The 5 Metrics Fundraisers Need to Know

April 19, 2018

There’s no question that metrics are necessary to track progress, to improve, and to know where to focus your energy. But with so much data in your organization’s database on donors, members, campaigns, appeals, funds, etc., it can be hard to know which metrics to prioritize.

To help you simplify your fundraising reporting process, we selected the five most important metrics fundraisers need to know.

1. Donor Retention

What is it?

Donor retention is defined as the percentage of total donors in a year who give again during the next year.

Why should fundraisers track it?

This metric gives you insights into the effectiveness of your renewal strategy at your organization. We all know that it is far less expensive and time-consuming to renew a current donor than to acquire a new one. Thus, this metric is essential to gauge if your strategy is effective and efficient.

Donor retention can also reveal the extent of your donors’ dedication to your cause, give clues as to their loyalty to your organization (and if they think you spend their money well), or indicate the perceived value of your donor benefits.

For more on donor retention, check out our blog post, 5 Metrics Fundraisers Need to Track to Retain Their Donors.

How do you calculate it?

[ (Number of donors who gave two years in a row) / (Number of donors who gave in the first year) ] * 100 = Donor Retention

To get the best understanding possible of your donor retention, it is important to break out retention percentages by donation level. This can give you a more granular view of what specific donor levels are performing well and which may require more attention.



2. Donor Level Moves

What is it?

This metric defines how many donors gave more or less in a year compared to the previous year.

Why should fundraisers track it?

“Donor Level Moves” gives you a more detailed view of donor behavior so you can make strategic adjustments to their asks and giving levels. It also signals which donor levels are enticing and which are not.

For example, if a critical mass of members are downgrading from the Tier III to Tier II donations, you may need to put more efforts into understanding the reason for the downgrade and set plans to reverse course.

How do you calculate it?

[ Donors who upgraded in a given year / total donors in the previous year ] * 100 = Percentage of upgraded donors

[ Donors who downgraded in a given / total donors in the previous year ] * 100 = Percentage of downgraded donors

Here is a chart that visually represents donor movement:


3. Year-Over-Year Results

What is it?

This metric compares dollars raised from one year to the next. This could be dollars raised by a certain campaign, fund, appeal, or membership level.

Why should fundraisers track it?

This is the best way to see the breakdown of annual change. When compared to goals, it can be a quick indicator of strategy effectiveness (whether your organization will meet and/or exceed expectations). This is also a useful metric in preparing revenue projects and budgets.

How do you calculate it?

Percentage difference in Year 2 from Year 1:

[(Year 2 Results – Year 1 Results) / Year 1 Results ] * 100 = Change from year to year.

Or, you can use charts, such as:


4. Donor Engagement

What is it?

Donor engagement is a metric that focuses on the level of participation rather than the monetary amount a person gives. An engaged donor is a person who attends fundraising events, meetings, or (in the case of cultural organizations) visits the institution often.

Why should fundraisers track it?

Engagement tells a more complete story of how, and to what extent, donors connect with your organization. This metric not only indicates the organization’s effectiveness at attracting interest in the organization, but also gives an indication of which donors are most likely to donate in the future (and at what level).

You’ll also want to figure out how donor giving is correlated with engagement so you can determine prime candidates for appeals and focus your strategy on engagement activities that are most successful in drawing donors. This can be an essential metric to track when experimenting with different types of fundraising events or marketing strategies.

How is it calculated?

Track the number of activities in which each donor participates. Over a period of time you’ll develop a benchmark level of engagement that is considered “normal”. It’s essential to have a benchmark to identify which donors are thoroughly engaged and might be prime prospects for an appeal, and which might be at risk of lapsing.


5. Loyalty

What is it?

Loyalty is defined differently by various organizations—it could be how much a donor is giving, how often a donor is giving, how many years a donor has been giving consecutively, donor engagement (see number 4), or another measurement of commitment to an organization. Loyalty can even be focused down to specific interests within an organization’s mission, such as loyalty to creative arts or children’s programming.

Why should fundraisers track it?

If you track loyalty consistently over a period of time you can see when the amount of loyal members dips or peaks. If loyalty is consistently diminishing over a period of time, it indicates that more efforts are needed to engage donors and keep them involved. You can also proactively utilize loyalty scores to identify ideal candidates to market new programs and appeals.

How is it calculated?

The degree of loyalty can be defined quantitatively with a scoring system or qualitatively with naming, such as “VIP” or “Board Member”. Quantitative scoring is typically a weighted calculation derived from transactional activities between the donor and the organization, such as “Number of Visits” per year or “Days in Stewardship Status”. Donors often self-identify qualitative loyalty by providing information such as their interests, preferences, and official member, board or volunteer interactions with the organization.

Need help measuring these metrics for your organization, or digging deeper in your data? JCA Answers is a business intelligence tool for nonprofits that will transform your organization’s data into reports and dashboards to track these metrics and many more.

Looking for more nonprofit data insights? Download the Fundraiser’s Guide to Data Analysis.