Fundraising Basics – What Reports Do You Review?

As fundraising consultants, when we work with organizations, we ask for giving reports over 3-years. Before we can help them move forward, we need to know where they’ve been.

Specifically we’re looking for trends in areas like sources of giving, levels of giving, board giving and direct mail. When we know what the trends are, we can then help plan how to move forward. So what are some of those areas?

Sources of Giving – In this report we’re looking at who gave, how many gave in each category, and the total amounts given. The categories include:

  • Board
  • Foundations
  • Corporations
  • Other Individuals
  • Events
  • Other

Levels of Giving – In this report we’re also looking at the number of donors and amounts in each category, but this time we’re looking at amounts in ranges.

  • $25,000 and above
  • $10,000-$24,999
  • $5,000-$9,999
  • $2,500-$4,999
  • $1,000-$2,499
  • $500-$999
  • $250-$499
  • $100-$249
  • $99 and below

Board Giving – If the people closest to the organization aren’t willing to give, it’s difficult to expect others to do the same. We’re looking to see what their board participation rate has been over the last three years. If it’s not 100% then the organization has some work to do to pull that rate up.

In addition, we also look for the average gift. Some boards have minimum expectations for giving, so we first look to make sure everyone meets the minimum. Also, there’s a possibility that a few top donors skew the average. There might be 20 board members with an average gift of $5,500. However, one of them gave $100,000 and the other 19 gave a combined $10,000. Accordingly, we calculate the average, but then we also recalculate the average without including the top two or three donors.

Direct Mail – This is the most expensive and least effective form of fundraising. In fact, many organizations have totally eliminated it. But, that’s a big mistake! First, direct mail is a source of generating ongoing support. Second, it also serves as a medium through which you inform the public. Third, if used properly it can be an effective source for donor acquisition.

When we analyze direct mail, we first want to know how much our client is raising annually and from how many mailings. After that we look at each mailing to review:

  • Theme
  • Number mailed
  • Number of responses
  • Total received
  • Response rate
  • Average gift
  • Cost of mailing

Once that’s done, we look at the letter itself and ask several questions:

  1. Does the letter have a heading/salutation with a name or does it say simply, “Dear Friend?” The latter is a sure way not to get a response.
  2. Are the sentences and paragraphs short? If not, people won’t read it.
  3. Does the letter make the case or is it asking just because we need the money? How you will use their money is important to the donor.
  4. Is it signed by one person (not several people)? Letters with multiple signatures, make me wonder about their leadership. Who will stand up and take responsibility for writing this?
  5. Is there a note in the margin or an attached posted note with a brief message from a board member? This increases response rates exponentially.
  6. Does it have a clear “ask” or does it beat around the bush?
  7. Does it have a P.S.? Actually, this is one of the first things people will read.

These are just four of many trends we review, but these are also the most important ones. Hopefully this will give you an idea of how to begin your planning. Next week we’ll look at how to set goals.