In a world where we’re all often guilty of comparing ourselves to colleagues, friends and even neighbours, one valuable metric that you do want to know is how you compare to your competitors. What metrics should you be tracking and why?

For example, do you know how many donors you renew year over year? How many have stopped giving? How many are in danger of lapsing if you don’t ramp up your cultivation and stewardship efforts?

Knowing the answers to the above questions is a good place to start. Once you’ve got the basics down, you’ll likely want to dig a little deeper and find out what you’re spending these days to acquire a new donor (you are still investing in acquisition, right?).  For those of you who need to convince senior leadership or your board that an investment in acquisition is not only wise but necessary, you’ll also need to know your second gift conversion rate and long-term donor value (LTDV) in order to forecast future potential revenues over perhaps a 5-10 year period.

Bottom line numbers are great, but they just don’t paint a complete picture of performance. In order to truly know how your program is performing, you need to know how your donors are behaving in any given year. Do they make a single gift or multiple gifts annually? Are they giving you more than they did in the previous year? Less? Maybe they continue to give the same amount but they’ve been doing so for several years now. How are you recognizing that loyalty?

It’s a good idea to create a chart that identifies your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). In year one, you’ll want to compare to industry benchmarks but in subsequent years, it’s a better idea to compare your year over year results to see how your organization is trending and what you can do to boost response.

Here’s a list of resources you can use to track your organization’s results, both offline and digital, against your respective sector.

  • To see how you measure up to other Canadian charities, have a look at The Blackbaud Index-Canada, compiled from actual data from about 250 Canadian organizations.
  • For some really neat and useful stats check out the The Next Generation of Canadian Giving which highlights the philanthropic habits of four generations of Canadians –  Generation Y, Generation X, Baby Boomers, and Civics – as compiled by Blackbaud and HJC.

Once you’ve got a handle on your key metrics, I highly recommend you have a look at the recent survey “What Canadian Donors Want”, released by the AFP Foundation for Canada and market research firm Ipsos. The survey features input from over 1,000 donors from across the country and should help you decide how and where to invest your time to generate the best response this year.

Good luck!

This post was written by Heather Brown, former Philanthropic Counsel at Good Works and fundraiser extraordinaire.