8 ways to get your fundraising metrics wrong

Fundraising is at least half a numbers game. At least, if you want to succeed in a non-random way. But you have to look at the right numbers in the right ways. 

Here’s some help from Fundraising Report Card, at Avoid These 8 Common Fundraising Metric Analysis Pitfalls to Make Better Nonprofit Management Decisions:

  1. Focusing Solely on Revenue. If all you’re tracking for your fundraising program is net revenue (or worse yet, gross revenue) you could be entirely blind to the fact that your fundraising program is an unsustainable failure. Donor retention, acquisition cost, donor lifetime value, and other fundraising metrics are important. They make the big picture visible and give you the power to make things better.
  2. Ignoring Fundraising Costs. It’s not that hard to raise more by spending more. But you have to keep revenue in balance with cost.
  3. Not Tracking Donor Engagement. Sure, revenue is the big deal, but other things matter too: response rates, open rates, click-through rates tell you what’s working and what’s not working on the way to that revenue.
  4. Lack of Long-Term Perspective. The most significant source of revenue from donors is when they include you in their will. And then die. That can take awhile — at least we hope our donors have long and happy lives. If you aren’t thinking long-term, you are not really building sustainable program.
  5. Overlooking Non-Monetary Metrics. Things like volunteer participation, social media engagement, and community outreach all correlate well with revenue. 
  6. Failure to Adjust Strategies Based on Metrics. The primary purpose of tracking fundraising metrics is to inform your fundraising strategy. Your data should inform your decision-making. We’re doing this, and it’s working well. Let’s do it again and maybe more often. But that didn’t work as well. Should we scrap it, or do it again but with a different approach? And based on this other metric, here’s a new idea we could try.
  7. Comparing Metrics without Context. Everyone wants to know how they’re doing compared to everyone else. That’s nice information to know, but it may not really matter. Not all fundraisers can expect the same results for the same actions. Know what fits your reality, not just the benchmarks.
  8. Not Collecting Enough Data. Track everything. Have the data at your fingertips at all times. Share it widely. That’s how you get your maximum value from the hard work you’re doing!

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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About the blogger

Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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