Track Your Progress for Fundraising Growth

Often our firm is called on to conduct a planning study prior to a capital campaign. This used to be called a feasibility study, but our studies encompass far more than whether or not an organization can raise a certain amount of money. That is part of the study, but our studies also include much more.

The Necessity of Reviewing Key Operations

Just because you are in a capital campaign, doesn’t mean that the rest of your operation shuts down.  On the contrary; if the plan is effective it will incorporate strategies for all areas related to fundraising. This includes public relations, donor relations, operations and in particular, annual giving.

In fact, often the most important funds a nonprofit organization raises each year are its annual funds. That’s why we ask organizations for three-year trends. Among those trends we request the following report on source of funds:

  1. Foundation Giving – We want to know what foundations have given to you over the past three years. Even if it is nothing, that tells us something. We are then better able to help you develop strategies to improve in this area.
  2. Corporate Giving – What have local and regional corporations given? This includes co-branding, which normally comes from marketing budgets.
  3. Board giving – Here we review both the participation rate and the average gift.
  4. Non-board individual giving through direct mail – Direct mail is frequently not tracked. Organizations simply send out mailings without considering how they might be improved. We have our clients track the cost of the mailing (materials, postage, etc.), gross revenue, net revenue, response rate and average gift. We also have them test as much as possible and we encourage clients to send mailings at least 6 times per year.  Finally, we recommend that each mailing have a theme. That might sound like a lot, but believe me it’s not.
  5. Non-board individual giving through solicitation of major gifts – It normally occurs through face-to-face solicitations. This is really where the action is or should be in the development office. Even though it’s labor intensive, it is the most productive and least expensive form of fundraising. We track the number of solicitations made over each of the last three years, the number of “yes” or “I’ll consider” responses and the percentage of those to the total. It should be at least 70% or more, and if it’s not we usually conduct some cultivation/solicitation training.
  6. Bequest giving– If you have a good program, you should receive bequests. However, if you don’t ever mention bequest and other planned giving opportunities, the likelihood of receiving them is not high. We’ve had several of our clients who had zeroes in that column for years, but with a few key strategies we’ve also helped them begin to fill those columns up. It takes both discipline and patience, but most donors have far greater capacity to give in their death than they did in their lifetime.
  7. Special events-We review special events to determine cost and net revenue. We try to advise our clients on ways to keep the cost of the event under 50%.
  8. Giving levels– Starting at $100,000, we work our way downward and analyze giving amounts at various levels including $50,000, $25,000, $10,000 to $100 and below. We’re looking for gaps at each level and strategies to improve.

Measurement Equals Positive Changes

Now we usually look at all of these areas in organizations who are planning for a capital campaign, because they need to be sustained and hopefully improved during the campaign. However, organizations would do well to track these items regularly to help ensure long-term success and sustainability. Remember, very little changes until it’s measured.