Seven measurements that matter most

publication date: Apr 6, 2011

Fundraising blogger Tom Belford has been thinking about the most meaningful things to measure to determine if you're raising as much money as possible, both present and future, for every dollar spent. You certainly don't want to spend time measuring things that don't tell you much. Here's his minimum list of the things you need to track.

  1. Current net cost per new donor, by acquisition channel. Belford recognizes that the cost may actually be negative in the short term, and that's OK. But you need to decide the short-term cost that you're willing to accept, and be prepared to make a strong case for why it's necessary. That's where his next measurements will help.
  2. Number of new donors who were acquired at that net cost in past twelve months, by media; and number that can be reasonably projected for next twelve months.
  3. First-year retention rate for new donors, by acquisition media - that, he says, is a clue to future value.
  4. Percent of file participating in monthly giving/sustainer program. That's a great measurement of how committed your donors are.
  5. Net lifetime value of donor (projected over, say, three to five years), by acquisition media. That tells you how much to invest in acquisition and whether your recruiting is well-targeted.
  6. Annual measure of "bonus money" such as the dollar value of bequests generated from your small gift donor file, and the dollar value of major gift donors (say, $1000+) generated from the small gift donor file. Remember where they came from, Belford advises, even as they're counted in some other campaign's totals.
  7. Growth in e-relationships over past twelve months. There's no immediate gift here, but there is a hint of future value. Look at the number of unique visitors to your website, the size of your active email address file, and the number of your social media friends and followers.

Then compare all these with the trends of the same measurement over the past three years. That's enough, he says, to get started on assessing your program and the improvements it needs.

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