How to Use Year-End Numbers to Increase 2018 Fundraising

End-of-year is here, friends.

Not news to you, is it? You’re living it, coming off a weekend of thanks and giving to barely catch a breath before heading into the season of goodwill and a surge in year-end giving.

Let’s throw in yesterday’s Giving Tuesday and it’s all a flash before your eyes. Brace yourself to go the distance this season, as 11% of all giving happens in the last three days of the year, according to the Network for Good Digital Giving Index.

After the dust settles, it’s time for another flash before your eyes: conducting your year-end fundraising analysis, where the ever-present question “Did you make goal(s)?” is absolutely real. The dollars literally have to be there to keep the mission moving ahead.

But if you want to be the catalyst that sets solid and sustainable growth into your organization’s fundraising efforts in 2018, the answer rests in how you interpret the numbers.

For year-end totals don’t merely define success or setback in terms of overall dollars raised; they can become your secret weapon, the codes that unlock the pieces to this year’s fundraising story and offer clues for next year’s direction.

Dig deep into what’s truly behind the year-end total number of dollars raised. So you can move with the shift and see a new path to fundraising victory.

Whether you’ve reached your year-end goal of $100,000 or $1 million, you’re probably feeling on top of the mountain. Big numbers paint beautiful views of a goal achieved and surely appease board members, invested donors and annual reports alike.

But if that’s only $50,000 more than what was raised last year, or a 2 percent increase in giving year over year, the outlook for next year could take on a whole different picture.

Looking at year-end numbers as a percentage change, in addition to straight total numbers, quickly shows if you’re on an upward trajectory and gaining momentum, standing in place or—say it isn’t so—falling backward.

The Shifting Donor Story: What’s Yours?

On the other side of year-end numbers are the people.

As with any relationship worth investing in, you’ve got to put the time in for the payoff. What that investment looks like changes, as people, personalities, intentions and priorities shift as well. To stay ahead of changing donor tides, an annual review of donor stats is key.

Think of the year-end donor stat review as a “date night,” or dedicated time when you focus only on them. Look beyond the lump sum or large totals and instead dive into the donor profiles behind them. Sift through the numbers to extract your donors’ overall giving motivations, habits and communication preferences—above all, why they chose to take action and support your nonprofit this year.

This is also a good time to bring into your end-of-year equation any particularly powerful donor stories or mission-focused partnerships that evolved from donor cultivation throughout your current evaluation year.

Some of the most important donor stats to capture and communicate include:

  • Total number of current donors
  • Number of first-time donors
  • Number of/percentage of lapsed donors (those who gave in the prior year but did not renew in the current year)
  • Lapsed donors renewing (those who lapsed in giving in the prior year that renewed in the current year)
  • Upgrade rate (percentage of those who increased their giving from prior year)
  • Response rate via trackable offline marketing channels, like radio, TV or more trackable mediums like direct mail, telemarketing, phone or print surveys
  • Response rate via trackable online marketing channels, like eblasts and social media channels, including conversion rates, from landing to conversion, to get more leads/volunteers/donors

Not the end.

Remember, the year-end fundraising analysis can turn out to be your best friend in fundraising. How you approach the process is what drives success into the next year.

  • It’s not an ending point; it’s a go-ahead. Resist the urge to keep year-end totals confined to spreadsheets or PowerPoint presentations simply for reporting purposes. Use them to help tell your story and as vital clues about where to allocate your resources and energies in the upcoming year.
  • Try not to take it personally. Your group—or you personally—could have been the most formidable fundraising machine of 2017. However, in fundraising, there’s always room for evaluation and improvement to better yourself professionally and, most importantly, to better your organization’s efficacy. Start with the numbers.

For my planned giving friends: Look for other sources of inspiration for the year ahead, whether it’s in the numbers or in your story. Start here, with the 11 Ways to Jump-Start Your Communications Program in 2017 (a timeless tale) or Engaging the 34% and Educating the 66%.

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