Forward Motion Strategies
Put Big Ideas In Motion With Us


The Nonprofit Strategist

Four Keys to 2019 Fundraising Success

If you have a calendar-year FY, now is a great time to start thinking about 2019 - even if you haven't kicked off your formal process yet. 

What’s the linchpin of any successful fundraising plan? Simply put, it’s knowing your donors well enough to make the right strategic investments of time and money. That’s why the most important thing you can do to assure a successful 2019 is to invest in analytics before even thinking about strategy. Here are four key steps you can start taking today:

1. Get Your Analytics in Place

Most of the folks we speak with wrestle with their donor database on a regular basis. Years of inconsistent coding and data hygiene issues get in the way of basic analytics. You have our sympathy. That said, here are the metrics you should ideally have in place before 2019 planning starts:

  • Donor acquisition cost (total acquisition spend/# of new donors)

  • Donor retention (% donors renewing; note that recurring donor data should be segregated)

  • Year over year growth/loss (revenue by segment; # donors by segment)

  • Donor lifetime value (average annual donation/annual attrition rate = average lifetime value)

Lifetime value, you say? This is the one critical data point that very few development directors are using, and that’s a crazy thing. Look, if you're simply overwhelmed this year and you can only do one thing about getting ready for 2019, get your donor lifetime value metric in place. Why? It’s a much better predictor of long-term success than (say) list performance or even retention per se.

2. Develop Your Donor Personas

Have you been studying the demographic and psychographic details concerning your best donors?  Have you (systematically) talked with your donors to understand what motivates them to give or what kind of information they need to make a decision to give again?  It’s true this kind of research takes time--time that we often believe we don’t have. But oh, the power of the persona! Let’s say you match your best lifetime donor value segmentations with well-researched personas. That’s critical. Why? You’ll know exactly what you need to develop a strong, high-growth acquisition program, and your retention rates will improve.

3. Benchmark Your Performance

If you know your file’s performance, you will also want to gauge fundraising performance against other organizations. There are several annual studies, but the largest and longest running is the AFP/Urban Institute Fundraising Effectiveness Survey.  Once you know where you stand, you’ll be in a position to evaluate improvement strategies.

4. Have That Conversation With Marketing

Speaking of using metrics for success, now is the perfect time to get with marketing (or sit down with yourself, if you’re responsible!) to test a new approach to working collaboratively. As we’ve said before, nonprofits benefit greatly from utilizing Service Level Agreements (SLAs), a strategy common in the business world. The heart of a good SLA is that marketing takes responsibility for generating qualified prospects or leads, and fundraising is accountable for converting those prospects into donors. And both are together responsible for the results.  


FundraisingDavid Reis