Successful fundraising is more than just making money to support your nonprofit. It’s about establishing long-term relationships with those genuinely interested in your cause. It’s about identifying trends and changes in donor contributions—and assessing the results in order to incorporate them into future fundraising goals.
In the first part of our fundraising series, we covered strategies for successful fundraising.
In the second part, we got back to basics with fundraising etiquette.
In this third and final part of our fundraising series, we look at four strategies to assess your fundraising results and help your nonprofit improve even more for the next appeal campaign.
1. Analyze Results
After your fundraising efforts have come to a close, take a close look at what the results tell you. There are several master data management (MDM) tools you can use to help with this task. MDM tools will help you identify and highlight the most important pieces of information. Once you have your data entered into a data management program, you should ask the three most important questions.
• Did you meet your goal?
• How much did you fall short or exceed your goal?
• Why did you get the results you did?
The answers to these questions are just as important to future fundraising goals as the actual numbers are to the success of this fundraiser. Make sure to log and keep track of all of the data from your fundraiser, so your results are as accurate as possible. You will benefit from this later, since you will want to incorporate the results into your future fundraising plans.
“By analyzing how well you did in meeting your annual appeal goals, you can position your organization for its next fundraising efforts. The results of the annual appeal provide a gold mine of data that can be used to see the number of existing donors you retained, to compare giving levels to previous years, and to identify trends in giving such as the number of new and lapsed donors,” suggests Cynthia Russell of CrossSector Partners.
2. Identify Trends
Before, during, and after the appeal campaign, keep as much data as organized as possible. In addition to knowing who your donors are so you can write stellar thank you letters, you will also want that information for yourself. You can use the data management tools to keep track of your donors’ names and contact information, their businesses and personal information that can come in handy if you want to make them feel remembered, and their contribution history.
This is a great way to identify trends among your donors and ask questions of your fundraising results that might explain the success of your fundraiser.
• Did they donate more or less than they did for your last fundraiser?
• Did you gain or lose any donors?
• Did something happen that would have impacted their donation?
• Is there anything you can do or say that might make a difference the next time around?
3. Determine Retention Rates
The retention rate of your appeal is the percentage of your donors who have donated year after year. When assessing your fundraising results, the retention rate of your donors provides valuable information that you can use when making future fundraising plans. Ask questions internally to get insight as to why your retention rate is better or worse than last year.
• Did you have more donors stick around and donate again than the last time?
• Did those donors contribute more or less than they did for your last campaign?
• Do you know why their donations were different this time around?
If they gave a smaller donation, consider the fact that there might have been circumstances beyond their control that affected the amount they were able to give. Regardless of the dollar amount of their donations, don’t forget to recognize the fact that they did contribute again, and make sure to thank them sincerely for their continued support. Loyal, repetitive donors are the bread and butter of any organization, as they contribute to predictable income for your organization.
4. Incorporate Results
When developing the strategy for your 2018 appeals, take the results from 2017 into account. Analyze your results and ask yourself these questions:
• What did you do that worked, and what did you do that did not work?
• How did those things affect the success of your campaign?
• And what can you do differently next year to make your fundraising efforts more fruitful?
Incorporate all of your fundraising data and results into your data management systems, so that all of the information is at your fingertips as you develop your next campaign.
After your campaign is over, assessing your fundraising results can impact the productivity of the entire next year. Put your data into a data management tool to analyze the results. Determine the retention rate of your donors and identify their contribution trends. Finally, take the results and incorporate them into your fundraising plans for 2018. Make the most of the money you raised and plan out next year, so it will be as successful as possible!
Cynthia Russell is Principal of CrossSector Partners, a management consulting firm that helps new and emerging nonprofits develop fundraising strategies, create strategic plans, and improve operations. Cynthia has worked with hundreds of nonprofits to develop growth plans, raise funds, and steward donors. Prior to launching CrossSector Partners, Cynthia held executive leadership positions with nonprofits in the fields of education, community development, the environment, and health care. She currently serves on the board of several nonprofits and is a frequent speaker on effective nonprofit management practices and philanthropy.