Eight Ways to Measure Fundraising Success

Measure Success

How do you measure fundraising success? The answer isn’t just the amount raised. There are several metrics that can give you a clearer picture of the overall health of your fundraising efforts. Tracking donations and donor activity is a great start, but it’s worth it to digging a little deeper into your fundraising data.

Dissecting your data helps you celebrate strengths, identify weaknesses, and determine where your greatest opportunities lie.

While there are endless ways to slice and dice your data, you can use these eight indicators to truly gauge your fundraising success:


1. Cost Per Dollar Raised or Return on Investment (ROI)
It is one thing to know the gross dollar amount raised, quite another to understand how much you invested in the efforts to raise it. Understanding your net return is critical. Did we raise money, run at a loss, or break even?

If you spent $2,500 on a campaign that raised $5,000, your ROI (the net raised) is $2,500 and your cost per dollar raised is $0.50. (2,500/5,000 = .50). Both of these numbers are a great place to start when measuring success, but there are many more factors to consider that will give you a comprehensive assessment.

2. Growth Rate
Are your results increasing, flat or declining? For an annual appeal, you’ll want to look at the number of contributing donors year over year as well as comparing the dollars raised one year to the next.

With a fundraising event, in addition to charting the revenue growth year to year, look at the number of overall participants. Then break that down into individual participants vs. those on a team. This will tell you where your growth is coming from.

3. Retention Rate
How many of your donors or participants were brand new this year vs. returning from a previous year? Breaking own these numbers tells you what strategies are working and where the greatest growth opportunity may be.

If you are keeping donors/participants year to year, but not bringing in new people, then you are likely taking good care of them once you have them but need to ramp up your outreach and growth efforts. If the reverse is true – you gain a lot of new donors or participants each year, but only a small percent of them return – then you likely need to evaluate (and improve) your communication efforts, cultivation process, and/or event execution.

4. Fundraising Teams
If you are managing a fundraising event and teams are a factor, your team program may be your greatest long-term growth strategy and deserves to be analyzed in more depth.

  • How many team captains do you have?
  • Corporate teams vs. those made up of family and friends?
  • What is the average size of a team?
  • Average amount raised by all teams?
  • Do friends and family teams or corporate teams raise more?
  • What is your retention rate for team captains? Team members?

Take the time to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your team program on its own, as a key component of the overall campaign.

5. Average Gift Amount
Knowing your average gift size can be a big help in understanding your donor cultivation and major gift acquisition success. To calculate this, just divide the number of gifts into the total given. For example, if you raised $50,000 and you had 100 donors, your average gift size is $500; $50,000/100=$500.

If you received one gift that is significantly larger than usual – a one-time $30,000 gift, for example – you may be best served to subtract that from your calculation rather than have it skew your results. (New calculation, $20,000/99=$202). Once you have this number, you’ll want to compare it year-over-year to track progress. If the gift average isn’t going up, you may want to evaluate your donor cultivation program and develop strategies to strengthen it.

6. Average Fundraising Amount
Similar to average gift amount, your average fundraising amount is an important event metric. While an event participant may only give $25, they may raise $5,000. Year-over-year, you should expect to see your average fundraising amount increase as you retain participants, strengthen teams, and deepen engagement.

To calculate this, take the total of all participants and divide that into the fundraising dollars (do not include any sponsorship dollars or fees). If your number of event participants and your gross revenue is growing, but your average fundraising amount is flat or declining, you need to:

  • evaluate your participant cultivation;
  • ensure you’ve strongly infused your mission message into the event;
  • have efforts in place to encourage fundraising.

7. Conversion Rate
Your conversion rate will let you know how successful a specific tactic was for you. For example, you sent out an email to 100 potential donors asking them to give online, 30 clicked on the link and gave a gift. Your conversion rate is 30% (divide the number who responded by the number of those invited, 30/100=.30 or 30%).

While it can be very helpful to evaluate what your most effective tactics are, be careful not to assume those with low conversion rates should be dropped. Today, people need to see and hear your message a myriad of times in a variety of ways in order for it to ‘cut through the clutter’ and be heard.

8. Return on Mission
All of the previous measures we’ve discussed are standard numerical calculations. A return on mission is a bit more elusive, but no less important…. And yet a measure that is often overlooked and never qualified.

Take some time to identify how the fundraising event or development effort fueled your mission beyond the dollars raised. Is increasing awareness a goal? Then a large event in a public venue, or one that received a good amount of press coverage, helped you to achieve that. Is empowering patients or clients an important aspect of what you do? Then calculate how many were involved, as participants, volunteers, or ambassadors. Perhaps the event was small, the revenue below your projections, but so beautifully executed that everyone there left engaged and excited to deepen their involvement. How can you strategically follow-up and leverage this into other areas of engagement?


However you choose to dissect, calculate and examine your fundraising, the important thing is that you prioritize the time and effort needed to do so. If it is measured and examined strategically, the data can help you identify your strongest path forward and give you much to celebrate!