Must-Have Metrics By Pillar

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Ahh…metrics. You either love them or hate them, but guess what? They are crucial to your fundraising success. The right metrics can prove the effectiveness of your donor relations programs, identify areas for improvement, and provide direction for new initiatives. But where do you start? What should you measure? How do you get the data? And what do you do with it once you have it?

Don’t let these questions overwhelm you—or worse—keep you from getting started! Our team is here to help. Below, we broke out the must-have metrics by each of the 4 Pillars of Donor Relations (acknowledgment, stewardship, recognition, and engagement), and provided tips on how to gather the data and what to do with it once you have it.


  1. The absolute best metric in the stewardship space is your overall donor satisfaction rate on your annual endowment reports. Why? Because if we are going to spend months creating these reports, we need to know they are hitting the mark with our donors and fulfilling their purpose in stewarding donor funds. Insert a survey in every AER and establish a baseline satisfaction rate that you can track year over year!
  2. What percentage of your donors receive an impact report on THEIR giving. Not a generic piece that is serve one and all, but how many donors or what percentage receive the outcomes of their individual giving.
  3. The value of the work you do. Reporting is a vital component of our work, yet our time spent preparing reports doesn’t always resonate with leadership. You prepared reports for XXX funds, valued at XXX amount, sent to XXX donors, whose cumulative giving totals XXX amount. Share this with your leadership to show the worth of the reports and the time invested in them.


  1. Timeliness and personalization are strongest indicators of a strong and effective acknowledgment program. Track your turnaround time and personalization levels for key donor populations. Always aim for the tax receipt to be sent in 48-72 hours and a thank you letter in 5-7 business days!
  2. How much time you’re spending on different audiences. For example, if you’re spending tons of time on memorial and honor acknowledgments but they have traditionally low low retention rates, then reprioritize!
  3. The number of acknowledgments being created by “signor.” The total number sent per signor (President, Vice President, Executive Director, CEO, Dean) will allow you to periodically evaluate your acknowledgments guidelines. There should be value associated with receiving an acknowledgment from your university’s president or your organization’s executive director, so be sure you aren’t spreading that worth too thin.


  1. How many impact touch points our donor programs and recognition societies produce each year. Emails, print pieces, ThankView videos – track all of the donor touchpoints that express gratitude and don’t include an ask!
  2. Are your donors are happy with the recognition they receive? This one is best served by a small survey to donors asking them if they feel properly recognized for their giving and what we can do to help in this!
  3. The number of new members in each of your recognition/giving societies. If your cumulative giving society is welcoming hundreds or even thousands of new members annually, it’s time to re-evaluate the program’s guidelines. On the other hand, if your loyalty donor program (ex. consecutive year recognition) welcomes hundreds or thousands of new members, that’s great news for your organization. Behavior-based recognition programs and associated metrics can help reinforce the importance of donor retention.


  1. What to Track: Many organizations have resources dedicated to top donor engagement whose responsibility is to create individual stewardship/engagement plans. Quantifying and measuring the outcomes of individual engagement plans is very tricky. I have found the best metric in this space to track pledge and/or major gift commitments before, during and after an IEP time period. Did the commitments (number or amount) increase? Did the the pledge payment timeline shorten? Look for patterns and trends with these top donors and you will gain insight on the effectiveness of your outreach.
  2. Evaluate the number of donors you have in the top donor category and the number of touchpoints they receive per year compared to your staff resources. Do you have a dedicated staff member devoted to top donor engagement, is there a writer in your organization who crafts highly customized impact reports (maybe not their only responsibility but the responsibility that takes precedent). The importance of top donor engagement may help you make adjustments to staff assignments or further justify sunsetting programs that are no longer effective.
  3. What to Track: With all donors (not just top donors), look at pledge payment rates, return and loyal donor retention and even small things like increase in gift amounts!
  4. What to Track: The ROI on your events. Not just the basics of cost per person and number of attendees or no shows—although those are a great place to start—really dig in to find out more about those that did attend. Were they current donors? Where do they direct their giving? Are they loyal donors? How many years have then given? If they are not donors, are they rated prospects? You also want to know more about if this is their first event or if they attend multiple events. Look at their giving after events to see if the event influenced their giving. For virtual events, track who participated during the the actual event and who did not. For the no-shows, send them a link to watch the recorded event when it suits them best and track that data as well. Then, share all of this data with your prospect management and research team and use it to identify leads for your development team.

We’ll be honest, tracking meaningful metrics is a lot of work, but it’s important work. It’s work that can show leadership the impact of your work, improve donor retention rates, and ultimately increase your fundraising bottom line. So, butter up your data friends (we like to send food or a some of their favorite things to show our appreciation), and start measuring the fruits of your labor!

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