Taking the Pulse of Your Donors

donor-health2The simplest things can escape us sometimes. We get so involved in the details of inspiring people to make donations to our organizations that we forget about our donors themselves. We can tell you how our programs our doing. We can tell you our average gift, percent response, open rate, cost to raise a dollar, unsubscribe rate, net/M, and so on.

But ask us how our donors are doing and we’re stupefied. Um, fine?

For instance …

Do you know how many gifts on average your donors make to your organization within 24 months of their first gift? Do you know if this number has stayed the same over time, has increased, or has decreased?

Do you know how many major donors your general membership program yielded last year? Is it more than in previous years or less?

Do you know which sources of new members to your organization yield the highest value members up-front? Which sources of new members yield the highest value members over time? Are they the same sources or different ones?

If you’ve never really thought about these things, or find yourself putting off the kind of in-depth file analysis it takes to answer these questions, then consider one more question:

If you don’t know where your donor file has been, or where it is now, how can you set goals and strategies to guide where it’s going?

So before you create another annual membership plan in the dark, shine a light on your donor file and shape your strategies for your next fiscal year around your vision for where you want to go.

Here are some simple steps to get you started:

  1. Set aside two weeks a year to conduct an in-depth annual donor file analysis.
  2. Schedule your annual donor file analysis to happen about a month before you need to start creating your annual fundraising plan and budget.
  3. Articulate your findings and interpretation of your donor file analysis in a formal document. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy; simple bullet points are fine. 
  4. Use what you find in your annual donor file analysis to shape your membership strategies and budget for the coming fiscal year. For instance, if your donor file analysis reveals less than stellar member renewal rates, plan strategies to improve your renewal rates and integrate them into your membership plan for the coming fiscal year.
  5. Repeat annually and refine your strategies as needed.

Finally, keep in mind that your annual donor file analysis isn’t just for identifying what you’re doing wrong so you can fix it. It’s also for identifying what you’re doing right so that you can do more of it.

How do you track donor trends in your own program? Share your comments and experiences here. And if you’d like a list of startup questions to get you going on your own donor file analysis, just drop us a line at topics@nthfactor.com.


2 Comments on Taking the Pulse of Your Donors

  1. […] Finish data collection for your State of the Donor File evaluation and start analyzing. You’ve given yourself a full month (January) to collect the raw data for […]

  2. […] among other things, it’s when you’ll complete the analysis portion of your annual State of the Donor File evaluation. This means distilling the hundreds of pieces of data you’ve been collecting over the past […]

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