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success guaranteed.

We guarantee you'll
raise more in your first
year or your money back.

Terms and conditions apply

8 Ways to Measure Fundraising Success

How do you measure fundraising success? The answer isn’t just the amount raised. There are several metrics that can give you a clearer picture of the overall health of your fundraising efforts. Using your fundraising software to track donations and donor activity is a great start, but it’s worth it to digging a little deeper into your fundraising data.

Why? Because dissecting your data helps you celebrate strengths, identify weaknesses, and determine where your greatest opportunities lie. While there are endless ways to slice and dice your data, you can use these eight indicators to truly gauge your fundraising success:

1. Cost Per Dollar Raised or Return on Investment (ROI)

It’s one thing to know the gross dollar amount raised. It’s quite another to understand how much you invested to raise it. Understanding your net return is critical. Did we raise money, run at a loss, or break-even?

If you spent $2,500 on a campaign that raised $5,000, your ROI is $2,500 and your cost per dollar raised is $0.50. (2,500/5,000 = .50). Both of these numbers are a great place to start when measuring success, but there are many more factors to consider that will give you a comprehensive assessment.

2. Growth Rate

Are your results increasing, flat, or declining? For an annual appeal, you’ll want to look at the number of contributing donors year-over-year and compare the dollars raised one year to the next.

With a fundraising event, you should also look at the number of overall participants. Then, break that down into individual participants versus those on a team. This will tell you the source of your growth.

3. Retention Rate

How many of your donors or participants were brand new this year versus those that are returning? Breaking down these numbers tells you what strategies are working and where your greatest growth opportunity may be.

If you are keeping donors/participants year-to-year, but not bringing in new people, then your focus should be on outreach and growth, not donor/participant retention. If the reverse is true, then you should work on evaluating and improving your communication efforts, cultivation process, and/or event execution.

4. Fundraising Teams

If you are managing a fundraising event and teams are a factor, your team program may be your greatest long-term growth strategy and deserves an in-depth analysis. Ask yourself these questions:

  • How many team captains do you have?
  • How many corporate teams did you have compared to those made up of family and friends?
  • What is the average size of a team?
  • What is the average amount raised by all teams?
  • Do friends and family teams or corporate teams raise more?
  • What is your retention rate for team captains and team members?

Take the time to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your team program on its own and as a key component of the overall campaign.

5. Average Gift Amount

Knowing your average gift size can be a big help in understanding your donor cultivation and major gift acquisition success. To calculate this, just divide the number of gifts into the total given. For example, if you raised $50,000 and you had 100 donors, your average gift size is $500.

If you received one gift that is significantly larger than usual, like a one-time gift of $30,000, you may be best served to subtract that from your calculation rather than have it skew your results. (New calculation, $20,000/99=$202). Once you have this number, you’ll want to compare it year-over-year to track progress. If the gift average isn’t going up, you should evaluate your donor cultivation program and develop strategies to strengthen it.

6. Average Fundraising Amount

Your average fundraising amount is also an important event metric. While an event participant may only give $25, they may raise $5,000 through your peer-to-peer campaign. Year-over-year, you should expect to see your average fundraising amount increase as you retain participants, strengthen teams, and deepen engagement.

To calculate this metric, take the total of all participants and divide that into the fundraising dollars (do not include any sponsorships or fees). If your number of event participants and your gross revenue is growing, but your average fundraising amount is flat or declining, there are three things you need to do:

  • Evaluate your participant cultivation.
  • Ensure your mission message is strongly infused into the event.
  • Encourage fundraising throughout the event.

7. Conversion Rate

Your conversion rate highlights how successful a specific tactic was for you. Let’s say you sent an email to 100 potential donors asking them to give online. If 30 clicked on the link and gave a gift, your conversion rate is 30%.

This metric is great for identifying your most effective tactics, but don’t assume tactics with low conversion rates should be dropped. Today, people need to see and hear your message a myriad of times in a variety of ways in order to ‘cut through the clutter’ and be heard.

8. Return on Mission

The previous measures are standard numerical calculations. A return on mission is a bit more elusive, but no less important. And yet, it’s a measure that is often overlooked and never qualified.

Take some time to identify how the fundraising event or development effort fueled your mission beyond the dollars raised. Is increasing awareness a goal? Then a large event in a public venue, or one that received a good amount of press coverage, helped you to achieve that. Is empowering patients or clients an important aspect of what you do? Then calculate how many were involved in your event as participants, volunteers, or ambassadors. Perhaps the event’s revenue fell below your projections, but it was so beautifully executed that everyone there left engaged and excited to deepen their involvement. How can you strategically follow up and leverage this excitement into other projects and programs?

Whatever data you dissect, the important thing is to take the time needed to do it effectively. If it is measured and examined strategically, the data can help you identify your strongest path forward and give you much to celebrate!

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