Analytics - a scary word for some fundraisers

publication date: Jun 7, 2016
author/source: Sam Laprade

Samantha LapradeThe good news: Data does not have to be frightening or difficult or daunting.

Analyzing your donor database will save you time, help you allocate human resources more effectively and most importantly help you to raise more money for your non-profit.

I am asked by fundraisers all the time “where do I start with analytics?”

To begin there are five essential benchmarks every fundraiser should know about their donor database. 

1.              Donor attrition

2.              Second gift conversion. 

3.              RFM – Reach, Frequency and Monetary Values

4.              Consecutive Years of Giving

5.              Lapsed Donors

Your donor attrition or how many donors you are losing is a very telling sign of a healthy and sustainable fundraising program.  I work with non-profits and they excitedly tell me they acquired 5,000 new donors last year.   I am thrilled for them, however when we look at their donor attrition we see they lost 15,000 donors.  This number indicates that they are having donors jump on board but sadly, not for a long ride.  As many of you know, keeping a donor is much more cost effective than finding a new one. 

Many organizations are shocked at the how many donors, who once gave, are dwindling. Donor attrition will give you a clear picture on the state of your file. We cannot fix what we do not measure.  Once you know how many donors are leaving, you can focus on donor stewardship strategies to increase the number of donors who give you a second gift and become more interested and invested with your important work.

Second gift conversion is also a key metric.  We need to know how many donors are giving us one gift and never giving us another.  There are many reasons for this trend.  One example, participants in an annual walk event ask their friends to donate.  A friend donates $20.   The organization then tries to convert the friend into an engaged and ongoing donor through direct mail.  Unfortunately, the trend we are witnessing are event donors who are not giving a second gift.  The friend gave to support the participant’s efforts and they may not be engaged directly with the cause.  Organizations hosting many peer-to-peer events are finding it increasingly difficult to turn these donors into being long-term and engaged. 

Low second gift conversion numbers are also a sign that donors are unsure their gift was used effectively or they were not thanked quickly or appropriately or they do not feel valued.  Time and again I see second gift conversion rates at 40% or lower. This means that six of every ten donors are never giving another gift.   

Reach, frequency and monetary values are essential.  Reach is when you are receiving your gifts.  Frequency is how many gifts you are receiving from donors.  Monetary is, of course, the value of the gifts.  This is also known as RFM.  This is a quick snapshot of your donor file and will tell you so much. 

Consecutive years of giving will give you a bird’s eye view into your donor loyalty.  You will quickly be able to reach out to those donors who are your best prospects for planned giving.  These donors will have been giving for eight or nine or even ten years.  Connecting with donors and thanking them for their loyalty is an easy and effective way to bring them even closer to your donor family. 

In addition you will want to pull a list of lapsed donors ideally in 13 – 24 month and 25 -36 month time frames.  Using strong donor stewardship strategies it is imperative you try to re-engage these donors.  Reaching out on the phone or using a segmented and targeted direct mail appeal may be part of your donor stewardship plan. 

If raising money was easy non-profits would be flush with funds.  But it is not easy.   And the time is now to use all of the tools in your toolkit to ensure you are maximizing your efforts.  Analytics is a tool many organizations are now using as there are many hidden gems in your database that can help guide you for future appeals and potential revenue streams. 

Samantha is a born fundraiser!  She has worked in all aspects of fundraising including legacy giving, capital campaigns, annual campaigns, grants, and special events.  Samantha’s experience also includes media relations and public relations.

Samantha has a passion for connecting donors to the needs of the community. Samantha started to work with Gryphon Fundraising sharing her knowledge of donor database analytics with other non-profits in Canada, the US, and Australia. She continues to work with Gryphon and hundreds of clients worldwide. You can reach Samatha by email at and 613-875-1971, or visit her website



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