The lead up to the new year is a crazy time for nonprofits. Fundraising organizations spend a lot of time thinking about, stressing over, and executing their end-of-year appeal. So much time and effort goes into developing these appeals that fundraisers sometimes don’t think analytically about their campaign in a truly meaningful way.
If that sounds like your organization, don’t take it personally. We understand that by the time these things come to a close, everyone’s mind is on the holidays and beginning the stewardship process. Of course, its important to build and send thank you letters and messages to retain those donors. However, in the roundtable debriefs with your board chairs, development team, and other relevant staff, are you asking the difficult questions? Are you looking into the right areas? How can you really be sure your campaign was successful?
The key to determining whether or not you did well isn’t just looking solely at the gifts generated and weighing that against your goal. Raising enough money is important, yes, but dollars can be deceiving. For instance, maybe you raised the same amount, if not more than last year. Great! But let’s look closer. Let’s say you were able to grow the gift amounts of several regular donors. But what if you also lost a few key supporters? Your final totals might be even, or neck-and-neck, but you don’t want to be losing support! You want to always be growing.
So what other areas can be uncovered to see beneath the surface of your final results? Let’s take a look.
Measure Net Revenues
This might seem elementary, but it often goes overlooked. To get a real feel for your campaign’s success, you have to take into account all appeal-related expenditures and subtract that number from your total revenue. This includes things like design, mail, and printing fees. Looking just at your gross numbers paints an inaccurate picture of your results.
For instance, let’s say your campaign raises $30,000. That’s great, but it glitters a lot less if you spent $15,000 getting there. 50 percent of the money your donors are giving goes right out the window! If you raised $30,000 and spent $5,000, your $25,000 takeaway is much more impressive. That’s a $10,000 difference in net revenue! Let that sink in.
However, keep in mind that sometimes there may be a reason to spend more than usual on a campaign. For Example, if you are testing out an entirely new strategy for your end-of-year appeal this year, you will have additional costs that will already be covered the second time you implement that strategy.
The Big Four
Response rate, average gift size, cost per donor, and return on investment are the four things every team should keep in mind during and then analyze post-campaign. What you will learn can help you shape you end-of-year appeal and predict future results. To some extent, you can even adjust on the fly, as long as you are thinking about these metrics from the get go. Doing everything you can to get a clear picture of engagement to optimize future communications is one of our mantras. We tell it to everyone. Evaluating these four areas also helps you compare campaign results year-to-year more effectively.
As we mentioned earlier in this post, you need to think about the big picture, not just how much money your campaign brought in. If you raised less money this year compared to last, don’t you want to know why? After all, you’re spending money on these campaigns, so they should work! A detailed evaluation using the “Big Four” might give you the answer.
Let’s say upon further analysis you discovered that in 2018, your response rate was lower but your average gift amount was higher. You might surmise that a lower average gift rate in 2018 was due to a low-range ask string on your response card. You can then adjust your strategy for 2019. It’s all about optimizing.
Evaluate by Segment
We can’t make the case for segmentation enough! Not only does it enable you to deeply personalize your communications, but it’s so important to evaluate the success of your end-of-year appeal. Why? Donor retention is one of the biggest concerns for many organizations. Looking at response rates and other variables will tell you if you have a problem.
How many donors have lapsed and how many lapsed donors have you reacquired? Have your most loyal donors responded? Did you capture any new donors? Have gifts by segment increased or decreased? Are you leaving money on the table? Where, and if so, why?
If you’re not performing highly enough in these areas and are losing dollars or supporters in general, you might need to implement a big change well in advance of next year’s appeal season.
Break it Down
Most campaigns have a lot of moving parts, including several emails, direct mail pieces, follow-up components, social media appeals for Giving Tuesday, and much more. We’ve talked about looking at your campaign’s performance by donor segment. However, it’s equally as important to measure the success of your efforts individually and across multiple channels.
Response rates, gift amounts, and performance by donor segment can all be looked at for each touch. Who are you capturing on social media? Where are you reacquiring the most lapsed donors? Are your biggest gifts coming online or in the mail?
Answering these questions will tell you whether or not you’re achieving goals beyond dollars raised. For example, let’s say you wanted to engage better with millennials, or you wanted to boost online giving. Maybe wanted to try out a new channel and you need to justify the effort. Whatever the reason may be, it’s crucial to look at how each piece of the puzzle worked to create one big, beautiful picture of success.
Focusing on touch or channel helps your organization:
- Trim the fat: You’ll save money cutting out efforts that just don’t work.
- Optimize copy: Discover messaging that is a key driver of success.
- Priority of budget: Learn where to best allocate marketing spend.
Become your organization’s fundraising archaeologist by implementing these methods of campaign evaluation. You will see that looking at these results year-to-year will only help you get better at reeling in the gifts you need to sustain your organization through your end-of-year appeal. Anyone in this arena will tell you how important success measurement is to sustain long-term success. Remember, superficial data yields superficial results. So dig deep.