My last post dealt with a simple review of data regarding fundraising improvement (or, ahem, lack thereof) for last year. Today we turn our evaluation to the softer side. It’s both easier and harder.
I want you to take a look at your fundraising activities over the last year. What did you actually do to raise money for your organization, and what were the results.
Each of the following areas could become a post (or even a series) in themselves, but for now we’re going to look at the highest level. You’ll recognize that there is overlap in looking at these areas.
Presenting Your Message
This section examines the vehicles you used to present your message proactively to specific individuals. The bolded words are important. We’re asking you to evaluate the quality of what you did, and think at least in general terms about the results. The categories below allow you to assess your effectiveness in delivering your message. At the end of this exercise you should have a feel for what you should do more, less, and different than last year. Here we go.
Events are a critical piece in every effective fundraising operation. They provide you with access to new contacts, targeted opportunities to present your message. and a rallying point for those already in your organization. In assessing last year’s events you should list the events by name, and information for each of them. Create an evaluation form to help you summarize the information. A simple table in Word or Excel will let you gather all the informaiton in one place.
- Event Name:
- New Contacts:
- Direct Revenue:
When you’re done, add up the columns that make sense and look at what you’ve got. You might even get technical and divide the cost by the number of people who attended and/or by the number of new contacts you generated. You also might look at the number of new contacts who actually gave a donation. But now we’re flipping back to last week’s work of assessing numbers. Let’s press on!
In this area I’m asking you to look at what you sent out as paper mail communications. Collect the data about each piece you sent out and then consider changes in style, length, timing, and frequency.
- Mail date:
- Format: (letter, newsletter, magazine, brochure, etc.)
- Content description: (e.g., “one page letter, response device, response envelope, No. 10 window envelope)
- Quantity mailed:
- Number of responses attributable:
Again, create a chart for yourself in Word or Excel, use a row for every mailing, and a column to record your information. Take the time to think through what you sent. How many of your mailings were more direct “asks” for support? How many were more informational? Should you make a change to the mix of what you are sending? How did you decide who you should send items to? Should that shift? All of these evaluative questions are healthy to ask about all of your fundraising activities.
By now you’ve got the idea. Take a look at the email you send. If you have a regular e-newsletter, pull together the data in one place on all of them.
- E-newsletter topic:
- Subject line:
- Release date:
- List size
- Open rate:
- Click-through rate:
Now evaluate your email efforts. What sort of growth did you see in your list over the course of the year? Are you being diligent about getting all of your new contacts on your email list? Do you have a welcome series of emails you send to a new contact? What were the items that received the most click throughs over the course of the year? How many click-throughs did you have to your donation page on your website? Other pages?
Social Media is a critical component of your communication strategy. Some people live their lives (kind of) on social media. They’re on their Facebook page all the time. They use LinkedIn to broaden their network and get new ideas. They watch TikTok or YouTube videos for fun. They follow people on Instagram because they find the information moving. What to track:
- Post frequency:
Much more could be said about social media. Each platform is its own beast, and how you manage each will vary. Be sure you don’t (or haven’t) bitten off more than you can chew. It’s better to be consistent about posting on a few platforms that fit your mission, than trying to post on lots of platforms and only getting content up sporadically. A few questions to consider: How attractive are your posts? Do they fit with what others are posting on the same platform? Do you have a mechanism in play to reply to social media inquiries? Have you grown the number of followers you have on social media?
The final area for evaluation is meetings. By this I mean the number of times you have met with individual donors or prospects, or small groups of donors. These sessions might be for breakfast, for coffee, for lunch, or for dessert. Usually such meetings will be with larger donors and they are critical to your fundraising success, both in deepening commitments with existing donors, and in developing new reltaionships.
- Meeting with:
- Topic or purpose:
- Did you ask for support: (yes or no)
In many ways personal donor meetings are the core of fundraising work. They are both the most difficult and the most fruitful. You have a wonderful story to tell about the mission of your organization. You need to get out and tell it. A few questions to ask: Did you meet with every major donor that really needed a personal meeting or did you miss a few? Did you have a piece of targeted material that would remind the person of what you talked about so that they could review it after the meeting?
Fundraising is work like any other arena. Doing it well takes planning, execution, and evaluation. Sometimes the evaluation phase can feel onerous and almost a waste of time. If you’re like me, you’re anxious to get on with the next tasks. But taking a few hours once a year to evaluate whether what you’re doing to raise funds is effective or not will pay dividends down the road. You’ll save money as you stop efforts that are unproductive. You’ll build new relationships as you increase the priority of meetings. You’ll expand the circle of friends who know about your ministry through improved social media. These benefits and more will all accrue to you as you take time to evaluate your efforts with an eye to improvement. And if you do, you’re likely to raise more money next year!
If we can do anything to help you evaluate your fundraising let us know. We love helping people assess performance and then seek to improve! You can reach us at email@example.com or by calling 847-788-8100.
Robb Hansen is the president and founder of Next Level Insights, a Chicago area based fundraising strategy and execution firm. Give Next Level a call to discuss how we can help you today!