In this guide, you'll learn six ways to measure your nonprofit's fundraising success as it relates to silent auction events.

6 Ways to Measure Your Silent Auction’s Fundraising Success

When your nonprofit hosts a silent auction fundraising event, most of the planning process is typically focused on logistical details and procuring auction items. After all, your supporters are more likely to attend a well-organized event that features prizes they’re excited to bid on!

However, there are two other critical steps in planning a successful silent auction that are sometimes overlooked. The first is taking the time to set specific, achievable goals for your fundraiser, and the second is determining how you’ll know if you reached those goals after the event ends.

There are a variety of objectives you could be working toward as you plan your fundraiser, and each of them will be best measured by a different metric. In this guide, we’ll look at six popular metrics nonprofits use to evaluate their silent auction’s fundraising success, including:

  1. Return on Investment (ROI)
  2. Items Sold
  3. Donor Acquisition Rate
  4. Donor Retention Rate
  5. Marketing Conversions
  6. Participant Satisfaction

Applying any or all of these metrics to your nonprofit’s silent auctions will help you identify what you did well, where there is room for improvement, and how you can adjust your strategy as you plan future auctions. Let’s dive in!

1. Return on Investment (ROI)

One of the easiest metrics to calculate from your silent auction fundraising data is the total amount raised from ticket sales, winning bids, financial sponsorships, and additional donations made during the event. However, this doesn’t take into account the upfront expenses that tend to be associated with auctions—venue rentals, fundraising software payments, marketing materials, any prizes that your organization purchased rather than receiving as in-kind donations, and more.

Return on investment (ROI) is a more holistic metric that considers both the revenue your nonprofit generates from your silent auction and the expenses you incurred while planning it. You can calculate it using the following equation:

ROI = [(Total Amount Raised – Total Costs) / Total Costs] x 100

If your ROI is negative, it means that your auction cost more money than it raised, and you’ll need to find ways to reduce your expenses when planning future events. On the other hand, a positive ROI means your auction was financially successful. Ideally, you’d want your ROI to be a larger positive number, as this would indicate that you raised significantly more money than you spent.

2. Items Sold

At an auction, the items are the star of the show. Plus, procurement is often the most time-consuming and resource-intensive part of the planning process. So, it makes sense to include metrics related to the sale of your silent auction items when evaluating your fundraising success.

Review the completed bid sheets from your event to calculate the following item-related metrics:

  • Sell-through rate. This is simply the percentage of items that sold at your silent auction. For instance, if you had 100 prizes up for auction and 95 of them were purchased by participants, your sell-through rate would be 95%.
  • Average bid amount. Determine this number by adding up all of your supporters’ winning bids, then divide by the number of items sold. This metric demonstrates how valuable participants perceived your items to be.
  • Number of items that sold at or above their fair market value (FMV). Winspire defines FMV as “[an auction] item’s worth relative to what supporters would pay if they purchased it elsewhere.” Since participants often choose to purchase items at auction because they’re hoping for a discount they couldn’t get otherwise, any prizes that sell at or above their FMV are particularly appealing to your supporter base.

Knowing this information about the items that sold at your silent auction can help you hone the procurement process for future auctions—you can make sure to find items that your supporters are interested in and perceive as high-value to maximize your ROI.

3. Donor Acquisition Rate

In the context of a silent auction, donor acquisition rate refers to the percentage of participants who engaged with your nonprofit for the first time by attending your event. If 200 people participated in your silent auction and 80 of them were first-time supporters of your organization, your donor acquisition rate would be 40%.

Auctions are particularly effective for attracting new supporters because while some participants will sign up specifically to contribute to your nonprofit, others just want to purchase one-of-a-kind items that also happen to support a good cause. Make sure to follow up with these new donors after your auction to encourage them to learn more about your mission and stay involved with your organization.

4. Donor Retention Rate

Donor acquisition and retention are complementary to one another. Acquisition allows your organization to engage more community members and plan for growth, and retention helps you cultivate lasting relationships with supporters and sustainably fund your mission.

The most common way to calculate donor retention rates in the context of silent auctions is to determine the percentage of participants from a previous auction that also attended your most recent one. For example, if 75 of the 150 supporters who participated in last year’s silent auction came to this year’s event as well, your donor retention rate would be 50%.

5. Marketing Conversions

Leveraging multiple print and digital marketing channels is essential for attracting as many participants to your silent auction as possible. After the event, conversion data can help you determine which methods were most effective for generating registrations.

Track the number of auction signups from each of the following promotion channels:

  • Direct mail invitations
  • Email marketing messages
  • Your nonprofit’s various social media accounts
  • Google Search Ads
  • Redirections to your event registration form from other pages on your website

Understanding which methods compel the most supporters to register can help you allocate your marketing budget more effectively in the future. For instance, if you find that direct mail had the lowest conversion rate of any channel and social media generated the most signups, you may decide to reduce your spending on mailed invitations and instead put that money toward paid ads on Instagram and Facebook for your next auction.

6. Participant Satisfaction

Participant satisfaction is a less objective measurement than the other fundraising success metrics discussed above. However, it’s still important to consider when evaluating your silent auction. After all, a major purpose of nonprofit events is to bring your community together around a cause, and learning what supporters thought about your auction can tell you whether you did this effectively.

Post-event surveys are one of the best ways to track participant satisfaction. MemberClicks’ guide to event feedback surveys recommends referencing your auction check-in list to ensure you get feedback from actual participants and incentivizing survey completion by entering respondents’ names into a drawing for a gift card or branded merchandise. Additionally, include both multiple-choice and open-ended questions on your survey to encourage supporters to share their honest opinions.


The metrics your nonprofit will find most useful will depend on the primary goal of your silent auction. If the main objective is revenue generation, your ROI and item-related data analysis will tell you how successful your event was. Marketing conversions are the most important metrics if your goal is to spread awareness about your organization. And measuring donor acquisition, retention, and satisfaction is essential if you’re focused on supporter engagement.

No matter how you plan to measure your silent auction’s success, make sure to store all of your event data in one place so it’s easier to analyze and evaluate. Happy fundraising!

A man reviewing the Google Ad Grant website policy on his computer.

Is Your Nonprofit Website Google Ad Grant Ready? 4 Signs

The Google Ad Grant represents an incredible marketing opportunity for nonprofits to get their name in front of online users. Through this program, Google offers eligible nonprofits $10,000 worth of ad credits to use every month.

Getting Attention’s guide to Google Ad Grant Requirements points out that applying for this grant is really a two-part process. We’ll focus on the first step, which involves having your website approved by Google to ensure that your ads lead to updated, quality content.

According to Google’s website policy“Your site must have a robust and clear description of your organization, mission, and activities. It must have substantial content, updated events and information, clear navigation, and clear calls to action for a high-quality user experience.” 

So, what do all of these website must-haves look like? And how can your organization know its website is ready to harness the power of the Google Ad Grant? In this guide, we’ll break down the top four signs your website is on par with these standards to ensure your eligibility.

You’ve implemented proper security measures

First things first—your website must be secure to protect any visitor. Here’s how you can tell that your website protections are reliable:

  • Your nonprofit website represents a valid charitable status. While Google does not require you to include your EIN (in the case of U.S.-based nonprofits), doing so is still a good idea since it does not pose any security threats. Rather, it indicates that you are registered as a 501(c)(3) organization to anyone considering donating, volunteering, or signing up for an event.
  • You’ve obtained an SSL (Secure Socket Layer) Certificate. This encrypts any data collected on your site and protects donors’ payment information, names, and other data that hackers could reach. If your web address begins with https instead of http, you’re SSL-certified. You can obtain your SSL certificate by verifying your site through ICANN Lookup, generating the Certificate Signing Request (CSR), validating your domain by submitting your CSR to the Certificate Authority, and installing the certificate on your site.

These measures will enable Google to mark your website as trustworthy and reliable. And here’s a big plus:  Google’s transparency report found that Windows, Mac, and Android users spend 85% of their browser time on SSL-certified websites. This means that implementing these requirements is not only a data hygiene best practice but also a strategy to boost your site traffic!

You’ve prioritized user experience

In a broad context, user experience (UX) encompasses every interaction a user has with your website. To gauge your site’s current UX, ask yourself questions like, “Could our visitors be frustrated by the site’s layout?” or “How easily can they learn about our mission?”

Once you’ve identified some UX problem areas,  you can make sure these best practices are incorporated:

  • Clear navigation. Descriptive labels and a sticky menu are the hallmarks of a navigable site. This means your menu is accessible even while scrolling through a page and each label accurately describes your page content.
  • No broken links. Each link should lead to the intended destination. You can use tools like Google Search Console or Screaming Frog to identify and update broken links. Be sure your external links also lead to the right sites as well.
  • Quick load speeds. Arguably, your load speed is an influential factor in determining other website metrics such as donation rates since users will quickly abandon a slow-loading site. Optimize your image files and leverage browser caching to speed things up.
  • Clear calls to action (CTAs). CTAs like “Donate now” or “Check out our events calendar” should have sufficient contrast, lead to the intended form or page, and be placed in a relevant location.
  • Mobile responsiveness. Both desktop and mobile views should provide valuable UX. You’ll need to be sure your content easily loads in mobile view and incorporates a touch-friendly design to ensure elements are accurately sized and spaced out.

Optimizing these elements will streamline the Google Grant application process as you can be confident your website provides top-tier UX once you submit it to Google.

If you’re unsure of where to start or have questions, conduct some research to get a sense of how high-performing nonprofits structure their website experience. For instance, Loop’s roundup of the best nonprofit websites calls out North York Women’s Shelter for its accessible format and enhanced safety features.

Your pages are full of mission-relevant content

Here’s where Google’s description of robust, clear, and updated content comes into play. This means if visitors cannot easily discover who your organization is (or if you’re still in operation), you’re in need of a content refresh. Perform a quick content check-up and be sure the following information is up to date:

  • About Us page
  • Contact information
  • Programs and services
  • Giving statistics
  • Events calendar
  • Testimonials and stories
  • Donation and volunteer information
  • Blog content

Update your landing pages—donation pages, volunteer sign-up pages, and events pages—first. These are the ones you’ll promote via your Google Ads, so to maximize conversions they should be relevant and helpful for website visitors.

For example, if you plan on using your Google Ad Grant to promote your upcoming fundraising auction, your event registration page should include a clear description of the event details, such as the time, place, and ticket price, and an easy-to-use registration form. Engaging media elements like video teasers and social media share links can also lead to more conversions.

Your website is well-branded

The look and feel of your website should be cohesive and representative of your organization. This will place website visitors at ease and promote your organization’s credibility. A well-branded website will include these elements:

  • A logo. Your logo or wordmark should be clearly visible on your landing pages so that visitors instantly recognize your website and get a sense of what your organization stands for.
  • Consistent fonts and colors. Keep fonts and colors consistent across your website pages so users are not confused when they go from page to page. Consider using colors that offer a high contrast to keep your content accessible. Sans serif fonts are also a great choice for content as they are easy to read and come in a variety of font choices.
  • Clear tone and messaging. Depending on your specific nonprofit brand, tone and messaging will likely vary. For example, a nonprofit that connects people with disabilities to people without disabilities might use a friendly tone to reflect its community-oriented goals, whereas a healthcare-related nonprofit might carry a more informative tone. Just be sure yours is both cohesive and representative across your site.
  • High-quality images. Clearly-branded websites can have a wide range of high-quality visuals, from donation infographics to volunteer or beneficiary photos. However, each one should directly relate to your nonprofit’s mission.

If your website exhibits these best practices for branding, you should be good to go. Otherwise, complete an audit to ensure all elements of your site are branded to your organization in a recognizable and professional fashion.


While all of these website requirements might seem rigorous, a well-maintained website will most likely include these elements already. The most substantial requirement you should note is your security, as a website that is not SSL-certified will not be eligible for Google Grant funding.

Otherwise, all other content and UX changes you make will only lead to higher conversion rates as users are more likely to respond to a fresh, inviting website that features helpful content.

This guide explores three ways your nonprofit can use its CRM data to drive the decisions that will boost its impact.

3 Ways Your CRM Data Can Drive Nonprofit Decisions

For a nonprofit to truly impact the communities it serves, thoughtful decision-making must guide its fundraising efforts, programs, and other activities. 

But to make these decisions, you must be equipped with more than just the authority of your leadership position.

A collection of data about your nonprofit’s work can give you the context you need to make crucial decisions, and your constituent relationship management (CRM) software is a treasure trove of this helpful information. Let’s take a closer look at three ways your CRM data can drive decision-making for your organization.

Encourage Further Involvement

Your nonprofit’s donors will make it to different points of the donor journey. The ones that stick around for the long haul are loyal supporters with whom you should develop strong relationships. Newly acquired or less involved donors simply have an ever-increasing potential to achieve a level of loyalty, and your CRM data can point both out.

Use your CRM data to understand donors’ giving frequencies and track important metrics, such as:

  • Donor retention rate: What percentage of your supporters continue to give to your organization? Learning your donor retention rate can help you identify how many donors continue their involvement, which ones keep giving, and help you start thinking about how to increase that number. According to Double the Donation, you can also use the data from your CRM to develop a donor retention program that will help you encourage donors to continue giving in specific ways.
  • Gift amount history: Is there a pattern or trend in giving? Can you see different data when you segment your audiences? If you discover that your fundraising trends increase seasonally, or with a certain demographic, you have insights on where to focus your efforts. When there’s a significant change from the historical data, you can address it—either by doubling down on what’s working or exploring what could be going wrong.
  • Donor lifetime value: Donor lifetime value (LTV) is a critical metric for nonprofits. It not only shows you donor behavior in the past, but it can help you predict fundraising revenues in the future. LTV is also an important tool when your nonprofit is looking for major gift donors.

Equipped with this donor data, you’ll be able to better understand patterns of involvement. That way, your nonprofit can plan involvement opportunities that appeal to its supporters and encourage them to stay involved.

Communicate Based on Donor Segments

The data about your donors collected in your CRM can help you learn more about them and how to better communicate with them. Not only will you observe communication preferences, such as the channels your donors most actively engage with, but you’ll also learn what content appeals to them and how to craft your donation ask to most resonate with them. 

Also, when your CRM manages donor communications for you, you can even more easily put this data to work. CharityEngine’s guide to nonprofit CRMs recommends searching for a CRM that streamlines donor communications through features such as:

  • Email campaigns: The right CRM helps you create customized emails that represent your organization’s brand and populate supporters’ names in the salutation by using information from their donor profiles. For example, you can create a thank-you email using the donor’s name, email address, and information about the size of their gift and the program they supported.
  • Direct mail marketing: Direct mail isn’t dead! Many nonprofits get most of their fundraising dollars from direct mail. When you have a CRM that offers all the tools fundraisers need, you can easily plug direct mail into a highly effective omnichannel campaign.
  • Automated messages: Set up automated thank-yous to send recipients a quick confirmation immediately after a fundraiser. You might prepare different messages for each audience segment, such as a summary of the donation amount for donors and a recap of volunteer hours served for volunteers.

Be sure to keep additional communication data hygienic to avoid sending messages to the wrong contact information or targeting the wrong supporters. Conduct a data append to ensure all your information is correct, then maintain it by standardizing your data input processes and cleaning the database regularly.

Plan Future Fundraising Events

When you analyze your fundraising data, you’ll be able to better understand which efforts were successful, which ones weren’t, and how you can improve them to boost donations in the future. Track the following data through your CRM: 

  • Event attendance: This information can help you determine the most effective and appealing event types and activities to engage your supporters.
  • Donor satisfaction: After your event, ask attendees what they thought. Was there an opportunity for them to engage, and at what rate did they engage? Figure out what worked so you can repeat it!
  • Event revenue: It’s important to measure event revenue, but then dig deeper. What raised more money, the ticket sales or the auction? Drill down into where your nonprofit makes the most fundraising money.

Your data isn’t the only tool that will help you plan future fundraising events. The CRM itself can support your fundraising initiatives through features such as secure payment processing for nonprofits. After using data to plan your event, execute it well by leveraging your CRM’s other tools to make donating and getting involved easy for supporters.


Your nonprofit’s data is an important resource for decision-making. To add on to the data your CRM automatically collects, conduct your own research to learn even more about your donors and how you can improve your fundraising efforts. For example, you might send out a donor survey to ask for their opinions on a specific project and your approach to serving the community. The more data you have, the more accurate the conclusions you derive from it will be.

 

This article discusses three data categories to consider when planning your school’s auction.

How to Use Previous Auction Data to Inform Your Strategy

If you’ve held an auction before, you know the importance of data collection. From large nonprofit auction galas to online school auctions, data is the secret weapon for unlocking success. And, with new auction software that includes data reporting and visualization tools, your school can easily inform your auction strategy with past data.

But, what type of data should your school analyze? To save your team time sifting through data points, we’ve provided a list of three types of auction-related data to prioritize:

If you’re new to collecting data, know that it takes the guesswork associated with campaign planning out of the way, so you can see what’s really driving your fundraising performance. To get the most accurate information for your school’s upcoming auction, pay special attention to your most recent data and prioritize keeping recent, high-impact donor data clean and relevant.

That said, let’s explore how data can inform your auction planning approach.

Audience Data

How well do you know your bidders? With audience data, your school should be able to access a full picture of your community and supporters. Start by analyzing your attendees from previous years, paying close attention to the following categories:

  • Demographics: Discover your target audience’s average age, gender, geographic location, and family status. Accessing this information will give you insight into how to best communicate your marketing efforts. For example, you might note that families in your community with preschool age children come to your auctions less frequently. To help these families, you might explore options for making your auction more family-oriented, such as hosting it earlier in the day or partnering with the local high school to offer babysitting services.
  • Previous engagement: Look into your audience’s previous event attendance and volunteer status to get an idea of their familiarity with your school. As most of your guests will likely be the parents and family members of your students, consider how you can show off a different side of your school, such as by asking the school jazz band to perform or using student art projects as decorations.
  • Donation history: To set optimal fundraising goals, research your audience’s frequency and recency of donations. Additionally, pinpoint their average donation amount to set reasonable fundraising expectations. Schools can also take their community’s average tax bracket into account to ensure they set reasonable prices for auction items.
  • Interests and hobbies: What sort of activities or events does your audience enjoy? Use social media appending services to understand what types of auction items would appeal to your supporters. You can also get your students to help as kids often like to share what they know about their parents’ hobbies and interests.

Understanding your key audience data can be extremely helpful for making tricky auction decisions. For instance, a quick look at your audience preferences could provide insight into which items are worth procuring and which ones might be best to re-evaluate for the coming years.

Auction Item Data

Analyze auction item data to discover bidding trends and find out which items generated the most interest, bidding activity, and profitability. Doing this will help your school set an effective pricing strategy and avoid procuring historically low-performing auction items.

SchoolAuction.net advises taking special note of these pricing metrics from previous years’ bidding process:

  • Starting bids: In addition to researching market value, your school should take note of the starting bid amounts that generated interest and adjust your beginning price points accordingly.
  • Minimum bid increments: Typically, bid increments are set at 10% or 15% of an item’s fair market value (FMV), but if a similar item from last year performed better than expected, you might consider lowering the increment to closer to 10% FMV for this year’s auction to incite competitive bidding.
  • Buy-it-now data: For particularly high-value items like a weekend getaway you might offer a buy-it-now option. Buy-it-now options can ensure you will receive at least a certain high amount for these prizes. However, keep in mind that a bidding war may drive up the price even beyond your buy-it-now option. Refer to your past data to see how these types of items performed and whether a buy-it-now option has the potential to earn your school more.

Prior to your event, arrange a time to meet in person as a group with your high-impact school donors. List out auction items that your school is considering procuring and ask them which ones are most appealing or if they have any other suggestions. Thank supporters for their time and recommendations. Then update your item data with their choices.

Campaign Data

When planning your organization’s campaign, refer to the above audience and auction item data as well as previous campaign benchmarks. From there, you can create an actionable communication strategy to get school families excited about your auction.

Investigate which platforms parents most often use and adjust your strategy accordingly. For instance, many schools have a primary Facebook page that lists school-wide updates or a weekly email newsletter. Double the Donation’s guide to digital marketing suggests monitoring these channels as you launch your campaign to discover which ones are most effective.

Make adjustments as necessary to find the most efficient way to reach and engage your school community. If your email open rates are low, for instance, experiment with your subject lines to find catchier, more urgent phrases that better capture the value of your upcoming auction.


Data is the key to informing your auction planning process. Reference previous audience, auction items, and campaign data points to discover your baseline metrics. From there, you can supplement your data with new insights to refine your strategy.

Remember to also track data throughout your campaign, so that you can rely on it for upcoming campaigns. You’ve got this!

Learn more about how data analytics can be used in the financial management of your nonprofit.

How Donor Analytics Inform Nonprofit Financial Management

Your nonprofit likely collects many different types of data on its supporters. Between the donor profiles in your CRM, your online donation page, registration forms, feedback surveys, and marketing conversion data, there is a wealth of information available for your organization to use when making strategic decisions.

However, all of this data contains untapped potential unless you draw applicable conclusions from it. These insights are collectively known as donor analytics. Jitasa’s guide to donor analytics divides these insights into four major categories: giving, engagement, demographic, and predictive analytics.

Donor analytics can inform many areas of your nonprofit’s operations, including financial management. To help you get started, this guide will discuss four major areas of your organization’s financial management strategy that can benefit from data-driven insights, including:

  1. Measuring Fundraising Effectiveness
  2. Evaluating Expense Budgets
  3. Cultivating Major Gifts
  4. Improving Donor Retention Rates

As you adapt the tips in this post to your organization’s needs, keep in mind that financial management and fundraising are closely linked. A data-driven approach to bringing in and handling funding maximizes your nonprofit’s ability to further its mission. Let’s dive in!

1. Measuring Fundraising Effectiveness

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Begin with the end in mind.” When your nonprofit plans a fundraising campaign, you should consider how you’ll determine if you succeeded after the fundraiser ends.

Donor giving and engagement analytics from past campaigns can help you figure out what concrete metrics to use to measure your fundraising success. In addition to the total amount of revenue you generate, some common data-driven fundraising metrics include:

  • Donor participation rate. You can either measure this on an overall level or break down participation rates by supporter segment to gauge donor engagement.
  • Average gift amount. While it’s helpful to know your overall average, you could also categorize your donations into small, mid-level, and major gifts to find the average amount in each tier.
  • Lifetime value. Analyzing information about each of your donors allows you to better understand the efficiency of your fundraising efforts per donor. You should calculate your overall fundraising return on investment (ROI) after each event or campaign, but also measuring your ROI per supporter can help you determine who your most valuable donors are.

Although giving analytics are discussed most often when it comes to fundraising success, keep in mind that monetary donations aren’t the only way supporters provide value to your organization during a campaign. Donor engagement analytics, such as volunteer participation, event attendance, and in-kind donations, provide a more complete picture of how supporters help further your organization’s mission. So, your fundraising campaign goals should take both giving and other forms of engagement into account.

2. Evaluating Expense Budgets

Your nonprofit’s operating budget is one of the most important documents for effective financial management because it predicts your revenue and expenses for the coming year. Most organizations categorize their predicted revenue by source and break down expenses into program, administrative, and fundraising costs. Your administrative and fundraising expenses together make up your nonprofit’s overhead.

You might have heard of the 65/35 rule of expense budgeting, which states that nonprofits should plan to spend at least 65% of their revenue on programming and no more than 35% on overhead. In reality, this breakdown will look different for every nonprofit. 

It’s best to treat the 65/35 rule as a flexible guideline and instead focus on leveraging donor analytics to expand your organization’s program spending and reduce overhead. This process could take many forms, including:

  • Analyzing engagement rates for various communication methods. You can lower your organization’s spending on marketing by focusing on the channels with the highest conversion rates and taking the communication preferences donors have expressed into account.
  • Exploring corporate philanthropy opportunities. Appending employer data lets you know what companies supporters work for and what philanthropic programs those companies have. This information can help you take advantage of corporate sponsorship opportunities to offset event planning and administrative costs.
  • Playing to individual donors’ interests. To allocate more resources toward your programs, consider asking supporters to donate to initiatives that align with the individual interests listed in their donor profiles. For instance, if an environmental nonprofit knew that one of their supporters was passionate about education, they could ask that donor to contribute to their initiatives to teach elementary school students about recycling.

As you consider these data-driven strategies to allocate your expenses more effectively, keep in mind that your spending still needs to align with available cash flows. A nonprofit accountant or outsourced chief financial officer (CFO) can help predict cash flows and create a range of possible scenarios to ensure your estimates for overhead and program expenses are realistic.

3. Cultivating Major Gifts

Another commonly cited guideline when it comes to nonprofit finances is the 80/20 rule, which states that 80% of individual donation revenue comes from the top 20% of donors. While these percentages may vary for each organization, they show that major gifts are critical for your nonprofit to bring in funding.

The main purpose of predictive donor analytics—data-driven conclusions that provide insight into donors’ future involvement with your cause—is to help identify potential major donors through prospect research. DonorSearch’s guide to major gifts recommends analyzing both wealth and philanthropic indicators to identify major donor prospects:

  • Wealth indicators demonstrate that a prospect is capable of making a major gift and include data points such as net income, stock ownership, political giving, and real estate holdings.
  • Philanthropic indicators show whether the prospect would be willing to support your cause. These indicators include past donations, volunteer hours, event attendance, and board membership either at your organization or with other similar nonprofits.

While your donor database can serve as a starting point for finding major donor prospects, you’ll likely need to use specialized wealth screening and prospecting tools to build an accurate list. Predictive analytics can also be useful once you start soliciting major gifts, since they help you tailor each fundraising ask to the individual donor.

4. Retaining Donors Over Time

Donor retention has multiple financial benefits for your organization. Not only is it more cost effective than acquiring new donors, but it also provides more sustainable funding for your organization.

There are several ways to use supporter data to refine your nonprofit’s donor retention strategy, including:

  • Sending personalized thank-you messages that include donors’ preferred names, giving amounts, and other details about their history with your organization.
  • Providing recommendations for future involvement based on each donor’s past engagement.
  • Regularly updating supporters’ contact information so they never miss your emails, phone calls, texts, or direct mail messages.

By regularly reaching out to donors in a personalized way, you’ll let them know that your organization values them as individuals. This allows you to build stronger relationships with each of them, leading to higher retention rates.


While donor analytics can inform various aspects of your nonprofit’s operations, financial management is the most essential way to apply these conclusions. This is because financial management is the foundation of all of your nonprofit’s activities, including fundraising, marketing, supporter engagement, and more. Whether you’re planning next year’s budget or looking for more sustainable funding methods, make sure your efforts are data-driven.

Explore the fundamentals about donor cultivation in this comprehensive guide.

Donor Cultivation 101: How to Build Lasting Relationships

Your nonprofit works day in and day out to bring its mission to life. A big part of that is inspiring supporters to donate, attend events, and volunteer for your cause. Although, it doesn’t stop there. From there, you have to steward them and inspire them to stick around for the long term. As a fundraiser, you need to know the donor cultivation cycle inside and out, including everything from locating prospects to inspiring them to continue giving.

At NPOInfo, we understand the importance of establishing relationships and then effectively leveraging donor data to fuel those connections. We know it takes a lot of patience and persistence. For new and seasoned professionals alike, cultivating donors can be challenging. After all, every donor is different!

Our goal with this guide is to demystify the process, so you can build genuine relationships that last. To help, here’s what we’ll cover:

Your prospects and current supporters deserve a positive experience with your organization. Taking steps to establish and steward lasting relationships will go a long way in building a sustainable future for your nonprofit. Let’s dive in.

Get a quote for our data append services to cultivate donor relationships.

Donor Cultivation FAQ

Before diving into the nitty-gritty details of the donor cultivation cycle, let’s explore the fundamentals of what cultivation is and why it’s vital to your everyday work. That way, you’ll have the foundational knowledge you need to craft a comprehensive plan.

What Is Donor Cultivation?

Donor cultivation is the process of establishing and strengthening relationships with prospective and current donors over time. The term describes how you identify potential donors, inspire them to give, and steward meaningful relationships with them.

Effective cultivation involves a range of activities, including personalized communication, effective donor recognition, engaging events, and volunteerism. Every stage of the cycle is fueled by insightful data your nonprofit collects, such as donors’ wealth capacities, giving histories, and contact information.

The ultimate goal of donor cultivation is to create a sustainable base of loyal donors who support the organization’s overall mission and goals.

What Are The Goals of Donor Cultivation?

While each nonprofit pursues a different mission, every organization’s reason for cultivating donors remains the same: they want to establish and deepen relationships with those who believe in their cause.

Let’s break down that overarching objective into a few key goals:

  • Engage donors: The cultivation process helps create engagement opportunities that encourage interaction with your organization to learn more about your mission, programs, and impact.
  • Build trust: Your donor cultivation efforts will build rapport with donors when you demonstrate your organization’s commitment to transparency, accountability, and responsible stewardship of donations.
  • Retain donors: Effective cultivation means you can retain donors and inspire them to stay engaged in your activities. The cycle involves maintaining regular communication and recognizing their contributions.
  • Boost donor lifetime value: As fundraisers, we all know that donor attrition can be costly. Instead of letting new donors churn, following the donor cultivation cycle religiously will allow you to inspire donors to stick around. By convincing them to give again and give large gifts over time, you’ll increase their lifetime value.

The core goals of donor cultivation include engaging donors, building trust, retaining support, and boosting donor lifetime value.

Overall, thoughtful donor cultivation means you can establish a reliable foundation of support.

How Long Does The Donor Cultivation Cycle Take?

The length of donor cultivation varies depending on your organization’s goals, each donor’s interests, and the level of engagement.

Donor cultivation can take several months or years based on these facts. Know that it’s an ongoing process, so donor cultivation never really “ends.” It’s essential to understand that cultivating strong relationships with supporters is a long-term investment that requires patience, commitment, and consistency.

What’s The Difference Between Donor Cultivation and Solicitation?

Donor cultivation is the process of building relationships with potential donors, while solicitation is the direct request for a donation. Cultivation precedes solicitation and focuses on engagement, education, and relationship-building, while solicitation is the ask for a gift.

Think of cultivation as the fun stage where you get to personally know your donors and what drives them to give. Once you understand their motivations and gain their trust, you can make a tailored ask based on their needs.

Breaking Down the Donor Cultivation Cycle

As professional fundraisers, we’re always chasing the coveted “golden” donation. Even once someone donates, we must continue building relationships and maintaining trust. That often means repeating stages, which turns donor cultivation into a cycle. We’ll break the donor cultivation into 5 steps.

It’s important to note that the cycle is ongoing, and donors can move in and out of each step depending on their interests and engagement level. To properly cultivate donors, your organization should continuously assess where each individual is in the cycle and adjust engagement strategies accordingly.

This graphic breaks down the donor cultivation cycle into 5 steps.

Step 1) Identification

The first step in the donor cultivation cycle is to identify potential donors. This stage requires finding people who have the capacity and interest to support your cause.

To create a list of prospects, consider everyone in your network who might support your mission. They might support your work via volunteering or some other method. You can also assess board members’ and donors’ networks to generate this list.

Step 2) Research and Qualification

Once potential donors are identified, your organization qualifies them by assessing their giving capacity, philanthropic interests, and likelihood of supporting the organization. This step in the donor cultivation cycle helps you prioritize which donors to engage with more deeply.

Heavily dependent on thorough prospect research, this stage allows you to determine whether the prospects you’ve identified will be high-capacity donors for your mission. Donorly’s prospect research guide explains you should look into two types of data during this stage:

  1. Capacity (wealth) markers: These data points indicate a donor’s financial position and help predict whether they’d be a high-capacity donor for your nonprofit. Examples of capacity markers include real estate ownership, stock holdings, and business affiliations.
  2. Affinity (warmth) markers:  These data points show whether a donor might be interested in supporting your mission based on their experiences or values. Examples of affinity markers include political involvement, and demographics.

If you find that you’re missing any of this information, that’s a strong indication that you should conduct a data append. You’ll be able to fill in information that’s inaccurate or missing from your CRM, whether you need to append demographic details, wealth indicators, or contact information. Doing so will help you paint a complete picture for each prospect.

Step 3) Cultivation

Here comes the fun part: getting to know your prospects! This step in the donor cultivation cycle is where you begin forming a relationship with each potential donor. This might involve activities like:

  • Sending personalized communications that appeal to their interests
  • Inviting them to your nonprofit’s events or tours
  • Promote volunteer opportunities

The goal of this stage is to educate the prospective donor about your nonprofit’s mission, programs, and impact. To cultivate donors, you’ll need to use this stage to build trust and rapport, positioning your organization as trustworthy and impactful.

Step 4) Solicitation

Once you’ve sufficiently cultivated a relationship with a prospect, it’s time to make a direct ask for a gift.

This may involve making a face-to-face request, sending a fundraising letter or email, or making an online appeal. It all depends on the individual’s communication preferences.

In any case, the solicitation should be personalized and aligned with the donor’s interests and giving capacity. Take a look at the philanthropic and wealth indicators you found during the research stage. Then, tailor your ask to fit their budget and appeal to what draws them toward your organization.

Step 5) Stewardship

You’ve successfully acquired a donation. Wonderful! The work isn’t done yet. After all, it is a donor cultivation cycle.

After receiving a gift, your nonprofit should engage in stewardship activities, including:

  • Thanking the donor with a personalized thank-you email, handwritten letter, or a gift for impactful donations
  • Acknowledging their gift’s impact on your beneficiaries
  • Reporting back on how the funds were used to further your mission

One of the biggest considerations in your cycle is how you’ll sufficiently steward donors since this directly impacts retention. The key is timely, consistent, and genuine communication. After all, they clearly already believe in your mission.

Even after you steward donors, you’ll need to enter them back into the donor cultivation cycle, so you can upgrade them. Over time, you’ll strengthen your financial stability and build a reliable base of donors.

5 Donor Cultivation Strategies

While understanding the general donor cultivation cycle is certainly helpful, you need some concrete strategies that tailor your plan to your audience. Let’s walk through five of our favorite ideas.

This graphic outlines some of our favorite donor cultivation strategies, like eCards and data appending.

• Offer Unique Fundraising Opportunities.

One of the keys to inspiring donations is to offer unique fundraising opportunities. Our favorite option is donation eCards. Everyone loves receiving a greeting card, even more so when the proceeds go to a good cause!

You can create eCards branded to your mission that donors can send to their loved ones, either letting them know they gave in their name or challenging them to donate too.

Alternatively, create cards for special occasions that anyone can buy. That way, you can help supporters celebrate birthdays, say thanks to their loved ones, or send well wishes with holiday donation cards.

Sell fundraising eCards like this one to cultivate donors and inspire them to donate.

Then, you have a few ways to sell them to donors. Fundraising Letters’ charity eCards guide explains you can offer them in three ways:

  1. Use eCards as integrated donation forms. Add eCards directly to your site’s donation process. With this approach, a donor selects their preferred eCard, chooses a donation amount, adds the recipient’s contact information, and supplies their payment details.
  2. Sell eCards as fundraising products. If you have an online fundraising store, add your eCards and sell them for fixed rates. Donors can browse your collection, personalize the eCards, and send them to loved ones.
  3. Add eCards to your donation confirmation page. Embed your eCards into your giving confirmation page. While you can promote the reward before someone donates, it can be a fun surprise if a donor doesn’t know they can send an eCard until it pops up on the confirmation page.

The key to this donor cultivation strategy is to leverage a strong eCard creation platform. We recommend eCardWidget for its user-friendly design tools and fundraising features. The platform makes it incredibly easy to sell digital greeting cards for your cause. Plus, it’s a fantastic way to incentivize donors to give (and keep giving)!

If you're looking for unique fundraising and donor cultivation strategies, create and sell eCards to donors.

• Ensure You Have Updated Donor Data.

Your donor data is crucial to the donor cultivation cycle. Beyond your initial research, you’ll need to maintain sufficient data to ensure your communications are delivered and based on accurate information.

Common donor data we recommend consistently monitoring include:

Proper donor cultivation requires robust supporter profiles with accurate data.

  • Contact information: Consistently update postal addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses. Accurate contact details are essential for effective communication and engagement. Otherwise, your messages will go undelivered.
  • Giving history: Track donors’ giving history, including the amount, frequency, and date of their donations. You can then use this data to identify giving patterns and generate targeted fundraising appeals.
  • Demographic information: Collect demographic information about donors, such as age, gender, and income. Knowing this information will allow you to craft appeals tailored to their budgets and programmatic interests.
  • Donor preferences: Your nonprofit should track donors’ interests, values, and philanthropic preferences. Knowing this information can help tailor engagement efforts to each donor’s individual needs and build a deeper relationship.

Note that data appends can help you acquire any missing or outdated information in your CRM. Essentially, this process involves cross-checking the information you have with an external comprehensive database to ensure you have the right information.

Invest in your donor cultivation strategies by getting a quote for our data append services.

• Maximize Impact With Matching Gifts.

One simple yet highly effective way to cultivate donors is with corporate matching gifts. As a form of corporate philanthropy, matching gifts multiply the gifts your donors give. If their employer offers one of these programs, their donation to your nonprofit might be eligible to be matched, effectively doubling their contribution.

Double the Donation’s donation matching guide explains that there are a few key times to promote corporate giving during the donor cultivation cycle:

  • During the donation process: Donating is when engagement is at its pique. Share information about donation matching by adding a snippet about it on your donation form and adding an employer research tool to your confirmation page.
  • Throughout your website: Prospective and current donors alike will turn to your website for updated information about your cause. No matter where they are in the donor cultivation cycle, encourage them to check their eligibility. You can also design a page devoted to explaining matching gifts.
  • Across communications: Donor cultivation requires open communication. From your social media posts to your monthly newsletter, mention donation matching whenever you can!

Regardless of timing, promoting matching gifts is great for inspiring initial donations and encouraging donors to take their existing donations further.

Make sure you have accurate employer information for your donors, so you can follow up with match-eligible supporters and cultivate lasting relationships. Learn more about this process with our guide to employer appends for nonprofits.

• Proactively Thank Your Donors.

Showing appreciation is crucial for inspiring donors to stick around. When you treat your existing donors with respect, the word will get around to prospective ones as well.

Make supporters feel valued by consistently recognizing their generosity. Here are a few donor recognition ideas that work for any organization:

  • Thank-you eCards. While great for fundraising, eCards are also a fantastic recognition strategy. Sending a personalized eCard can help communicate that individual donors are valued and appreciated. Create one or two thank-you card designs you can send whenever someone gives. Then, personalize the message sent with each eCard with the donor’s name, giving amount, and a message from your team.
  • Donor gifts. From branded merchandise to full-out donor appreciation events, gifts can help cultivate relationships with existing donors. Re:Charity’s guide to donor gifts recommends picking gifts based on donation tiers. After all, donors entrust you because they respect your ability to spend fundraising revenue properly. For example, a personalized eCard is great for someone who gives $25, while a gift basket is more appropriate for someone who gives $1,000.
  • Impact reports. Creating an impact report that highlights the organization’s accomplishments and the impact of donors’ support can be a powerful way to show appreciation and cultivate donors. Within your report, include statistics, stories, and testimonials that demonstrate the organization’s success thanks to donors.

Beyond post-donation, reaching out during other times of the year lets donors know you’re thinking about them. Connect with them during the holidays and other special occasions to reiterate your gratitude for their continued support. Remember, timely and consistent communication is key for effective donor cultivation.

• Encourage Other Forms of Engagement.

When it comes to donor cultivation, other forms of engagement outside of donating can be just as meaningful. A couple of ways that can help you build meaningful donor relationships include:

  • Volunteerism: Sharing volunteer opportunities can be an effective way to grow support. Volunteerism allows donors to engage with the organization on the ground level and provides opportunities for them to use their skills and expertise to support the cause.
  • Events: Build a sense of community around your cause by hosting regular events and inviting committed supporters. Hosting events such as tours, volunteer events, or donor appreciation events can help donors feel more connected to your work. Events provide opportunities for donors to meet staff, learn more about your work, and see the impact of their support firsthand.

Overall, getting donors involved in other areas of your organization can help them understand why financial support is so crucial. Plus, they’ll see that your nonprofit views them as more than a funding opportunity.

Aside from asking supporters to get directly involved with your nonprofit in new ways, you can also increase their engagement by reaching your donors and target audiences in more places. This involves expanding your nonprofit’s network of partner organizations and corporate sponsors.

Consider the direct touchpoints that your supporters have with your nonprofit. Right now, they might include hearing about you from friends and family, making a first donation, attending an event, receiving ongoing updates and appeals, giving recurring donations, volunteering, or having one-on-one chats with your development team. But if you can find ways to grow deeper roots in your community and reach supporters outside of these direct interactions, you can become a more meaningful, recurring part of their lives.

For example, consider these indirect touchpoints you might foster through expanding your nonprofit’s network:

  • Establishing workplace giving programs with local businesses
  • Securing event and campaign sponsorships from businesses
  • Partnering with other organizations in the community to co-host programs and events
  • Lending volunteer power to public institutions like libraries and parks with special events
  • Weighing in on public issues and state and local policy developments that relate to your mission
  • Joining debates and roundtables hosted by other groups in the community
  • Offering free educational programming in partnership with peer organizations and community groups

Each of these strategies can grow your audience, strengthen your partnerships, and ultimately make your nonprofit a more central part of your supporters’ lives. When your organization is recognizable as an active player in the community, engaged with businesses, community groups, and governments, you can foster longer-lasting and more meaningful relationships with donors.

Corporate giving programs are among the easiest ways to get started expanding your network and building more touchpoints with donors. That’s because they’re mutually beneficial for both your nonprofit and businesses, which receive public recognition and increased employee engagement as a result of giving back to the community. It’s a win-win!

 

Pro tip: Kick off your relationship-building efforts by digging into your data! If you have records of donors’ employers (or can secure this data through an append service), see if any businesses crop up repeatedly. Research their corporate giving programs, promote relevant opportunities like matching gifts to those donors, and then reach out to the business to express your thanks and discuss additional partnership opportunities.

Final Thoughts on Donor Cultivation

Effective donor cultivation looks different for every organization. Beyond understanding the fundamentals of the cycle, your nonprofit will thrive by experimenting with different strategies like thank-you eCards and data appending.

Remember, the cycle is an ongoing process. It never truly ends. Rather, you need to re-enter donors into the cycle every time they give, so you can maintain those relationships and upgrade their support.

As you refine your donor cultivation strategies, check out these additional resources:

Leverage our data append services to build your donor profiles and cultivate donor relationships.

5 Digital Marketing Metrics All Nonprofits Should Track

Whether your nonprofit is putting tons of time and resources into digital marketing or just dipping your toes into more than email, one thing is for sure: you need a method of measuring your results so you know what’s working and what isn’t.

For many nonprofits, it’s challenging to be strategic about digital marketing. With many channels — sometimes overseen by different people — it’s not unusual to create content and messages but not really have a cohesive understanding of how any of it’s performing. We’ll break down how to gain that understanding by tracking the right marketing metrics.

The Key to Your Digital Marketing Strategy

Your digital marketing strategy likely involves several channels, including:

  • Your website
  • Email
  • Social media
  • Ads
  • Mobile marketing
  • Online fundraising campaigns, such as peer-to-peer platforms

The key to developing a strategy that accurately measures the performance of all of these channels is in your data. But what exactly should you be looking at? 

Tracking key digital marketing metrics is the first step to making sense of how your initiatives are going, where you need to adjust, and where there’s room to grow. Tracking is not a strategy in and of itself. You still need to analyze your data to get the most out of it. But before you can try an experiment or make data-informed decisions, you need to measure what’s going on. 

Metrics can give you a baseline to compare your results, help you see where things are flourishing (or going awry!), and help you measure your progress over time. 

Think Before You Track

While you can track many different metrics, not all of them will give you the information you need to make decisions. Scrupulously counting up the likes on each individual social media post may not be as useful as monitoring how many people who click through on social posts make a donation, for example. The metrics you track should help you adjust and refine your strategy and help you reach your goals.  

In order to know what you should track, it’s helpful to first consider what those goals are. What are you trying to accomplish with your digital marketing? Some possible goals for your digital marketing include:

  • Raising more awareness of your cause.
  • Raising more money.
  • Attracting new donors.
  • Recruiting more volunteers.
  • Promoting an event.

Once you’ve chosen your goals, consider how the metrics you track relate to them. What do you need to know in order to understand whether or not you’re making progress?

The 5 Digital Marketing Metrics To Track

These five metrics are not the only possible things you can track, but they’re a great place to start. 

1. Conversion Rate

How many people take action and make a donation in response to your marketing? Your conversion rate is the percentage of people who “convert” from people who received a marketing message into people who make donations. You calculate it by dividing the number of action-takers by the total audience, then turning that number into a percentage.

For example, if you send a fundraising email to 6,000 people and 200 of them click on the donate button and make a gift, your conversion rate would be approximately 3%.

200/600 = .03 

.03 x 100 = 3%

You can compare your conversion rate to past performance or industry benchmarks to see if your communications are inspiring people to take action.

2. Cost To Raise A Dollar

How much are you spending on digital marketing initiatives? Is it worth it? Keeping an eye on how much it costs to raise a dollar can help you see how efficient and effective your fundraising is.

To calculate the cost to raise a dollar, divide your fundraising expenses by the total funds raised. So if you spend $5,000 on a campaign that raises $20,000, your cost to raise a dollar would be 25 cents. 

5,000/20,000 = .25

If you discovered you spent $15,000 to raise $20,000, your cost to raise a dollar would be 75 cents. At that point, you might want to start tweaking some things. The big exception is if the thing you’re analyzing is a new donor acquisition campaign, in which the initial cost to raise a dollar is high. These campaigns are run in the hopes that first-time donors will become sustaining supporters with a greater donor lifetime value than the first gift alone.

3. Click-Through Rate

How often do people who see your ads, read your emails, or see your social posts actually click on a link? Your click-through rate is a good metric for assessing how engaged your audience is and how well your content is performing. 

You calculate your click-through rate by dividing the number of clicks by the number of times the content was shown or the number of people who received the communication (impressions). If your Google or Microsoft Ad was shown 1,000 times, and 100 people clicked on it, you’d have a 10% click-through rate. 

100/1000 = .1

.1 x 100 = 10%

Once again, you can compare your results to your past performance or to existing benchmarks to get a sense of whether or not people are engaging with your marketing. Click-through rate is different from conversion rate, however, in that it only measures if audience members click on a link, not if they complete the action you suggested. 

4. Total Online Revenue

This one is very simple: how much money are you raising through digital channels? Is that number growing or shrinking? How do this year’s results compare to last year’s? Is one quarter out-performing others? 

When you know how much you raise online, you can identify where you can expand your digital marketing and put additional resources. 

5. Email Response Rates

With changes in Operating Systems and privacy settings, email metrics continue to evolve. Click-through rate and conversion rates are important, but consider tracking your email response rates, too. Your response rate is simply the percentage of people who responded to your email, compared to the number of emails delivered. If they filled out a survey, answered a question, or wrote back to you, they responded. 

For instance, imagine you sent a post-event survey to donors who attended your event. If it was delivered to 5,000 people and 500 people completed the survey, you’d have a healthy 10% response rate.

500/5,000 = .01

.01 x 100 = 10%

You can use your response rate to discover how engaged your audience is, and if that engagement changes over time or in response to different things. If you find that you get a 10% response rate when you send a survey, but a 15% response rate if you send an informal email asking a single question, you may decide to take a break from surveys. If you notice your response rate increases when you change email formats or include a personalized greeting, these insights can help you engage your audience better.

Let Metrics Be Your Guide

If you haven’t tracked metrics before, you don’t have to start doing everything at once. Consider your goals and pick a couple of metrics that will help you understand how you’re progressing toward them. Track those over time and share them with your team. As you get comfortable with those, you can add more. 

Metrics help you make data-driven decisions, which in turn help you get better results. Start tracking, so you can start growing today! 

These four tips will help your nonprofit organize its data this spring.

Spring Cleaning: 4 Tips to Organize Your Nonprofit’s Data

Spring cleaning means out with the old and in with the new. Your nonprofit should take advantage of this time to move away from poor data hygiene practices and introduce new data procedures that keep your database healthy and useful. 

Disorganized data isn’t just confusing to look at—it can also cost your organization time and resources. You may accidentally craft plans around inaccurate information or inadvertently create a poor donor experience based on outdated data. 

You need to be able to rely on your data to make informed decisions and strategic goals for your campaigns and appeals. Whether you’re planning your next online fundraising campaign or developing a major donor outreach strategy, referencing clean data allows you to be confident in your decisions. 

We’ll review these four tips to help you develop a better data hygiene strategy: 

  1. Audit and clean your database regularly.
  2. Enrich your data as needed.
  3. Establish consistent data entry procedures.
  4. Stop unnecessary data from clogging your database.

Establishing a clear data hygiene strategy now can help you avoid major data cleanups in the future. By maintaining good data habits all year round, you can avoid stressful spring cleaning situations and plan more successful campaigns. 

1. Audit and clean your database regularly.

The first step in improving your data hygiene is to understand where your nonprofit currently stands. 

Your nonprofit likely uses a donor management system to store and track supporter information. Audit your donor database regularly to identify irregularities, gaps, and other areas for improvement. 

AccuData’s data hygiene guide recommends taking the following measures: 

  • Identify and eliminate inaccurate or duplicate data. Inaccurate information, whether name misspellings or incorrect contact information, should be eliminated or updated to avoid future confusion. On the other hand, duplicate data can sometimes result from data being entered in slightly different ways. Identify duplicate entries, combine them as needed, and remove the unnecessary copies. 
  • Analyze outdated data and determine whether it’s necessary to continue storing that information. Do you need to continue storing donors’ fax information or their Myspace usernames? Probably not. Identify any outdated information in your database and consider its usefulness for your future campaigns and appeals. 
  • Identify gaps in your database. Are some of your donor records lacking important information, such as donors’ email addresses or phone numbers? Identify missing data and determine whether it would be useful to add this information to your records. 

After your initial audit and cleanup, establish an ongoing data hygiene process. Create a maintenance schedule by determining how frequently you will refresh your data, whether monthly, quarterly, or some other frequency. Assign staff members to specific tasks within the process and plan regular check-ins to promote accountability. 

2. Enrich your data as needed.

As mentioned, you might identify gaps in your data during the auditing process. These gaps are opportunities to get to know your supporters better, allowing you to plan campaigns and appeals that reach them more effectively. 

You can enrich your data and add missing information by taking the following steps: 

  • Look for a donor database that conducts automatic data updates. For example, Bloomerang’s donor database runs nightly National Change of Address (NCOA) updates so you can stay updated on donors’ home address information. Finding a database with automatic updates means your team won’t have to spend time manually researching and refreshing these data points. 
  • Consider whether you may benefit from third-party data appends. Data appending is the process of adding data to your database from external sources. You can append missing information such as donors’ email addresses, phone numbers, employer names, and social media profiles. This can be helpful if you’d like to get in touch with donors over a new platform or better understand their giving potential. 
  • Gather additional insight through donor satisfaction surveys. You may have certain things you’d like to learn about your donors that you can’t gather from appends or automatic updates. For instance, you may want to understand your donors’ preferred communication methods or frequency. Or, you might want to know whether they’d be interested in additional payment methods, like cryptocurrency or Venmo. You can gather this additional information by sending donor surveys and syncing the results into your database. 

Let’s review an example that illustrates the benefits of enriching your data. Perhaps you want to identify more major donor prospects to jumpstart your major gift fundraising efforts. You can conduct wealth screening by appending your current data with employment and financial information to determine who your top prospects are. This data could include business affiliations and stock and real estate ownership. 

Data appends help you build a more complete picture of your donor base, empowering you to identify top prospects and connect with donors on a more personal level. 

3. Establish consistent data entry procedures.

Consistency is essential to clean data. Creating standard data policies helps avoid duplicated data in the future. 

Develop a database manual for managing donor data. Include guidelines for inputting the following data types into your database: 

  • Addresses: Will you use the full word “street” or the abbreviation “St.”? Will you use the five-digit ZIP code or the ZIP+4 code? 
  • Name suffixes: Will you input “Junior” or “Jr.”? Will you spell Ph.D. with periods or without? 
  • Phone numbers: Will you use hyphens or parentheses around the area code for phone numbers? 

These considerations might seem nit-picky, but creating guidelines for your team to follow will save plenty of data headaches down the road. 

4. Stop unnecessary data from clogging your database.

The best way to avoid unnecessary data clutter is to stop collecting the information in the first place. 

For example, consider eliminating unnecessary questions from your online donation page. This creates a more streamlined, faster giving process for donors and helps your team avoid having unnecessary data overwhelming your system. 

Identify the information that is most essential to your internal records, and eliminate any questions that lead to superfluous data. 

Along with your online donation page, review other data sources like your events, direct mail, donor meetings, and phone calls. Ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Are you getting the data you need from these sources? 
  • Are you getting too much unnecessary data from any source? 
  • Are your staff members properly trained on what type of data they should be collecting from these sources and how they should be inputting it? 

Meet with your nonprofit’s team to review your data priorities and database manual to ensure everyone knows the data types that are most important for your strategies and how to input this information into your database. 


With these tips, your nonprofit should be able to create an effective data hygiene strategy this spring that serves your organization throughout the year. Clean data brings all kinds of benefits, from facilitating improved donor engagement to allowing you to plan more successful fundraising appeals. The effort you put into cleaning your database will pay off in the long run, so start your spring cleaning ASAP!

 

Improving your website with web analytics starts with tracking these five metrics.

Improve Your Website with Web Analytics: 5 Important Metrics

Your nonprofit collects data all the time, from supporters’ communication preferences to their giving habits, demographics, and more. You probably use this information to enhance your fundraising and marketing campaigns to better appeal to supporters’ interests. Did you know you can also use data to help improve your website?

Website data gathered from sources like Google Analytics, along with donor data from your nonprofit’s CRM, can be used to develop a website that speaks to your audience and drives engagement. We’ll review these five specific metrics that can help you design a better website: 

  1. Donation page metrics
  2. Demographic data 
  3. Split testing results
  4. User behavior metrics
  5. Traffic sources

You can gather and assess this information on your own, or turn to a nonprofit web design professional to help translate your data into actionable insights. Either way, using your data to make informed web design decisions will pay off in the long run when you can generate more online support. 

1. Donation page metrics

Your nonprofit’s online donation page is the tool that turns casual website visitors into supporters. Understanding where your donation page is succeeding and where it’s missing the mark can help you make informed design decisions that boost your online fundraising results. 

Here are a few of the most essential donation page metrics to keep an eye on: 

  • Click-through rate: This is the percentage of website visitors who click on the link to your online donation page. You can boost your click-through rate by developing more enticing calls to action (CTAs) or by featuring your giving page more prominently on your website’s homepage or main menu. 
  • Conversion rate: This metric measures the percentage of people who visit your online giving form and actually donate. To improve your conversion rate, Kanopi recommends emulating the top nonprofit websites by making the giving process as straightforward as possible. Keep the design simple and uncluttered, use a clear and consistent tone, and make the page mobile-friendly. 
  • Average online gift size: Compare this metric to your average gift size for other channels like direct mail. If your average online gift size is lower than expected, you can try to increase it by offering higher suggested donation amounts or giving donors the choice to cover additional processing fees. 

By using data to inform your donation page design strategy, you can increase online conversions and turn your website into a more effective fundraising channel. 

2. Demographic data

Knowing more about your supporters’ backgrounds can help you design a website that resonates with them. When it comes to managing and tracking donor data, your CRM is your most powerful tool. Use your CRM to track demographics that are meaningful and applicable to your organization. Those could include: 

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Ethnicity
  • Employment information
  • Education level

Consider this data when redesigning your website to better appeal to as many audience members as possible. For example, if you discover many donors work for companies that offer matching gift programs, you can better highlight matching gift opportunities across your website and online donation page. 

If your CRM is missing critical demographic information, you can conduct a demographic append to add extra details. A demographic append pulls information from third-party databases to help you fill gaps in your supporter information. 

3. Split testing results

Let’s say you’re looking to redesign your nonprofit website’s menu but you aren’t sure what type of navigation will work best for your audience. You may currently have a vertical sidebar menu but want to find out if horizontal navigation will work better. 

To determine the best path forward, you can carry out a split test (also known as an A/B test). You’ll create a new web page with a new URL that is identical to the original page but features a horizontal menu instead. Then, you’ll show both versions to similar audiences to gather feedback about which version performs better. 

Here is an example of what that A/B test might look like, with click-through rates shown for both menu options:

This image is an example of a split test, with a vertical navigation bar showing a 30% click-through rate and a horizontal navigation bar showing a 75% click-through rate.

In addition to your menu design, you can also conduct split testing for: 

  • Images
  • Videos
  • Calls to action (CTAs) 
  • Headers
  • Colors
  • Typography

You can assess practically any web design element with split testing to determine which options are more appealing to your audience. Through this evaluation, you can make informed decisions rather than acting on hunches. 

4. User behavior metrics

Different aspects of your website will naturally be more engaging than others, whether it’s your image slideshow, homepage video, or audience polls. You can determine exactly which page elements are most engaging by running a user behavior analysis. 

Using a website heatmap tool, you can understand how visitors engage with your website to determine opportunities for improvement and proactively identify user experience issues. 

Look into popular options like HotJar or explore the options available through your CMS. Drupal and WordPress both offer modules and plugins to conduct heatmap analysis in real-time.

Combine insights from a heatmap tool with Google Analytics to reveal the following metrics: 

  • Time on page. Determine how long visitors spend on each page before clicking away. 
  • Mouse tracking. See which buttons visitors click, how far they scroll down each page, and what areas of each page they ignore or engage with most. 
  • Direct user feedback via surveys. Incorporate website polls using feedback widgets to gather direct audience input. 

These user behavior metrics can help you collect data for your split tests, making it easier to determine the best path forward for your design choices. 

5. Traffic sources

Your website’s data can also reveal the success of your multichannel marketing efforts. By assessing your most popular traffic sources using Google Analytics, you can see which marketing channels drive the most cross-platform engagement.

Google Analytics groups traffic sources into the following categories:

  • Direct: typing your website’s URL into a browser
  • Referral: clicking a link to your website from another website
  • Social media: clicking a link to your website from a social media post
  • Email: clicking a link to your website from an email
  • Organic search: clicking a link to your website from a search engine
  • Paid search: clicking a link to your website from a paid search ad

Using this information, you can maximize your efforts on your most popular channels and build up outreach on other important channels that are underperforming.

For example, you might determine that your organic search traffic is thriving due to your robust SEO strategy, but your paid search ads could be more visible. In this case, you might consider applying for a Google Ad Grant. This program offers qualifying nonprofits $10,000 per month to spend on Google Ads, which are the paid search ads that appear at the top of search results pages.

Getting Attention’s guide to Google Ad Grant optimization recommends taking specific steps to make your paid search ad strategy more effective. These include using specific, long-tail keywords, targeting local audiences, and creating user-friendly, informational landing pages on your website.


Develop a process for continually reviewing these metrics with your nonprofit’s team. Practice good data hygiene by keeping your donor database and reporting processes organized and consistent. This will allow you to adapt to new audience preferences or trends to continue improving your website and appealing to supporters’ interests. 

 

Data from your association event can improve future event planning.

6 Post-Event Data Metrics Every Association Should Leverage

Your association planned for months, coordinated with members and vendors, and the event was a hit! Even if an event goes according to plan, there are likely still areas of improvement. From enhancing attendance to increasing member satisfaction with the event to determining if you should use hybrid or virtual events, there are a plethora of data points to evaluate when it comes to planning your next event.

In this article we’ll discuss six post-event metrics your association can use to analyze event performance, make recommendations for the future, and maintain proper data hygiene.

1. Attendance Records

One of the best indications that an event started off strong is that all your registration spots were filled. A successful event begins far before the event day, when your association opens registration and begins promoting it. You’ll want to assess how quickly registration filled up and the time periods when the most registration forms were completed. This can give you some indication as to which marketing campaign strategies were most successful, as well as the time period when most people are willing to commit to an event. When thinking about general attendance records, be sure to compare your most recent data to previous events and years to evaluate if there are any overlapping patterns present.

You’ll also want to compare the number of registrants with the number of attendees, as this can help you plan for similar gaps in your future events and leave room for more attendees to register. Similarly, you’ll want to see if there was a drop off in attendance during multi-day events, or even session to session. This can help you determine if there are specific topics or speakers that attendees are more or less eager to engage with.

2. Membership attendance

Depending on the size and purpose of the event, it may have attracted industry peers outside of your association membership’s pool as well as current members. According to Fonteva’s member engagement guide, events can be key in getting members involved with your association, which is essential to improving retention rates.

While events are a great way to gain new members, current member attendance and satisfaction should be a key focus in your event analysis. Consider the following questions when assessing member event attendance:

  • What percentage of attendees were members?
  • How many members of your association registered?
  • What percentage of your total membership attended?
  • Was the event attended more by a specific group within your association?
  • Are there any common demographics or interest areas among members who did attend?
  • How many members registered but did not attend?

You can use your membership directory to send out post-event surveys specifically for members after the event. Tracking members’ feedback and implementing changes in response can boost retention rates by helping you cater to their interests, make events more engaging, and create a more positive member experience.

3. Satisfaction Rate

Within the satisfaction survey, vary the questions to give attendees an opportunity to express how they felt about the overall event. By leaving questions open-ended and avoiding leading questions, you’ll get more accurate responses and more useful data. Include short answers, multiple choice, yes/no, and scaled questions within the survey.

Here are some examples of questions to ask attendees about your event:

  • How do you rate your experience at this event on a scale of 1-10?
  • Would you recommend this event to a friend or colleague?
  • Was this event what you expected? Why or why not?
  • Which sessions or speakers stood out to you?
  • Was there anything you felt was missing from this event?

While asking questions can provide valuable feedback for your association, keep the survey relatively short to encourage more responses. This survey is also a helpful way to confirm you have attendee contact information correct in case there are any contact appends needed for your member directory. In addition to sending association members a post-event survey, you can also create separate surveys for registrants who did not attend to determine if there is a common factor in the lack of attendance.

4. Session analytics

Events are a valuable opportunity for association members to engage with fellow professionals in their field, learn from industry leaders, and get involved with your association’s programs. To continue providing these valuable experiences, it’s important to ascertain what parts of events members find most appealing and helpful.

If you’ve hosted a virtual or hybrid event, look at how many individuals tuned in to a keynote speakers’ presentation, when most people began logging off, or how many individuals tuned in each day of the event. Assessing what speakers, topics, or sessions had the most engagement can help you plan the next events’ programs to better engage members.

5. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Events provide your members valuable experience, but they should also be providing direct value and revenue for your association as well. Compare the cost of an event with the revenue produced to determine its value. If there is a gap in revenue produced and the cost, a secondary measure to evaluate would be new memberships and current member satisfaction. Because there will likely be new members as a result of events, it’s essential to have a value attributed to those who are joining to help you determine the overall ROI of the event.

6. Lead Generation

After determining the success of the overall event, it can be helpful to pinpoint what marketing tactics made the event successful. Consider what your association’s main funnel for obtaining registrants looks like and how you guided registrants to attend the event.

Here are some questions to ask while assessing the marketing of your event:

  • What marketing channels were you using (such as your association website, email, or social media)?
  • Is there and example of specific marketing language that was successful?
  • Did the timeline of marketing match what you anticipated for registration?
  • How did internal (marketing to existing members within the association) and external (marketing to potential members outside the association) marketing efforts compare?

To host a successful event, your association needs attendees. Get as many individuals as possible in the door by determining what worked best in your past event marketing campaigns.


Remember, the work doesn’t end immediately after an event! It’s crucial to review your association’s event information as quickly as possible. By sending surveys out soon after the event, attendees will have a fresh perspective and helpful feedback. Similarly, reviewing event data will give your association ample time to implement any needed changes to ensure planning for the next event is as productive as possible.

Author: Erin Lemons


Erin Lemons joins Togetherwork Association Solutions with over 15 years serving as a marketing director, event producer, and project manager creating robust marketing campaigns and initiatives that focus on the growing and ever-changing technology needs of the association industry. She leads the marketing teams and strategy at Fonteva and Protech.