I’ll confess: I’m not much of a gym-going kind of guy. Working out for me is more of a chore than anything else.
But something I’ve always admired about people who are serious about getting in shape is their thorough knowledge of their own personal fitness stats.
Ask someone who frequents the gym what their current personal best is for the bench press, and I’ll bet they can tell you in the blink of an eye. Or how fast they can run a mile, or their marathon time, their BMI, weight, chin-up reps, etc. They have an intimate knowledge of how well their body can perform and keep extremely close track of it.
There’s an old saying that explains this: You improve what you measure.
When you keep a close eye on a metric, you have a tendency to give that metric a lot of nurturing and attention, so of course it improves.
Here’s a gut-check for you: Can you say the same about your fundraising?
How knowledgeable are you on your fundraising metrics? Can you rattle off numbers like a fitness geek can? Or would you need to look it up?
Even if you have a good understanding of your fundraising stats, you may not be tracking the kind of stats that a modern fundraiser needs to know.
Take a look at the SlideShare below for a quick overview, then dive into the heavy stuff below!
How it’s calculated: (Emails opened) / (Emails sent)
Why it matters: Knowing how many people actually opened your email can inform you of how many people your messages are reaching. If you spend hours writing email appeals or reports and no one actually opens them, was all that effort really worth it? Conversely, if you find out you have an extremely high open rate, you know you can invest more resources into your email marketing with confidence!
How you can improve it: Subject lines, subject lines, subject lines! You should spend about as much time crafting the perfect subject line as you do the actual email. After all, if no one opens the email because your subject line was boring, all that work was for naught.
You can also look at the health of your email list to improve the open rate of your emails. If you have a disengaged audience who can’t remember why they’re getting emails from you in the first place, maybe it’s time to prune those branches? They’re not helping you, and you’re not helping them by keeping them around. Clean it up!
How it’s calculated: (Emails inside which a link was clicked) / (Emails sent)
Why it matters: Just like your open rate tells you if your efforts are paying off, click rate gets to the heart of why you’re sending these emails in the first place.
For most people, the purpose of sending an email is not simply to have the recipient read the email. Typically, you want that person to take some sort of action. Donate, RSVP to an event, or share something on Facebook.
And how do you do that? You have them click a link! If they click the link in your email, you know they’ve read your message and have taken a step towards the target action.
How you can improve it: If you’ve already gotten your subject lines and audience sorted out, improving click rate comes down to optimizing the actual body of your email.
Do your emails contain huge blocks of text with hundreds of words? Ask yourself: when’s the last time you read an email that large? Chances are you skimmed it and tossed it.
Shorten those emails and get to the point faster! Make it painfully obvious what the action the recipient should take is. That means using a big, colorful button (called a “call-to-action” or “CTA”) for recipients to click with a clear message on it (“Click here to support this project!”).
How it's calculated: (Repeat donors) / (Previous year's donors)
Why it matters: There’s nothing quite as sexy as a new sale (trust me, I work with salespeople. They love a new sale). But every business person knows that repeat customers are far more valuable to your business.
So it is with donors as well. Repeat donors offer much more value, so if you’re not making efforts to keep donors engaged, you’re missing out.
How you can improve it: Do you view a donation as the ultimate goal with your donors? Or does that donation simply represent the beginning of the relationship?
“Focusing on improving donor retention is the best way to grow revenues for your charity, and money spent on retaining donors offers the best ROI of any fundraising activity,” says fundraiser Rory Green.
No one likes to be in a relationship that ends as soon as one person gets what they want! Relationships are a two-way street.
Donation Page Conversion
How it’s calculated: (# of online donors) / (# of visits to donation page)
Why it matters: The sole purpose of your donation page is to bring in money. If it’s doing a poor job of that, you’ve got a serious problem on your hands. Businesses spend many hours and many thousands of dollars making tiny changes to their websites just to improve their page conversion rate by a few fractions of a percent. It’s serious business.
How you can improve it: We happen to have a whole list of donation page mistakes! Is your donation page mobile-friendly? If not, you’re missing out on an opportunity to improve your conversion rate by 34%. Are your forms too long? Breaking them up into a 3-step process can improve the conversion rate by 13%. Check the list for other tips!
How it's calculated: (Donors who increase giving) / (Total donors)
Why it matters: I’ll let Maeve Strathy of What Gives Philanthropy take this one:
“Knowing the trend is that donors are giving more money to fewer organizations, we want to ensure that those donors that we're retaining year after year are upgrading their giving as they continue to support us. The longer they stick around, and the more they give each time, the more likely it is that they'll continue to stick around.”
How you can improve it: Maeve recommends looking at connecting past donors with specific projects that are relevant to them and their giving interests. Even if a donor is interested in the overall cause your organization serves, it’s likely that there are projects within that cause that they feel a closer connection with.
Major Gift Pipeline Report
Why it matters: It’s tempting to track vanity metrics like meetings booked, number of asks, or even emails sent, but when it comes to major gifts are those actually accomplishing anything?
A better measure of major gift success is a pipeline report. This tells you how many donors (and the expected value of those donors) are actually moving through the major gift cycle and edging closer to a donation.
“Major gifts is not a quantity game, it’s a quality game and metrics should center on what you’re doing to move prospects down the pipeline,” says Rory Green.
“You need to make sure your major gifts metrics reward people not for lots of activity but smart activity. One meeting with a great prospect is better than 50 emails with people who are not great prospects.”
How you can improve it: Focus more on the quality of your major gift interactions rather than the quantity of those interactions. If you’re overly focused on filling the top of your pipeline, you’re likely to end up with low quality leads who are nowhere near a good fit for your organization. As a result, few of those prospects will proceed down your pipeline, and you’re left with weak looking performance.
Instead, focus less on the number at the top and more on finding quality prospects to interact with, as well as the actionable steps taken to move those prospects further down the giving cycle.
Forget the Vanity Metrics
Remember, you improve what you measure! Keep track of the important stuff, and you’ll find yourself making strides in those areas as a result of all the extra care and attention given.