The donor lifecycle isn’t just an idea – it’s a pulse on your donors captured from donor metrics. You shouldn’t be basing your fundraising and development strategy off feelings, vibes, ideas, or mojo. Donor data is the primary way you can find out more about your donors and how they’re being relationally developed.

Using data to track your donor lifecycle maybe isn’t the best way to get a pulse on your donor engagement. I mean, the best way would be to talk to every single donor and see how they feel toward your organization. But since that would be physically impossible, we implement systems to capture data, and use this data to give us donor metrics.

What do you mean by donor metrics?

Donor metrics are statistics formulated based on your donation data to measure your fundraising and marketing performance. Based on what donor management platform you have, these will be – ideally – updated constantly, giving you up-to-date insights into your developmental efforts.

As I stated earlier, it’d be amazing to have a conversation with every single donor. You could find out how they heard about your organization, what resonated with them and inspired them to give, what information they know about your mission, what could inspire them to give again, and way more. Unfortunately, that’d require an insane amount of people to call all those donors, and is a steep expectation to glean that much information from a donor.

Metrics are truly what every nonprofit should operate from. They take out the guesswork of your donor relationships.

The hard part is figuring out what metrics to measure, and how to measure them.

Look no further – 5 donor metrics to track about your donor lifecycle.

1. New contact and donor acquisition by source

When looking at the acquisition stage of the donor lifecycle, the first point to observe is the importance of collecting contact records as well as new donors. Ideally, your new contacts will just be new donors. But if you limit yourself to only donors, you’re missing out on nurturing opportunities.

This could be new contacts from events, or people signing up for your email newsletter. These folks should be placed into a nurturing series, where they can learn more about your organization, while receiving your newsletters and appeals.

Now, onto measurements.

Measuring the acquisition of new contact records and first-time donors by source gives you insight into by what mediums your constituents like to interact.

“Source” in this sense could be identified as website traffic, event registrations, merchandise purchases, or peer-to-peer campaigns. The source here is literally the way in which you received either their info or their donation.

You could create a report that looks something like this:

New contacts divided by source, then showing percentage of total new contacts

This tells you a handful of things about your marketing. First, your Gala event pulls in the majority of your new contacts. From this information, you may decide to nurture those contacts differently, sending them specific communication about their attendance at the gala, inviting them to give or participate in a more unique way.

The second thing this report would tell you is that your website’s newsletter signup isn’t performing very well. Maybe the link to this signup isn’t very noticeable, or the messaging around the signup form isn’t encouraging people to submit their information.

2. New donor acquisition by campaign

Similar to source, you can track how you’re gaining first-time donors based on campaigns they’re giving to. That may look something like this:

New donors divided by campaign, then showing percentage of total new donors

Based on this report, you can figure out how your donors prefer giving, and how your messaging and offering affect their propensity to give.

For example, maybe the Building fund gathers the majority of your new donors because there’s a clear goal of $1.1 million, and a giving thermometer on the donation page. Or maybe you used messaging like “A gift of $200 covers lumber for one room”, with clear ties to what their gift is going toward.

Now that you can identify these giving trends, you can try to understand why the numbers point that way, and implement those methods to your other campaigns.

3. Days until first gift

This metric gives you a baseline on how well you’re nurturing your contacts.

The actual formula for this measurement is calculating an average of the days between their first gift date and the date they joined your database:

[First Gift Date] – [Join Date]

Measuring this over time will tell you how well you’re nurturing contacts. If you have an average of 60 days to first gift at the beginning of the year, and mid-year you discover that your average has decreased to 51 days, that means you’re communicating in a way that’s inspiring contacts to give.

4. Rolling retention rate

Since retention is talked about by tons of nonprofit professionals, we’ll just provide one retention metric in this post. But it’s a good one!

A traditional retention rate shows the percentage of donors that gave this year out of the total of last year’s donors. It normally looks like this:

[Number of repeat donors this year] ÷ [Number of donors in previous year]

While getting this retention rate is a great look at how you’re retaining donors, it’s really disappointing when this rate resets at the beginning of the year! This is why it’s important to have a rolling retention rate

This rolling retention rate basically uses the 2 years previous to the current date as 2 periods. If today is April 1, then Period 1 would be May – April ending a year ago, and Period 2 would be the last 12 months, May – April.

a chart describing how a rolling 12 month retention rate is calculated

Calculating your donor retention rate based on a rolling time frame gives you a more accurate figure. Using this metric allows you to stay up-to-date on your retaining efforts, not having to wait until the end of the year to find out how you did.

5. Number of upgraded donors

An upgraded donor is a donor that has given more this year than they gave last year. We love upgraded donors!

[Donors gave x in previous year] – [Donors gave >x this year]

The first point to track is how well you’re upgrading donors year over year. If you can implement strategies to increase donor giving – and track your success – then you’re basically gaining extra donations from donors who would have been likely to give anyway.

By isolating these upgraded donors, you can begin tracking their history of giving and engagement to find trends.

Perhaps all of your upgraded donors were upgraded when they signed up for a monthly giving program. Or maybe you’re able to find a specific event that a lot of these donors attended. Finding commonalities among these donors gives you the right next steps to encourage these habits across your entire database.

More donor lifecycle insights

Did you find these metrics helpful? We firmly believe that donor metrics can – and should! – majorly inform your fundraising and development strategy for the better.

For more ideas on how to track and improve your strategies, we created a complete guide to walk through the entire donor lifecycle, analyzing each stage for metrics, insights, and actionable next steps. Download this free ebook by clicking below.

 

Cover photo by rawpixel on Unsplash