The start of each new year, when year-end fundraising fury has calmed and last minute contributions have slowed to a trickle, is a great time to conduct your annual fund evaluation for the prior year.
It’s the time to see how you did, celebrate your successes, to set your goals and plan for the year to come. Schedule this on your annual fundraising calendar for sometime between February or March.
There are essentially three components of your year-end analysis:
1) Financial Summary
It goes without saying that you’ll want to record the total amount that came in to your annual fund through each individual fundraising activity, campaign, or channel including direct mail, year-end campaign, lapsed donor renewal, online giving, newsletters, etc…
For each activity you’ll want to calculate and record:
Gross revenue (contributions)
Direct expenses incurred
Net revenue (gross minus expenses)
Based on the individual performance of each activity, you can calculate the Total net revenue, that came in through all annual fund channels combined. This is simply the total gross contributions minus the direct cost of your activities.
2) Donor Statistics
In addition to looking at the financial results of your fundraising activities individually and for your entire annual fund, there is a lot of information about your donors you’ll want to know in order to analyze the health and performance of your fundraising program compared to previous years. Some of the most important stats you’ll want to calculate and record are:
Total Number of Current Donors
Retention Rates (including overall, new donor retention, repeat donor retention)
Attrition Rate (percentage of donors in prior year who did not renew in evaluation year)
Number of First Time Donors (in the evaluation year)
Numer of Lapsed Donors (number of donors in prior year who did not renew in evaluation year)
Lapsed Donor Renewal Rate (number of donors who were lapsed in the prior year that renewed in the current evaluation year)
Upgrade Rate (percentage of donors who increased their giving from prior year to evaluation year)
3) Performance of each individual fundraising activity or appeal
As a part of your annual analysis, you’ll want to include a separate evaluation of each of your appeals or campaigns and for each, record the following data:
Return on Investment
Make sure to document all your activities in one central location, so that even after you leave your organization someone else will be able to follow exactly what you did, when you did it, what your results were, etc…
Even if your database will automatically calculate for you, make sure you have a hard copy notebook containing all your analysis documents, copies of your actual appeal, thank you letters, etc… They are easier to analyze when everything is printed and well-organized.
It is so easy to overlook this part of the fundraising process, especially when we are feeling the pressure of deadlines for the next appeal, newsletter or special event. But unless you take the time to analyze what is working or not, and thoughtfully discover where you need a new approach, your fundraising won’t grow and improve each year.
You’ll just be spinning your wheels.