you don’t. Check it out now! 


Last year’s big finding was about how much more money organizations raised when they had a fundraising plan. Are you looking into that again this year or are you trying to determine new/different factors that contribute to fundraising success/misses?

HY: Both! We are definitely digging in to our finding that a fundraising plan is the secret to individual donor success. To start, we want to get a better understanding of what a typical fundraising plan looks like. Does it include an annual development calendar? An analysis of the previous year? We’re hoping that getting more specific information will help identify the critical parts of the fundraising plan.

At the same time, we will also be looking into other factors that may contribute to fundraising success, like Board participation in fundraising or the number of meetings organizations hold with donors and potential donors.

If organizations want to participate in your research, what’s in it for them and how can they sign up?

It’s easy to be part of the survey! Just visit http://www.thirdspacestudio.com/idbproject/ to learn more and start the survey.

As a thank you for being part of the survey, you will receive:

  • a results reports as well as the complete survey results to share with your colleagues and Board
  • an invitation to a special webinar just for survey participants to dig into the results
  • a copy of official Individual Donor Benchmark Report and Infographic
  • a chance to win one of 50 coveted consultations with Ravela Insights, experts in donor data analytics, database strategy, and prospect identification
  • a chance to win one of five Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training prize packs with a subscription to the Grassroots Fundraising Journal as well as a book from the Kim Klein Fundraising Series

 

Now, for something fun. On a scale from 1-10, how much do you love data?

HY: I’m probably an eight. I do love data and spend a good bit of my time collecting data, training about data, and helping organization harness the power of data. But to be a ten, I think I’d have to be this guy. I’m not there yet!

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About This Blog

Linda Lombardi

We’re here to help you win hearts and minds—and donations.

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