Effective fundraising metrics - and why they are important

When we talk to top fundraisers, we hear one thing over and over – they measure all parts of their fundraising process.

Roman Kordasiewicz

Metrics, dashboards, and understanding data has become the new norm of most organizations. You have probably heard of donor lifetime value, donor acquisition cost, donor retention rate… a quick search for “fundraising metrics” will give many versions of the same theme. It’s all about donor data.

While understanding your donor data is important, it is only a part of a bigger picture. What else should you be measuring?

Metrics on fundraising activities are the missing piece

When you talk to fundraisers about how much time they spend on different parts of their work, they often can’t say. This is one of the key differences we see between highly effective fundraising organizations and less effective ones – they measure all parts of their fundraising process.

How do they do this? By establishing a set of key performance indicators (often called KPIs) for their fundraising activities. Their yearly KPIs typically include:

  • Number of donors in portfolio
  • Number of in person meetings
  • Number of phone calls
  • Number of emails
  • Number of asks
  • Number of interactions before an ask

Why does this work, and why do you see organizations of all sizes adopting them? Consider prospect engagement as a cycle – starting with prospect acquisition, then a series of interactions to build the relationship, and culminating in a donation. If you only measure the donations (output) and number of prospects (input), you are only capturing part of the picture. You are not capturing your process.

A well established set of activity KPIs can encourage and focus fundraising efforts on activities that are known to generate strong relationships. We hear consistently from highly effective fundraisers that the more prospects they can meaningfully engage, the more donations they receive. This means that effective fundraisers naturally focus their energy on interactions, and they track this along with other donor data.

Why should I establish activity KPIs for me or my team?

In our research, there are numerous benefits to activity KPIs:

  1. Having clear goals sharpens your focus. It’s not uncommon to exceed your target KPI once you have a clear goal to reach, but without them it’s very easy to get distracted and fall short.
  2. Activity metrics bring transparency and fairness. We’ve heard from fundraisers how these metrics are valuable to ensure everyone on the team is pulling their weight, an important part of team morale.
  3. Consider a situation like COVID-19 – donations have dropped, you’re working from home, and the world has turned upside down. Where do you start? With effective KPIs, you know exactly where to put your effort so that you maintain your level of engagement and still run an effective process. This is especially true for more ‘normal’ external circumstances, which don’t always have such an obvious effect.
  4. They encourage personal growth. Even if your team does not set the KPIs for you, you should set your own and measure them. This can bring not only a significant level of satisfaction and accomplishment, but also help you hone in on your weaknesses so that you can adjust your work style to be more effective.

You might be a bit afraid to start measuring your activities – but it’s actually scarier not to. Yes, having metrics will make you more accountable – especially ones that are shared within your team. But the alternative is worse – a surprise at performance review time, unexplained drops in donations, and even feelings of being “lost” about what to work on next. KPIs give you clear targets that allow you to make progress every day, catch problems early, and always know where you stand.

Measuring KPIs doesn’t have to be complex, either - it can be as easy as counting up the meetings in your calendar, and tracking them week to week. Better still, applications like DexManus can track and report them for you. Spend a little bit of time each week updating your KPIs and understanding the week-to-week trends they reveal, and you’ll join many other fundraisers in this effective habit.

Roman Kordasiewicz