Measuring Success in Fundraising: Internal and External

evaluating fundraising Feb 23, 2021

One of the things I’ve found in my research, and from the anecdotal experiences I’ve shared with thousands of development professionals in workshops and webinars, is that so few development offices measure the right things or, even worse, measure anything at all.

This is one of the lessons nonprofits can learn from the business world--measurement is critical for improvement.

Internal Assessment

You can measure a lot of thing internally. Some basics every nonprofit should be measuring include:

  • Total dollars raised through fundraising
  • Total dollars raise in each category of fundraising, for example — grants, corporate funding, special events, direct mail, telephone fundraising, in person fundraising, and online fundraising
  • Total number of new donors attained each year
  • Total number of donors who increase their giving this year
  • Total number of donors who decreased their giving this year
  • Total number of donors who stopped giving this year
  • Total cost of fundraising program

Remember though, it’s not just about the dollars. You should be measuring things such as number of donors in your pipeline, number of grant proposals being written, involvement of your board and volunteers, infrastructure needs, and percentages of your constituents who give.

It’s important to remember that you can measure things “upstream” and “downstream.” These are called leading indicators and trailing indicators. Trailing indicators are generally measured more than leading indicators, but both are important.

Trailing indicators would include things such as:

  • Total number of grants received this year
  • Total dollars netted at our special event
  • Total number of planned gifts received

Leading indicators include items such as:

  • Number of visits to major donor prospects made this month
  • Number of major donors who attended our cultivation event and will be added to our prospect list
  • Total number of potential grant funders researched

So, don’t forget to measure, measure, measure, both before and after the fundraising activity or event, and both monetary and non-monetary goals.

External Assessment

Often, you can learn a lot by measuring things yourself, but there are times when you might need an objective assessment from an independent consultant, knows as a Development Audit. A development audit is recommended when you are about to embark on a major campaign, have changed the focus of your development program, or just want to improve results of your development program.

A development audit examines the things mentioned above, in addition to staffing, governance, public relations, donor communications, and more. And, you’ll get recommendations from an expert who can view your development program through the lens of objectivity.

Yes, a development audit is costly and takes time, but can you afford not to do one?

One solution is our SMART Way Online Development Audit. We’ve simplified the process for you and made it much less costly to get an independent report of your strengths and weaknesses, along with recommendation for moving forward. The chief development officers fills out a detailed questionnaire and provides supporting materials. Board members and executive staff fill out a simplified questionnaire. Results are evaluated and you receive a detailed report with recommendations from an experienced professional! Sound easy? It is! And, cost effective.

For more information on the SMART Way Development Audit contact me at [email protected]. To learn more about assessing your development program, take my course, The Leaky Bucket: What’s Wrong with Your Fundraising and How You Can Fix It. Sign up here

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