Chances are, you’re still working through the chaos that was year-end fundraising. You’re probably also knee-deep in meetings to prepare your fundraising calendar, budget, etc. for the upcoming year. Yes, I know all too well just how exhausting the annual fundraising cycle is for you and other nonprofit professionals.
However, there is a silver lining because (most of the time) fundraising efforts do begin to die down some in January and February— giving you time to evaluate what did and didn’t go well last year.
You may be laughing about the idea of “free-time”, but hear me out.
Conducting an end of year (EOY) fundraising review and audit is vitally important, not just in helping you recap your year and report the numbers back to stakeholders, but to help you grow as an organization. Fundraising efforts can vastly improve when you understand what is inspiring, activating, and rallying your supporters into action.
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With that, let’s get started!
Review Each Fundraising Campaign From Last Year
It’s impossible to get a big-picture idea of the successes and struggles of the previous year without an in-depth analysis of each resource development activity.
If you’ve kept a detailed fundraising calendar, then you’re already set up for success (if you haven’t, consider starting one this year). Otherwise, it’s time to dig into your records and create a list of every fundraising activity you completed, from online fundraisers to recurring giving campaigns, major gift efforts, email marketing, etc.
*Note: When completing an audit of this size, our CauseVox team has found that spreadsheets work best.
Ideally, the analysis of your fundraising activity isn’t just a task completed by your development team. On the contrary, sometimes it’s your loyal volunteers, board members, and others who were most active in your fundraising efforts that will give you accurate and honest feedback.
Organize Campaign Info.
To start, create a spreadsheet with basic information about each “fundraising activity”, including:
- Name of the fundraiser (New Year email blast, Books For Good pop-up book fundraiser, #GivingTuesday Facebook campaign)
- Purpose of the fundraiser (capture new donors from Twitter, activate donors by becoming personal fundraisers), including the strategic goals you met/planned to meet.
- Date/time range of fundraiser, including the time for planning and follow-up
- Intended audience (social media followers, current donors, major donors)
- The net income. Subtract the cost to run (staff time, marketing expenses, etc.) from the total raised
Your chart/spreadsheet will look something like this:
Include Donor & Other Analytics
Donor information is key for a proper fundraising audit. The way you analyze donor data depends entirely on your donor tracking system. Many nonprofits and charities choose to use nonprofit CRM, while some smaller organizations use a spreadsheet. No matter your method, it is vital to track donor information for tax, accountability, and transparency purposes.
Mine your data to find the following information and add it to your ongoing audit spreadsheet.
- Total number of donors
- Returning donors (donors that gave without an extended lapse)
- Recaptured donors (donors that did not give for a period of time but returned)
- New donors
- Average gift amount
- Number of major gifts
- Average amount of major gifts
Other Data Variables
To find information on your website and social media analytics, head over to Google Analytics, Facebook Business Manager or whichever tool you use to track online activity.
- Number of “touches” during the fundraiser (how many times did you reach out to get a gift)
- Email fundraising analytics such as email conversion, opt out, open rates, etc.
- Other online metrics: Website bounce rate, social media conversions to website, social media engagement
- Number of fundraisers and/or teams for peer-to-peer campaigns (if applicable)
Now, start building out your spreadsheet with the following:
- Notes about what worked and what didn’t work from the perspective of your staff. Highlight anything you deem important, even if it seems trivial. For example, you can mention that you didn’t have enough time to recruit personal fundraisers before your peer-to-peer campaign, or that XYZ businesses provided a gift match that was helpful in incentivizing donors.
- What was the overall response/vibe? If donors were eager to get involved or it felt like you were pulling teeth, mention this.
- What did you do that was new? Did you use any different techniques that increased/decreased the results compared to earlier years
- Donor/volunteer feedback. The best way to collect this information is to send out a survey directly after each fundraiser. If this didn’t occur, then it doesn’t hurt to send a year-end survey to your most active personal fundraisers, volunteers, board members, etc. asking direct questions about their opinions on some (or all) of last year’s activities.
At this point, you documented major details of every fundraising activity and can now use this information as a tool for analysis and growth. Here are some suggestions:
- Compare each of your fundraising emails to one another. What sets your most successful ones apart from the others?
- Which types of fundraisers have the highest ROI (revenue-expenses)? Are these worth pursuing more moving forward?
- What fundraising campaigns energized supporters online?
- Which social media fundraising posts resulted in higher levels of engagement? What was the factor here (video, personal story, etc.)?
And the list goes on. The sky’s the limit in terms of how you use this data to improve your fundraising efforts moving forward.
As you plan your fundraising calendar, look back to this EOY fundraising review to determine the fundraisers you should plan and which ones need reconsideration.
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Overall Fundraising Review
While it’s easy to stop where you are because, let’s face it, you just compiled just about every bit of information you could gather to evaluate last year’s fundraisers. But your EOY fundraising review & audit isn’t yet complete.
Now is the time to look at the past year as a whole to help determine not just the individual fundraisers you need to perform, but get a bigger picture idea of your resource development strategy.
Look at Revenue & Income Diversity
For starters, take our your budget and evaluate your income sources, including:
- Individual contributions (online and in-person)
- Business & corporate gifts
- Grants (private and government)
- Fees for service/membership
- Other sources
Next, calculate the total received from each source and the percentage of total revenue.
As you know, a diversified revenue stream indicates a healthy nonprofit or charity. Of course, it’s impossible to quantify exactly what an idea proportion is as each organization operates under different circumstances. However, it’s safe to say that it’s not a good idea to put all your eggs in one basket. For example, if you’re relying too heavily on individuals contributions and don’t have income from other sources, you run the risk of being ill-prepared to tackle economic ups and downs that all too often impact charitable donations.
Diving into this year, have an idea of ways to further diversify your revenue streams to create an even stronger financial situation for your cause.
Calculate Donation Metrics
You looked at donation and donor metrics above when you analyzed your fundraising activities, but this doesn’t give you the scope of your accomplishments. Again, open up your CRM or other donor tracking program and pull this data:
- Total number of individual donors
- Number of new donors
- Number of donors recaptured
- Average number of gifts per donor
- Retention rate (#last year’s donors/previous year’s donors= donor retention percentage)
- Average gift
- Gift frequency (how often donors give in a 12-month span)
- Sources of gifts (online fundraiser, in-person, website)
- Other data that you want to track such as most common times of the year for donors to give.
By establishing a baseline of data on donors and their gifts, you now have a place to work from. But it’s not just collecting and organizing the data that’s important—you have to do something with it.
Here are a few suggestions improve your fundraising with information from your review:
- Look at your donor retention rate for last year. Have you improved over the previous year? If so, what do you think contributed to this? What is your retention goal this year?
- Has your average gift changed? If you notice a drop or increase, note thoughts of why this may have happened. For example, it’s possible that an increase in online fundraising campaigns increased your donor totals but made your average gift decrease. How can you improve this year?
- How often did your donors give over the past year? Do you notice that donors give more in December? Brainstorm ways to engage donors year-round.
Yes, these numbers are important to track for a number of reasons. They can help you grow as an organization, fix what isn’t working, and build on your established momentum. At the same time, don’t live and die by the data you collect in your EOY fundraising review & audit.
Instead, consider a supporter’s lifetime value. A new donor may only give a $10 gift the first time or a new website visitor may spend a few minutes on your website without giving, but that gift or visit doesn’t equate to worth or potential. Gifts are important, but a relationship is what your organization needs to focus on.
So take all this wonderful information and use it to build a plan for retention. Follow a donor engagement cycle that supporters follow that inspires, educates, engages, asks, thanks over and over again.
Here are a few more action steps to take as you close out your EOY fundraising review & audit:
- Send a lapsed donor survey to donors who didn’t give last year. Learn why they didn’t give and figure out how you can win back their support.
- Share information gathered in this report with your board and in your annual report.
- Take a look at this year’s fundraising goals/calendar and adjust as necessary based on your findings.
- Learn more about the support behind your organization by asking donors to complete a Net Promoter Score survey.
Have you conducted an EOY fundraising review & audit? If so, what metrics have helped your organization grow?
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If you liked this post, you may find these posts helpful as you close out last year’s fundraisers.