As a nonprofit professional, you put plenty of hard work and careful strategy into each and every fundraising campaign that your nonprofit launches. It’s essential that you have a way to accurately measure your progress; otherwise, gauging your successes and shortcomings (and then building on those lessons for future campaigns) becomes nearly impossible.
That’s where KPIs come in.
Nonprofit KPIs, or nonprofit fundraising metrics, can improve your strategies, programs, and, ultimately, fundraising numbers if your nonprofit tracks them wisely. With that said, the world of big data can be overwhelming—it seems like there’s a KPI for everything. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about nonprofit fundraising metrics and offer 26 essential KPIs for your nonprofit to track. We’ll go through:
- Overview of nonprofit fundraising metrics
- Nonprofit fundraising metrics best practices
- General nonprofit fundraising metrics
- Donor relationship metrics
- Giving level metrics
- Engagement metrics
- Online performance metrics
From page views to conversion rates, it’s important to know what metrics to track for your nonprofit and why. Let’s get started.
Overview of Nonprofit Fundraising Metrics
What are Nonprofit KPIs?
Nonprofit KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are measurable values meant to demonstrate how effectively a nonprofit is achieving key objectives. Because performance at nonprofits is inextricably linked to fundraising, nonprofit KPIs are also called “nonprofit fundraising metrics.”
Nonprofits use these metrics at multiple levels to evaluate their success at reaching targets. “High level” KPIs are big-picture and focus on overall performance, while “low-level” KPIs are more specific.
Why is it important to track nonprofit fundraising metrics?
It’s important to track at least some KPIs because they:
- Provide a large amount of accurate data about your organization.
- Empower you to make informed, evidence-based decisions.
- Take all of the guesswork out of evaluating success.
- Can tell you which strategies are working and which aren’t.
For example, if your nonprofit had the question, “Would sending handwritten thank-you notes increase donor retention?” but had no plans to actually track the retention rates in the thank-you note population, you’d have no way to know whether or not you should keep writing thank-you notes. With real metrics, you get real information and can move forward with the best option for your organization.
Nonprofit Fundraising Metrics Best Practices
Tracking Fundraising KPIs
Because there are so many useful KPIs and so many data points required to calculate each one, it’s in your organization’s best interest to use software to track the KPIs you value. Calculating metrics manually, while possible, introduces the possibility for human error and may cast doubt on the accuracy of your metrics, not to mention taking up valuable time your team could be spending building relationships with donors.
Using Fundraising Metrics
You’ll find that there are several ways to use your metrics. They are almost always useful for making comparisons, like:
- Comparing your organization’s average gift size this year to its average gift size last year
- Comparing your organization’s average gift size to a similar organization’s average gift size
Metrics evaluated over time can show you trends and movements in data, while metrics across organizations can tell you how you compare to the “standard” or to other nonprofits whose strategies you would like to emulate.
Before you make too many changes based on KPIs, though, you’ll likely have to present the data to the board of your organization.
It can be tempting to go into a high level of detail when reporting statistics to others, but be sure to consider your board members’ time and positions. As high-level members of your team, they have a bird’s eye view of the organization. They probably won’t want to hear all of the granular details that contributed to your retention rate decreasing by 2 points this year. They’ll want to see a graph descending slightly from left to right.
Communicating your KPIs to others is best achieved by simplifying the numbers into easily-digestible forms. Often, that means producing a visual representation of the trend or statistic.
Determining Which Nonprofit Fundraising Metrics to Track
It may be tempting to try to track as many KPIs as possible, but it’s smart to focus your tracked KPIs around goals and initiatives you’re implementing at your nonprofit. Too many data types have the potential to overwhelm your team.
It’s important to select a combination of leading and lagging KPIs to assess your nonprofit’s performance.
- Leading KPIs are rates or percentages that describe trends in your nonprofit’s performance over time. Some examples are donor retention rate, average donor growth, and average donation growth.
- Lagging KPIs are numbers describing performance in one time period, not over time. Some examples are average gift size, gifts secured, and donor diversity.
General Nonprofit Fundraising Metrics
1. Cost Per Dollar Raised (CPDR)
Cost per dollar raised is one of the most commonly used fundraising success metrics. CPDR answers a simple question: did we raise money, lose money, or break even? CPDR is a useful value to know for individual fundraising events, so you can understand how well certain campaigns worked, but also for your entire annual fundraising pursuits to give you an indication of fundraising success overall.
CPDR is determined by dividing expenses by revenue for the given fundraiser, campaign, or time period. If expenses and revenue are equal, the calculation will yield 1, meaning for every $1 you spent, you brought in $1—you broke even. If expenses were greater than revenue, the calculation will yield a number greater than 1, indicating a net loss. Meanwhile, a number less than 1 means more revenue was earned than expenses incurred, yielding a profit for the given event or time period.
Say you held an event that cost $500 to plan and execute and you raised $2,000 at the event. The numbers on their own can tell you that you made money, but if you want to know the ratio between expenses and revenue, evaluate CPDR:
$500/$2,000 = 0.25
This tells you that for every 1$ you brought in, you spent $0.25.
2. Fundraising Return on Investment (ROI)
Fundraising ROI is also a popular metric to determine for nonprofits. Like CPDR, it tells you the success or failure of a given fundraising pursuit, but the calculation is the opposite of CPDR. Instead of expenses divided by revenue (which tells you how much spent per dollar earned), fundraising ROI is found by dividing revenue by expenses. The resulting number tells you how much you earned per dollar spent.
In this case, a number greater than 1 means you turned a profit, while a number less than 1 means you incurred a loss.
For the same situation as in the above example—a fundraiser cost you $500 and you brought in $2000—the following would be the ROI:
$2000/$500 = 4
This indicates that for every $1 you spent, you made $4, so the return on the investment is 4x.
As you can see, CPDR and fundraising ROI provide the same information, just framed in different ways. Why might a nonprofit prefer one metric over the other?
If cost-cutting is a priority, nonprofits would likely be more interested in CPDR. If strategic planning for future fundraising efforts is the focus, fundraising ROI would be preferred.
3. Conversion Rate
Conversion rate tells a nonprofit how successful a given campaign was at getting people to complete a goal action, like donating or attending an event.
To calculate conversion rate, you first define your terms: what is the goal action? What do you want people to do?
The goal action for a direct mail fundraising campaign might be returning a check with a donation, while the goal action for an email with volunteer opportunities might be registering for an event.
To find conversion rate, you divide the number of people who completed the goal action by the number of people who were given the opportunity to do so, then multiply that number by 100 to yield a percent.
Let’s look at an example.
Say you sent out an email to 200 donors asking them to follow a link and make a donation online. Of those 200, 75 followed the link and used your online giving page or tool to complete their donations. Let’s find the conversion rate:
75/200 = 0.375
0.375 x 100 = 37.5%
Your conversion rate in this instance was 37.5%, meaning the campaign had a 37.5% success rate.
Conversion rate is one of the most cut and dry methods of evaluating the success of a given request for action. Measuring conversion rates can help your organization better understand your supporters’ giving preferences as well as the relative success of each of your outreach methods.
4. Gifts Secured
Gifts secured is a measure of how many gifts your organization received through a given time period. If you track gifts secured over time, it’s common to say you are tracking “donation growth.”
Gifts secured is reported as a whole number. If you received 7,580 total donations in 2020, your gifts secured metric is 7,580.
To find more specific information, you can separate this metric by type of gift. You could separate gifts secured into:
- major giving
- planned giving
- mid-level gifts
- small gifts
- annual fund donations
- monthly donations
This allows you to see what audiences you are succeeding with and where you might want to do more outreach.
5. Matching Gift Rate
Your nonprofit’s matching gift rate represents the percentage of contributions matched through corporate philanthropy, or the number of donors who take advantage of their employers’ matching gift donations.
According to Double the Donation, $4-7 billion in potential corporate donations goes unclaimed every year..
The best way to improve your own matching gifts program is to establish a baseline: first, determine how many of your donors are taking advantage of matching gifts on their own. Then, start promoting matching gifts to the rest of your donor base and monitor the rate of matching gifts for improvements.
Other key metrics for measuring the success of your matching gift program include:
- Overall number of contributions made through matching gifts
- Value of total matching gifts contributions over time
- Percentage of eligible donors who submit their matching gift requests
- Number of match-eligible donors in your population of supporters
Keeping track of the percentage of match-eligible supporters and donors within your community is also a smart way to identify segments of donors that could be solicited for increased support: 1 in 3 donors indicated that they’d give a larger gift if their employer would match it.
6. Pledge Fulfillment Percentage
Pledges are funds promised to be paid to your nonprofit over a specific period of time.
Track pledge fulfillment percentage to see how many of your donors are following through with their promised funds. To calculate pledge fulfillment percentage, you divide total pledges fulfilled by total pledges promised and multiply by 100 to get a percent.
You’ll want to know if your pledges are following through or not because the implications for your accounting team are significant. Funds pledged are accounted for as cash in your annual budget; if the cash never appears, you may be going over budget. If donors are consistently backing out of pledge promises, you may need to reevaluate your pledge-acquiring strategies.
7. Recurring Gift Percentage
Recurring gift percentage tells you how many of your total gifts for a given time period were part of donors’ recurring gift schedules.
To find recurring gift percentage, you divide the number of recurring gifts by the total number of gifts. If 600 of your 3,000 donations in a given year were received as recurring gifts, you’d find the following recurring gift percentage:
600/3,000 = 0.2
0.2 x 100 = 20%
Thus, your recurring gift percentage is 20%.
This number can provide a baseline for recurring gift campaigns or give you an idea of expected funds into the future, even though they can’t be officially accounted for in next year’s annual budget.
8. Board Member Participation Rate
Many nonprofits have a policy requiring board members to make a personal contribution on an annual basis. Board member participation rate tells you what percentage of your board members are doing so.
To find board member participation rate, you divide contributing board members by total board members and multiply by 100.
As high-level team members, you’ll want your board members to be as invested as possible in the organization. Use this metric to leverage a fundraising conversation with them.
Donor Relationship KPIs
9. Donor Retention Rate
Donor retention rate tells you how many donors your organization retains on a year-over-year basis.
To calculate this year’s retention rate, you would first determine who donated last year. Then you would find out how many of those donors also contributed this year.
Let’s look at an example.
Say you had 65 donors last year, and 20 of those donors also contributed this year.
That means you “retained” 20 of your 65 donors. Your donor retention rate is:
20/65 = 0.308
0.308 x 100 = 30.8%
To limit donor acquisition costs, you’ll want your donor retention rate to be as high as possible. Ideally, your acquisition and retention rates would improve concurrently.
Tracking your retention rate can reveal important insights about your organization’s performance, including:
- How successful various communication channels are.
- If your donor recognition efforts are sufficient.
- Which donation methods are preferred for returning donors.
If you do have a less-than-ideal donor retention rate, look to your stewardship practices first. What is your acknowledgment process? When do you follow up? How do you continue communicating with your donors? This should be a good starting point for reevaluating your donor retention efforts.
10. Lapsed Donors
Lapsed donors account for all of the donors who were not retained from one year to the next.
To find lapsed donors for this year, you first determine who donated last year. All of the donors who did not contribute again this year would be considered “lapsed donors.”
If you determine that 20 of your 65 donors from last year donated again, that means 45 did not.
Thus, your number of lapsed donors is 45 and your lapsed donor rate is:
45/65 = 0.692
0.692 x 100 = 69.2%
Similar to a low donor retention rate, a high number or a high rate of lapsed donors is an indicator that you should investigate your donor retention efforts, like donor recognition and continued engagement campaigns.
11. Donor Growth Rate
Donor growth rate measures an increase or decrease in the total number of donors to your organization over a given time period.
Donor Growth Rate = ((# of donors this year – # of donors last year)/# of donors last year) x 100
The metric is expressed as a percentage; if your donor growth rate this year is 25%, you had as many donors as last year + 25% more. So if you had 100 donors last year, this year you’d have 125.
Donor growth is considered a “domino metric,” meaning it’s often the result of a compounding list of factors. If donor growth is down, it’s probably not your only metric that’s less-than-ideal. 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.
12. Donor Lifetime Value
Donor lifetime value is a way to quantify the overall value a given donor will have for your organization. It’s important to recognize that this number is mainly used to make decisions about where to dedicate fundraising efforts and strategic campaigns. It is not useful as an assessment of a single donor’s lifetime value, but rather as an average lifetime value for a given subset of donors.
You calculate donor lifetime value with three numbers you’ll need to find beforehand:
- Average length of time as an active donor
- Average donation amount
- Average frequency of donation
Say you wanted to know differences in donor lifetime value between donors acquired by mail and donors acquired online in order to know which channel to prioritize.
First, you would find the above averages based on donor data for the two groups.
Then, for each group, you would take the average length of donation activity and multiply it by the average donation amount, then multiply that by the average frequency of donation.
The resulting numbers represent the total donation potential or donor lifetime value in the average donor from both groups.
Understanding where your most valuable donors come from can help you know which channels to prioritize and tell you which channels are working better than others.
13. Number of Donors by Type
Also referred to as fundraising diversity or diversity of fundraising sources, this metric tells you about the makeup of your donor base. The “types” commonly used for this metric are:
There is no calculation necessary for this metric, just a simple tabulation of donors belonging to each group. Understanding what types of donors contribute to your organization can help you identify places to improve and strategize about fundraising going forward.
14. Donor Acquisition Cost
Donor acquisition cost (DAC) is a representation of how much money your organization spends to acquire one donor. It’s calculated by dividing the amount spent on donor acquisition by the number of new donors acquired.
Let’s look at an example.
Say you spent $2000 on donor acquisition in a given time period, and you acquired 56 new donors.
DAC metrics are especially useful when compared across channels, campaigns, or time periods. If you can demonstrate that one channel has a lower DAC than others, you should be able to defend your choice to invest further in that specific channel.
Giving Level Metrics
15. Average Gift Size
Average gift size is the average donation amount in a given donor group, campaign, or time period. To calculate average gift size, divide the total amount received by the number of gifts received.
Average gift size is a metric best used when tracked on a recurring basis. That way, you can see if your gift size is growing, staying the same, or decreasing.
There are a few ways of going about this. Measure average gift size:
- At the same event year-over-year to see your progress.
- At all of your events for the year (or, multiple years) to determine which events draw the largest donations.
- Over a repeated, fixed time frame (like six months or a year) to track general changes.
Average gift size can be a big help in evaluating the success of your fundraising and major gift efforts.
16. Average Giving Capacity
We all know the expression, “Don’t leave money on the table.” In fundraising, “leaving money on the table” is securing a certain donation amount when you could have asked for and received a larger one.
The best way to avoid such situations is to know your prospect’s giving capacity, which can be determined through an investigation into three categories:
- The donor’s connection to your cause
- The donor’s philanthropic propensity
- The donor’s wealth markers
Once you know your donors’ giving capacities, this metric comes into play.
There are a few different averages you can take, depending on your organization’s specific situation, like:
- Determining the average giving capacities of your donors to help you decide how to bracket out your giving levels.
- Calculating the average giving capacity of a certain donor level to compare it with average donation received from that donor level.
Comparing average giving capacity to average gift size should tell you if you’re “leaving anything on the table.” Ideally, the numbers would be very similar.
17. Average Gift Size Growth
Average gift size growth measures the percent increase in average gift size year-over-year. Average gift size growth can be found with the following equation:
Avg. gift size growth = ((avg. gift size this year – avg. gift size last year)/avg. gift size last year) x 100
Average gift size growth is useful to contextualize donor growth. If donor growth is increasing but average gift size is not, you might want to spend less time focusing on bringing in new donors and more time cultivating the ones you have.
18. Frequency of Contact with Donors
As long as your nonprofit keeps records of donor touchpoints in your database (either manually or with a CRM), you’ll have no issue determining frequency of donor contact.
Frequency of donor contact is expressed as a number of interactions per unit of time, like 3/month or 6/year.
You can find this value for individual donors, but it’s most useful when averaged across a donor group. For example, to see if frequency of donor contact influences conversion rates, determine average contact frequency in the groups that did and didn’t convert and compare them.
Determining a good rhythm for donor contact is often a point of difficulty for nonprofits. Too much contact can become a nuisance and turn donors off, while too little risks losing potential donors. This value can help you establish a baseline from which to work to an optimal contact schedule.
Don’t forget to account for all the different communication channels, like:
- phone calls
- discussions at events
Be mindful of including touchpoints from different communication channels in the same calculation. A lengthy in-person conversation and a single email blast might each qualify as “1 contact” in your computer, but lumping them in together could skew your data.
19. Fundraising Participation Rate
As peer-to-peer fundraising and various iterations of “a-thons” grow in popularity, fundraising participation rate is more important to track than ever before.
Fundraising participation rate tells you how many of those who attended or donated to your fundraiser or fundraising event actually did fundraising themselves.
For example, a participant in your road race who paid an entry fee is not a fundraiser. However, if that same participant gathered pledges in addition to the entry fee, (s)he is then a fundraiser.
To calculate fundraising participation rate, you divide total donors or attendees (depending on which you want to track) at a given campaign or event by the number of donors/attendees who did additional fundraising.
If this rate is lower than you want to be, you’ll know to increase your marketing efforts to highlight the individual fundraising aspect of your fundraisers.
Event attendees who donate and double as fundraisers are unquestionably assets. Examining this rate can tell you if your organization is missing out on a valuable opportunity.
20. Asks Made
Asks made is the number of direct requests for contributions made to a given donor or group of donors. You can further focus asks made to specific campaigns or periods of time for more specific data.
Asks made elaborates on donor contact and provides a metric for how aggressive your fundraising efforts are.
Use asks made along with frequency of donor contact to examine differences in conversion rates for various campaigns. You may find that more asks led to a higher conversion rate or vice versa, which can help you come to an optimal outreach strategy for the future.
Online Performance Metrics
21. Online Gift Percentage
Online gift percentage is a measure of how many of your donations come from online vs. other channels like fundraising events and mail-in donations.
You calculate online gift percentage by dividing the number of online gifts by the total number of gifts over a given time period. Then you multiply that number by 100 to obtain a percentage.
Your online gift percentage, if lower than anticipated or lower than peer organizations’ rates, may indicate you need to step up your digital marketing and/or email campaigns.
You can also use online gift percentage when planning a marketing strategy for the upcoming year/month/etc. Knowing the percentage of donations that come from online vs. direct mail can guide your budgeting process and help you allocate funds to the most useful channels.
22. Email Open Rate
Email open rate is the percentage of email recipients who actually opened the given campaign, newsletter, or request.
Email open rates are incredibly useful for guiding your email marketing choices. Once you have a baseline open rate, try changing one thing about your emails at a time. Consider altering:
- Subject line
- Sender name/email address
- Time of sending
The open rate results after every change will be invaluable evidence for the success or failure of each change you make, helping you arrive at a strategy supported by the numbers.
23. Email Click-Through Rate
The email click-through rate describes the percentage of people who click on links in your emails to access other pages, like your website or donation page. Used in combination with email open rates and conversion rates, this metric can help you identify where your marketing is weakest.
The email click-through rate is obtained by dividing the number of subscribers who click on a link in your email by the total number of emails delivered. If you have a low email click-through rate, try repositioning your calls-to-action (CTAs) to more prominent or clear locations and personalizing your emails as much as possible through smart donor segmentation.
24. Email Opt-out Rate
Email opt-out rate is a representation of how many of your email subscribers “unsubscribe” from the email stream.
If too many people unsubscribe from an email stream or newsletter, the communication stream gets labeled as spam and begins getting filtered out from your subscribers’ inboxes.
Email opt-out rate can help you keep track of opt-outs before it gets to that point, giving you time to reconsider your email approach.
25. Website Page Views
Website page views refers to the number of times users access pages your nonprofit’s website. It’s important to note that website page views is not a metric describing how many people accessed a site; it’s merely the number of times the page was loaded/viewed. There is no way to account for repeat viewings, so if a volunteer trying to find information for an event accesses the same page 10 times, that will increase that page’s views by 10.
Website page views are useful especially in combination with other digital metrics like email open rates and click-through rates to try to pinpoint what part of your digital marketing needs improvement. If you have high open rates, high click-through rates, and high page views, but low conversion rates, it’s probably an indicator of a weakness in your website’s content or design.
Try moving your CTAs to more prominent locations, increasing emotional appeals, and clarifying your mission/purpose on your home page.
26. Landing Page Conversion Rate
Finally, your landing page conversion rate measures how many of your donation page visitors actually complete the donation process. A lower-than-expected landing page conversion rate may indicate room for improvement on your donation page, such as streamlining or shortening the requested fields. After you’ve done the hard work of getting donors to your donation form, the last thing you want them to do is click away because your form is too long or confusing.
To find landing page conversion rate, divide the total page visitors by the number of online donations made from that page.
Instead of relying on intuition about the strengths or weaknesses in your nonprofit’s programs and strategies, why not rely on hard evidence about your progress? Tracking KPIs and nonprofit fundraising metrics allows you to make smart, objective decisions that will steer your organization in the right direction.
If you’re still calculating your KPIs manually in Excel spreadsheets, you risk introducing human error into the mix. We’d recommend letting software do the work. After all, AI and Machine Learning-enabled models can provide advanced predictive analytics and deliver results in minutes, freeing up time for you and your staff to do the real hard work: building relationships with donors to further your cause.
To learn more about data-driven fundraising, explore these additional resources:
- Artificial Intelligence for Nonprofits: Fundraising’s Future. Want to learn more about using AI to reach your fundraising goals? Our guide explains everything you need to know.
- Major Donor Fundraising: 13 Effective Strategies for 2020. In this guide, learn our top strategies for major donor fundraising. From prospect research to leveraging connections, we cover it all.
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