How to Assess Your Fundraising Campaign’s Success: 3 Tips

People discussing a project at a desk

Whether you’re managing a large-scale capital campaign or a small GivingTuesday push, understanding your fundraisers’ wins and failures can better prepare you for campaigns in the future. However, with so many moving parts at play, it can be challenging to pinpoint your success indicators and understand how to measure them. 

In this guide, we’ll review the following tips to ensure that your campaign serves two purposes: raising money now and preparing you for long-term fundraising growth:

  1. Set Specific Financial Targets
  2. Track and Analyze Donor Engagement Metrics
  3. Identify Relevant Key Performance Indicators

As we delve into these tips, think about how your nonprofit currently measures fundraising success and how your approach to these strategies would change based on your priorities.

1. Set Specific Financial Targets

Even during the early planning stages of your fundraiser, you should be building in mechanisms so you can easily gauge your success once the campaign wraps. Since the main goal of your fundraiser is to collect donations, setting specific financial targets can help you allocate resources appropriately in the lead-up to launch day. 

Many factors could impact your fundraising campaign’s financial goals, such as:

  • Past fundraising performance. This is especially relevant for fundraisers running a new iteration of a campaign that they ran in the past. Pull reports of how much money you raised, how many donors you acquired, and other relevant information that can give you a foundation for the current campaign. 
  • Internal and external economic conditions. If your nonprofit is performing better than expected, you might not need to set your fundraising goal as high as you would if you were receiving fewer donations. Also, keep external economic factors, such as recessions, booms, and shifts in tax regulations, in mind. For example, a recession can deplete your donors’ giving capacities, which in turn impacts your fundraising goals.
  • Target audience. While you might have a similar target audience from campaign to campaign, you should delve into their preferences to understand what drives them to give and at what level. Fifty & Fifty recommends creating a donor persona that lays out their values, pain points, and other demographic markers—for financial goal-setting, focus on their giving capacity and motivations. 
  • Overhead costs. You have to spend money to make money, and those costs can significantly affect the donation revenue that you take home after the campaign. Try to estimate these costs ahead of time and adjust your fundraising goals accordingly. 
  • Long-term goals. Remember to keep your long-term objectives in mind while setting financial benchmarks so you support your overall mission and strategy.
  • New developments in the fundraising world. With technology growing in complexity each day, there are more ways than ever before to collect donations to nonprofits. Research new ways to receive gifts that you haven’t leveraged before, such as accepting cryptocurrency or tapping into donor advised funds, and evaluate if investing in any new ways to accept gifts would improve your fundraising outcomes.

Work with your team to ensure that each goal follows the SMART framework (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely) so you can visualize the pathways to accomplishing your short and long-term objectives. 

2. Track and Analyze Donor Engagement Metrics

Remember that you should be tracking more than just financial success metrics. In particular, donor engagement can—and should—also be measured throughout a fundraising campaign. Monitoring metrics such as new donors acquired, retained donors, and upgraded donors can tell you important information about the effectiveness of your stewardship strategies. Follow these tips for collecting and interpreting donor engagement data:

  • Focus on qualitative and quantitative data. Some data can’t be portrayed by numbers alone and requires input from your stakeholders. Provide ways for your donors and stakeholders to provide feedback that serves as your qualitative data. For example, a university might ask its alumni/ae donors if they felt more or less connected to their alma mater after an alumni/ae fundraising campaign.  
  • Track metrics via your digital channels. Technology allows you to gain hyper-focused insights into your donor engagement through tracking online activity. Social media likes, email click-throughs, and impressions on your website are easy to track, making them great metrics to start with. 
  • Practice CRM data hygiene. You likely already use a CRM to record your data, but how you organize it greatly impacts its effectiveness, especially when it comes to tracking qualitative feedback from donors. Ensure that you have the proper data management practices in place so you can easily record, reference, and report on important metrics. 

Focus on the most relevant data to your campaign based on your past performance. For instance, if a sorority’s alumnae association was focused on improving donor acquisition, they could track the number of new sorority alumni/ae interacting with their chapter alongside their qualitative feedback about the effectiveness of the sorority’s acquisition tactics and fundraisers

3. Identify Relevant Key Performance Indicators

Key performance indicators (KPIs) provide structure to add nuance and dimension to your data analysis. Some top KPIs that can help nonprofits gauge their fundraising performance include:

  • Donation growth rate, which measures year-over-year growth in total donations
  • Donor retention rate, which measures how many donors that gave last year gave again this year
  • Cost per dollar raised, which calculates how much it costs to raise each dollar of fundraising revenue 
  • Average gift size, which indicates the average amount donated per campaign
  • Donor acquisition rate, which signifies how many new donors gave this year 

These are just a few of the KPIs that could benefit your performance assessment process. To find the best calculations for you, analyze your campaign-specific and long-term objectives and choose which metrics best reflect them. Then, configure your CRM so you can easily calculate and report on these metrics.

As you start planning your benchmarks and tracking data for your fundraising campaign, keep in mind that success in fundraising isn’t just about hitting financial targets. In fact, as long as you follow these tips, you can strengthen your fundraising prowess and your supporter community as a whole by showing your donors that you’re committed to continuous improvement.

Author: Melissa Geitgey

Melissa Geitgey, APR, is the director of marketing for Togetherwork’s higher education product group. Togetherwork is a Saas company that provides integrated software and financial solutions that help organizations and membership groups manage, grow, and engage with their communities.

Melissa has extensive experience leading marketing and communications departments to advance strategic initiatives, managing events and corporate brands for Saas, higher education, athletics, professional services, and nonprofit organizations. She graduated from Valparaiso University with a B.A. in Communications and received her Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) by the Universal Accreditation Board in 2011.

She’s a past president of the Public Relations Society of America Hoosier Chapter and former chapter Ethics Chair. When she’s not geeking out about marketing communications strategy and the creative process, Melissa loves spending time with her family, listening to live music, visiting art museums, restoring vintage handbags and subversive cross stitch.

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