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By chris

15 Fundraising Success Metrics to Start Tracking

Measuring your performance is a crucial step that nonprofits must take to succeed. There’s no better way of isolating and troubleshooting any ongoing problems. And worry not, there’s no shortage of methods of measuring performance. They’re called fundraising success metrics here, but they are also often referred to as key performance indicators (KPIs). These metrics are the analytical tools nonprofits need to continue raising more and more funds. If you’re looking for the top metrics that your nonprofit should be tracking, this list of 15 has been split into four separate categories. Skip around and see what stands out as a must-have KPI for your nonprofit. If you’re looking recommended tools to track your fundraising metrics, we’ve got a short list we recommend:
  • DonorSearch’s Online Tools – Our suite of online tools is ideal for any nonprofit who is interested in learning more about their donor’s previous charitable giving, real estate holdings, and political giving.
  • Fundraising Report Card – A free tool for nonprofit executives who want better insight into their organization’s analytics including donor growth, donor acquisition, and donor retention.
  • 360MatchPro – A perfect platform for medium to large nonprofits who want to understand how much they could raise from corporate giving programs and identify their largest matching gift opportunities.

General Fundraising Metrics

These are the big KPIs. They’re the ones most organizations are tracking. They give you a picture of your fundraising success and can point you in the direction you need to go. Remember — you won’t get far with any of these metrics if you have inaccurate or incomplete information on your donors. Perform prospect research to complete your donor data files.

1. Cost Per Dollar Raised (CPDR)

Cost per dollar raised is one of the most commonly referenced fundraising success metrics. CPDR answers a very simple question. Did we raise money, lose money, or break even? The definition and means of calculation are explicitly stated in the metric’s name, but let’s walk through the process to provide any necessary clarification. To determine cost per dollar raised, divide expense by revenue for the given fundraiser you’re examining (event, direct mail appeal, etc.). If the expense and revenue are equal, you broke even and don’t need to carry out any calculations. If expense is higher than revenue, you lost money. Your calculation will yield a number more than one. The opposite will be true if you raised money. To keep things simple, imagine you held an event that cost $500 and raised $2,000. Just from looking at the dollar amounts, you know you made money, but if you want to see the exact cost analysis you would do as follows: $500/$2,000 = .25 In this instance, for every dollar you raised, it cost your nonprofit $0.25.

2. Fundraising Return on Investment (ROI)

Fundraising return on investment is equally as popular a metric as cost per dollar raised is, and it’s very similar. Instead of dividing expenses by revenue, you divide revenue by expenses. Once you’ve divided the two amounts, a number greater than one indicates that you’ve raised money. Most organizations tend to favor one of these first two metrics over the other, like ROI over CPDR, for example. They both provide near identical information. The differences are almost negligible. Your organization’s preference will probably boil down to the means by which you’re looking to improve. If cost cutting is a priority, nonprofits would likely be more interested in cost per dollar raised; whereas, return on investment is a great indicator of the effects of making strategic changes to increase revenue.

3. Donor Retention Rate

Does your organization track how many donors it retains on a year-over-year basis? It needs to be. Let’s face it: the time it takes to cultivate donors is a time-intensive process, and after all the work engaging your supporters you don’t want to have to do the process all over again with a whole new set of supporters. Of course, you can always continue to grow their donor pool through acquisition, but you don’t want to waste all your efforts. Maintaining donors through retention is just as essential as acquiring new donors.  The two sides of the fundraising coin work best in conjunction. Your acquisition and retention rates should be improving concurrently. However, more often than not, nonprofits place much stronger emphasis on acquisition than retention. Acquisition of new donors is an expensive endeavor, though. Retention is more cost effective. Tracking your retention rate can reveal a lot about your organization’s performance, including:
  • How your nonprofit should prioritize communication with supporters.
  • If your organization is acknowledging donors in a thoughtful and immediate fashion.
  • The ease in which donors are able to give via your various donation methods.
Track your retention rate to see how your organization is doing and discover if your retention practices need improvement. If you do have an undesirable rate, look to your stewardship practices first, and make sure you re-evaluate with an eye for retention. What is your acknowledgment process? When do you follow up? How do you continue communications? Check out Razoo’s blog for 10 ways to improve donor retention rates, including ways to respond to the data you receive.

4. Donor Growth

Donor growth is what one might consider a domino metric. If donor growth is down, it’s likely that it didn’t get that way on its own. Lack of donor growth, or worse donor loss, is often the result of multiple factors. Measuring your donor growth ensures that you’re paying attention to your overall performance and puts your nonprofit in a situation to address any concerns early and quickly. Use this metric in conjunction with some of the others on this list to determine exactly why your number of donors isn’t growing. Essentially, you’ll be back-solving.

5. Conversion Rate

In order to determine conversion rate, you need a goal action and a list of donors you’d like to complete that action. The goal action could be anything from attending an event to responding to a direct mail letter, but the most common goal action involves donations. Typically the rate will be investigating how many prospects donated to a specific campaign or took an action as a result of a specific request. To find the rate itself, divide the number of people who completed the goal action by the total number of people who were given the opportunity to do so. Then multiply the number by 100 to get a percent. Let’s take a simple example. Say you sent out an email to 100 donors, asking them to follow a link and make a donation online. Of those 100, 30 followed the link and took the requested step. Therefore, your conversion rate in this instance was 30%. Conversion rate is one of the most cut and dry methods of evaluating the success of a given request for action.

6. Gifts Secured

This indicator is as standard as it sounds. How many gifts did your organization secure through the month? The quarter? The year? Tracking gifts secured over time is another way of saying you’re tracking donation growth. To delve even further into the data, you can separate the gifts by type:
  • major giving
  • planned giving
  • mid-level gifts
  • small gifts
  • annual fund donations
  • monthly donations
You’ll see crossover among some of the categories, but the more in-depth you go, the better you’ll be able to adjust and plan for the future.  

Giving Level Metrics

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By chris

3 Determiners of Donor Giving Capacity

Although most of us wish it were a science, determining donor giving capability is more of an art form. Prospect research reveals pieces of data about donors and then does the difficult task of analyzing what those data points mean. That result, a prospect research output, is donor giving capability. It is determined by three factors:
  1. Connection to Your Cause
  2. Philanthropic Propensity
  3. Wealth Markers
Some researchers start and end with wealth markers, which is a real detriment to giving capability accuracy.

In this article, we’re going to give you the lowdown on all things donor giving capacity, which includes:

  1. A discussion of the three determiners of donor giving capacity.
  2. An investigation into the accuracy of capacity scores.
  3. A summary of major gift capacity scores.
Let’s open with point one, the three determiners. Think of the giving capacity determiners as legs on a tripod, all necessary and all doing their part. 

#1: Connection to Your Cause

This is the number one way to determine donor giving capability. The best indicator of a new donation is a past donation, or, at least, a past involvement, such as volunteering. Cause connection can be evidenced by:
  • Past giving
  • Event attendance
  • Support on social media
  • Volunteerism
  • And more
A prospect without an interest in your cause isn’t much of a prospect at all. A prospect with a strong interest in your cause is the strongest type of prospect you have.

#2: Philanthropic Propensity

There are prospects hiding everywhere, donating to causes just like yours, and are essentially great donor candidates in waiting. Someone who has a proven commitment to nonprofits is going to be more likely to donate than someone who does not. Consider the two following examples:
  1. Holding a board seat for another nonprofit.
  2. Charitable giving outside of your cause.
Let’s discuss those one at a time. First — Holding a Board Seat for Another Nonprofit Think about all that holding a board seat entails. If you’re looking for philanthropic propensity indicators, this is as good an indicator as any. Members of a nonprofit board clearly understand the ins and outs of nonprofits. They know what it takes to run a successful organization. Board members also inherently have a demonstrated vested interest in charitable work. They certainly know the value of philanthropy. Second — Charitable Giving Outside of Your Cause In terms of indicators, this is a runner up behind giving to your organization specifically. Past donations mark prospects as people of action. They may not have donated to your cause yet, but that could be for a reason as simple as lack of awareness.

#3: Wealth Markers

These are typically what first come to mind when contemplating the factors that contribute towards giving capability. Wealth markers have their limits though, which we’ll go on to discuss in a moment. Common wealth markers include: Real estate ownership: Often used as a top marker, real estate ownership has a direct correlation to charitable giving. Besides demonstrating wealth, certain real estate amounts actually correlate to a higher likelihood of giving. For instance, prospects who own $2+ million in real estate are 17 times more likely to make a charitable contribution than an average prospect

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By chris

[Guest Post] How to Utilize Social Insights for Prospect Research

DonorSearch always aims to provide the best content available regarding prospect research and the broader nonprofit space. As such, we welcome guest contributors occasionally to mix things up here at our blog and provide new perspectives. Today, we’re happy to share a post by Solina Powell of EverTrue.

How to Utilize Social Insights for Prospect Research

While some workplaces frown upon employees spending their time on sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook, those working in prospect research should be encouraged to invest their time in these platforms. Social media has become an increasingly valuable tool for gathering insights on donors. As donors shift their lives online, small actions such as “liking” a post on Facebook or updating a LinkedIn job title can say a lot about a person’s affinity and capacity. Equipped with social insights, your organization can build stronger relationships with constituents and foster more philanthropic giving. Spend some time collecting social data to help tell a story about your prospects. Here are some key strategies to harness the power of social media for more dynamic prospect research.

LinkedIn: Connect and Contact

Are your fundraisers tired of bounced emails or wasted paper mailings? Is your donor database littered with old AOL emails, home addresses, and job titles? LinkedIn is a great solution. While it is unlikely constituents will update your nonprofit with every career change throughout their lives, chances are they’re updating these personal details on LinkedIn. For any prospect researcher, LinkedIn should be key to maintaining comprehensive donor information on employment, location, contact details, causes they care about, and more. =&0=&

Facebook: Build Deeper Friendships

Leveraging the wealth of information on Facebook will help you develop a more in-depth picture of a donor or potential donor. As your organization posts updates, pictures, and videos to its Facebook page, you should take note of who is engaging with that content. Studies show that there is a positive correlation between social engagement and giving participation, so the more socially engaged a prospect, the more likely they are to give. Who is “liking” or commenting on your content? What content are they engaging most with? Facebook is a valuable tool to help assess a prospect’s relationship with your organization, ultimately allowing your fundraising office to develop more targeted strategies. =&0=&
  • Uncover new and/or engaged prospects by identifying those giving your content a “thumbs up.”
  • Prioritize engaged prospects and learn what events, causes, or initiatives they value to help your fundraisers make more informed asks.
  • Millennials make up the largest proportion (22%) of the 1.44 billion active monthly user Facebook population. Thus, Facebook is a helpful avenue through which to gauge their affinity to your nonprofit by analyzing what they “like” and what they don’t.
Prospect researchers are tasked with the challenging responsibility of understanding people whom they initially know little or nothing about. By adding social data into your suite of tools (while abiding by the APRA Social Media Ethics Statement, of course), you’ll be able to craft better stories about prospects and set up your fundraisers for success.    This is a guest contribution by Solina Powell of EverTrue, a Boston-based company empowering 300+ nonprofits with social donor management software. Check out the

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By chris

[Guest Post] Prospect Research Metrics and ROI

Guest Post by Margaret King, Founder/President of InfoRich Group, Inc. Recently, I asked Prospect Researchers to complete a brief survey to help me understand how they measure the value of the work they perform.  The survey consisted of four questions:
  1. What are the top three criteria used by management to evaluate your performance?
  2. What are the top five metrics used to place a value on or showcase your department’s prospect research efforts to senior management?
  3. What top three metrics would you like to add within the next 12 to 24 months to help place a value on or showcase your department’s prospect research efforts to senior management?
  4. What are the top three criteria used by management to evaluate the Gift Officer’s performance?

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By chris

The Quintessential Guide to Interviewing a Prospect Researcher

Ah, the tricky business of interviewing. It is difficult in any field, as both the interviewer and the interviewee. The person doing the interviewing has the challenging job of balancing selling the position and assessing the skill-set of the potential employee. And, well, we all feel for the potential employee. Who hasn’t arrived way too early for an interview only to sit in your car for twenty minutes until you’re ‘appropriately’ early? Or, who doesn’t leave an interview and then just play the discussion ad infinitum for the foreseeable future? Okay, so maybe I’m projecting my own anxieties, at least slightly. But, truthfully, interviews and the hiring process can just be incredibly stressful for all involved. If you’re looking to hire a prospect researcher, you want to ensure you’re hiring the best candidate. Prospect research can be hugely beneficial for fundraising organizations, but those organizations need to have the right resources and people in the place to help steer their efforts in the right direction. This guide is designed to lead you through the prospect researcher interviewing process. Approach the interview with a solid knowledge of what the researcher’s place will be in your organization and what will be expected of him or her, so that you can best cater your questions to determining if he or she is the right fit.

Prior to the Interview

You’ll want to assess the current state of your organization’s prospect research before any candidates walk through the door. Think through the following questions:
  • Do you already have a system of prospect research in place?
  • Will the new staffer be establishing a new system?
  • Who will the researcher be working with?
  • What tools will you provide to aid the position (i.e., services from a prospect screening company, like DonorSearch)?
Once you’re apprised of your current research situation, you should then go about curating a prospect researcher qualities wish list. Think of this list as a driving outline of a prospect researcher job posting.

Creating a Prospect Researcher Qualities “Wish List”

These preferences will vary depending on your answers to the above questions, but, in general, contenders for the job should be:
  • Researchers first and foremost (if this is an entry-level position, look for evidence of research skills in academia).
  • Inquisitive and willing to chase down donor data.
  • Proficient with databases.
  • Effective oral and written communicators.
  • Comfortable multi-tasking.
  • Able to work independently and as part of a team.
  • Understand the inner-workings of fundraising.
  • Discreet and capable of handling confidential and personal information.
When you know what your organization needs from a prospect researcher, it’s time to get to interviewing.

The Interview

For the purposes of this discussion we’ll be breaking our recommended interview questions into three categories:
  1. General
  2. Place in the Team
  3. Prospect Research
Once we get to prospect research, we’ll cover both questions for entry-level candidates and those applying for higher-level positions.

#1: General

Every good interviewer needs to do a basic personality and general assessment of the interviewee. These are what we’d consider the universal questions slightly skewed to nonprofits.
  • What appeals to you about the role?
  • What is your understanding of the position?
  • Why do you want to work for a nonprofit?
  • How would you explain our mission to a potential donor?
  • Where do you see yourself in a year, three years, five years, etc.?
  • Who is your professional role model?
  • What nonprofit, besides this one, do you think has an impressive fundraising model?
  • Tell us about a time when a professional project went badly and how you handled it.
  • How would you handle a disagreement with your supervisor?
This list could go on and on. Try to find a good mix of easier questions, designed as a point of entry, and more specific, challenging ones. It also never hurts to throw in one or two fun ones that reveal more about the applicant’s personality — like, what’s your favorite television show?

#2: Place in the Team

Whoever you hire is going to be working closely with your entire development staff. The new staff member might have other prospect researchers to work with or have to coordinate with communications staff. A successful nonprofit runs like an engine, multiple parts working side by side, fulfilling a common goal. A prospect researcher can’t simply be database bound, head in a computer all day. Researchers have to have good chemistry with your team. You’ll need to dedicate a line of questions towards this, such as:
  • Tell us about a time when you had a bad experience working with a team.
  • Tell us about a time when you had a great experience working with a team.
  • How do you balance the needs of multiple people?
  • Would you consider yourself someone who is better as a team member or team leader?
  • How do you prioritize your own tasks and tasks others need assistance with?
Later in the interviewing process, maybe during a second interview, you could introduce the candidate to a few of the staffers whom he or she would be working with daily and get feedback from them, in addition to the supervisor. Additionally, you could have the candidate perform a project where he or she has to work with other members of your team. This allows other people to get to know the candidate a bit better, and you’ll be able to see how the candidate interacts with your existing team.

#3: Prospect Research

These questions are the main course of the interview. You’ll be asking somewhat different questions of those applying to an entry-level versus a higher-level position, but in the end you’re looking for similar qualities and skills. A) Entry-Level Position
  • What is your understanding of the position and the role you would play as an employee?
  • What past experiences have you had with fundraising?
  • What drew you to prospect research?
  • How do you usually perform research, say, for an academic paper?
  • How would you handle prioritizing two important tasks?
  • Do you consider yourself more of a data-driven and detail-oriented or a big picture researcher and analyst?
B) Higher-Level Position
  • Tell us about one success and one failure you’ve had in the past regarding prospect research.
  • What resources do you typically use to perform prospect research?
  • Are you comfortable working in a predetermined system and methodology, or do you have your own established process that you like to stick to?
  • Do you expect to work in a team or individual environment?
  • What is your formula for identifying a top donor prospect?
  • What do you consider to be the most telling details you can discover about a prospect?
The interviewing process for a prospect researcher should not be all too different from any of your other staff positions, especially those in development. As long as you enter the process with a solid understanding of where your prospect research efforts are and where you’d like to see them go, you’ll be able to appropriately evaluate if an interviewee is a good candidate. If you’re new to the field of prospect research, or you’d like a refresher, check out our ultimate guide. Even if you’re hiring a prospect researcher to fill in for your own knowledge gap in the field, you’ll need to know background information in order to properly vet those applying for the job. Bonus tip: Check out this video to learn more about hiring people to work in your nonprofit.

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By donorsearch

Prospect Research for Public Radio Stations

Radio is a cultural stalwart.  It has outlasted its naysayers. When television came along people thought radio would disappear. It survived. As the internet rose to prominence, people tried to knock radio once again.  It survived. Listeners can now find their favorite radio stations in the car, on the computer, and even on their phones. Radio has diversified itself as it has grown, and public radio stations are no exceptions.

By chris

The Art of Writing a Prospect Researcher Job Description

People say that ignorance is bliss.  What about when you are no longer ignorant?  That bliss disappears in a hurry. Maybe you’ve been blissfully unaware of prospect research, but now you know. Or, you’ve known about it, but haven’t made screening prospects a priority. Either way, you’re desperate to make up for lost time and excited by the fundraising opportunities. You’ve decided to catch up quickly and you are ready to hire a prospect researcher.  One problem though, you’re new to the entire field of prospect research and don’t know where to start with your recruitment. We’ve got you covered!

Below is a four-point breakdown of the development position of prospect researcher.

Point #1: What is a prospect researcher?

Walk before you run, right?  Well, you can’t exactly recruit a prospect researcher if you don’t know what one is. Just as prospect research varies by organization type, the position is going to change slightly from organization to organization. In the context of this discussion, and a larger understanding of the role, a prospect researcher is a full time member of a fundraising/development team who provides deep background on high quality prospects. More specifically, the researcher will be looking into prospects’ histories with the organization, motivations for philanthropy, and recommendations for solicitations. Let’s unpack that definition a bit. The researcher will be responsible for taking potential major donors and delving into their backgrounds with your cause and philanthropy in general. The staffer will then take what he learns and curate the ultimate solicitation approach for each researched prospect. Prospect researchers should be major gift gurus. Dedicated prospect researchers are most commonly hired by educational institutions. Organizations with full time researchers are hiring those individuals because they’re seeking a good return on investment. At a large, educational institution, one major gift acquired by a prospect researcher can pay that employee’s salary for the year and then some.

Point #2: What will be a prospect researcher’s key responsibilities, duties, and activities?

A prospect researcher will be part of your development team.  We’ve already discussed the general outline of this point in the definition of the role in point 1. This section will serve as a multi-part breakdown of the various responsibilities, duties, and activities associated with a prospect researcher. This list consists of researcher tasks commonly included in job descriptions for the profession.
  1. Using a broad spectrum of sources, the employee researches, organizes, and evaluates a prospect’s financial capacity, ability to give, willingness to give, charitable interests, and connection to the organization
  2. Produces in-depth, well-written reports on prospects based on a combination of data from the donor database, available financial records, real estate ownership, and other markers of high quality donors
  3. Writes frequent prospect briefings for the use of the development team
  4. Implements new research techniques as they arise, striving to design the ultimate prospect research methodology
  5. Works with other development staff to improve the organization’s fundraising strategies
  6. May provide general support to development staff and work on special projects when called for
The job description is going to change based on the type of organization hiring the prospect researcher and the make-up of the staff already in place. Some prospect researchers will be the only ones on staff.  Others might be part of a team that has even more additional prospect research tools at its disposal.

Point #3: What are the respective recommended education and experience levels for prospect researchers?

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By chris

2 Types of Donor Data Your Nonprofit Needs

With the rise of the internet and social media, it’s possible to find information about almost everybody and everything. Whether you’re collecting data on a new renter, a potential employee or a prospective donor, knowing which information to use is important. Fundraisers have an array of tasks, but learning all they can about their donors in order to build and cultivate relationships is among the most vital. From their home address to their financial investments, collecting important data about donors can help nonprofits build rapport, as well as discover their next major gift donors. Different kinds of data can be discovered in a multitude of ways, but two of important sets of data are wealth information and personal information.

Wealth Information:

Knowing a donor’s financial information can be extremely beneficial, specifically when planning upcoming campaigns and fundraisers. This information is often available through wealth screening. Wealth screening helps give your organization a picture of your prospects and their financial situations so that you know how to appropriately solicit them for gifts. Wealth screening can also help you find your next major gift prospect. Important information to look for from wealth screening includes:
  • Giving history: Knowing where a prospect has donated, how much and how frequently can give you an idea of how philanthropic they are and what types of organizations they support, as well as the typical gift amount that they make.
  • Investments: Does the prospect own a yacht? A home? A business? Stocks? Knowing a donor’s investments – how much and where they’re allocated – can help you determine their financial standing, as well as their interests.
  • Business relationships: A particular donor may work for a company that is active in the nonprofit world, and that could be a great opportunity for your organization. If the prospect’s company makes frequent gifts to charitable organizations or makes matching donations, the prospect may be a great gateway into the organization’s philanthropic involvement.

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By donorsearch

9 Rules for Ethical Prospect Research

From social media to blogs to 24/7 news services, there is more information on people available than ever before. You just have to know how to look for it. Some people know how to block their online profiles from public view or limit the exposure of any online content about them. This is less a problem of making friends than it is a conundrum for prospect researchers who are trying to learn as much as they can about potential donors. Should nonprofits seek ways to obtain the purposefully hidden information? What are the limits to any workarounds? The ethics of any topic is a debate that could last forever, but your organization doesn’t have forever to figure out right and wrong ways to raise money. You have a cause to fund, and without detailed donor profiles you can’t make the types of emotional pitches that excite donors about your organization. We’ve compiled nine best practices to help your organization conduct prospect research in a way that’s both effective and respectful of sensitive information.

1) Focus on acceptable data

It’s obvious that you shouldn’t pursue records that are illegal to obtain, but just because certain records are legal doesn’t mean that you should be looking at them. For example, you may be able to obtain criminal records on a prospect, but for what purpose? Prospect research is not about obtaining any and all donor information in the hope that some data point may be the nugget of gold that you’re looking for. All data should follow two rules:
  1. Be appropriate and pertinent to the specific fundraising campaign and prospect.
  2. Protect all personal information at all times.

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By chris

Prospect Research for Religious Organizations

Fundraising is not a passive activity. Just like any other nonprofit, religious organizations need to get active and call prospects, host events, and engage donors in order to raise the funds that allow them to operate at full capacity. To boost your church fundraising efforts, we’ll answer:
  1. Why do faith-based organizations need prospect research?
  2. How is prospect screening unique for faith-based organizations?
  3. Who should you focus on?
  4. When should you screen?
  5. Where to do screenings?
  6. What are the benefits of screening?
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Why do faith-based organizations need prospect research?

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