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The Fundraising Metrics That Matter

Before you read further, take a moment to download our free Fundraising Campaign Metrics template. This simple spreadsheet will allow your nonprofit, university, or fundraising team to track key metrics, set goals, and establish fundraising benchmarks.

Remember, a fundraising campaign is different from a general fundraising program. A campaign is a discrete effort to attract new donors and/or recurring donors. Campaigns usually have a start and end date, a unique message or concept, a project plan with goals and key fundraising metrics, and they are sometimes associated with a fundraising event.

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For an upcoming campaign, go into the spreadsheet and set specific, concrete goals for each of the fundraising metrics you intend to measure. You don’t have to measure all of the metrics in the template, of course, but you should pick a few that are most relevant to your organization’s overall development goals.

Not sure which goals to set for a particular fundraising metric? Understandable. The variables that go into a fundraising campaign are so myriad, so difficult to quantify, that setting benchmarks is difficult. Don’t simply copy some “fundraising benchmarks” from the internet, as these numbers probably don’t apply to your organization or industry.

You have two ways to set goals for your fundraising metrics: If you’ve run this campaign in the past (ideally in the last year), use the last campaign’s numbers as a guide—adding perhaps 5-10% to certain numbers to aspire for growth.

If this is the first time you’ve run this particular campaign, use your best guess for goals. Then, next time you launch this campaign, you’ll be able to make better decisions based on benchmarks and baseline data. Be gentle with yourself the first time, as you’re flying (somewhat) blind.

Second, Track the Metrics That Matter

Having helped dozens of nonprofits and universities manage fundraising campaigns, we’ve learned which metrics tend to matter most—and which don’t.

This second type of metrics are sometimes called “vanity metrics” because they make us feel good about ourselves but don’t tell us much about what’s really going on with our donors or campaigns. An example of a vanity metric might be your reach on a social post, regardless of whether anyone actually engaged with the post or took action because of it. You want to go deeper than that.

What constitutes a “vanity metric” depends, to some degree, on what your organization does and what it’s trying to achieve. In the free fundraising metrics template, we’ve cast a wide net of metrics, but you may find that some of the measurements we included don’t apply to your situation. No worries. Track what matters, and track what you can influence.

Here are some (but not nearly all) of the metrics the template lists, and the metrics we’ve found most helpful when strategizing and executing fundraising campaigns.

Track: Average Donation Amount

This number is as close to a “must track” as there is. If you know a campaign’s average donation, you can do some simple calculations to determine how, when, and where to run future campaigns in order to meet your goals. To determine the average gift amount, divide the total amount raised in the campaign by the total number of gifts, individually.

Track: Total Number of Donations

There isn’t much to say here, but note: Because your campaigns may exist both online and offline, you’ll need to make sure you’re combining the two accurately. (Also, you may want to make a sub-metric that tracks how many donations come from each of your channels.)

Track: Major Gifts

Major gifts deserve discrete tracking because they offer a higher ROI than other gifts. If, say, 10% of a campaign’s gifts qualify as “major gifts,” then you can better set goals and refine your tactics in future campaigns. Also, what qualifies as a major gift is up to you, of course. We have clients who set the bar at $25,000 gifts, while others go with $1,000.

Track: Percent of Board Giving

Do you expect your board to donate? Probably. But how and when they donate may be pretty flexible. They may simply cut a check once per year, or they may give sporadically to specific campaigns you run throughout the year, or both. In any case, it’s helpful to know what percentage of your board members give to a particular campaign, as it will help reveal more about your board members and their engagement.

Track: Number of Monthly Donors

The recurring monthly donation is the nonprofit fundraiser’s best friend, as it establishes a predictable income into the future. There should always be a monthly giving option on your donation form(s). Figure out which campaigns produce the most new monthly donors and you’ll know which campaigns to focus on next year.

Track: Alumni and Student Giving

If you’re a university or an educational nonprofit, you’re likely running fundraising campaigns that solicit alumni and student gifts. By keeping track of these gifts, you’ll better understand how engaged these audiences are with your campaigns. For example, if you see your alumni giving declining year-over-year, you can develop specific messaging and campaigns aimed at alumni to see if you can turn the trend around.

Again, you may find that your organization has different key fundraising metrics. You may prioritize data points for the number of new donors, donor acquisition cost, donor lifetime value, donor retention rate, and dozens of other metrics that perfectly suit your needs. At any rate, let us know if we can help your organization come up with a winning fundraising campaign strategy that you can tweak for many campaigns to come.

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