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Measuring the Success of Your Year-End Appeal

Well, it’s officially a new year and that means all your holiday season marketing campaigns are over. And for all our nonprofit friends, the results from your year end appeal are in! While the impetus is to hit the ground running with new fundraising campaigns, we need to also look back for a moment.

It is time to see how successful your year-end campaign was and how to adjust for 2019. As you generate a year-end giving report (yes, you need to document everything), consider including a hard copy of a printed appeal package (if you didn’t go entirely digital), a printed budget, and all invoices. Keep reading for more on how to evaluate your fundraising efforts and strategies.

Go back to your goals:

The thrill of counting checks or tallying up online donations is great, but it can cause you to forget what your original goals were.

What were you looking to raise? Did you meet that number? Or exceed it? If not, how far short did you land? You want an accurate depiction of your appeal’s performance so make sure you measure net revenue (not just gross). Subtract the costs of your appeal – designing, mailing, printing, etc. – from the total amount of contributions.

Most organizations know how much money their appeal raised but there are other important metrics to pay attention to…

Begin with data analysis:

Fundraising evaluation means gathering data, no two ways about it. Once you’ve gathered the basics (“Did we meet our goal?”) you want to explore year over year growth. Look at the number of donors and the percentage of people who increased or decreased their contributions. Metrics like these help you discover whether you’re reaching new people and mark donor behavior trends.

Then calculate average gift size, ROI, and cost per donor. Together, those three metrics paint a better picture of how your appeal performed. They’re a baseline for predicting results of future appeals and serve as a comparison year over year. If, for instance, your 2018 net revenue was lower than in 2017 you need to understand why. Maybe response rates were lower in 2018 but average gift size was much higher in 2017. That might indicate you changed something in the appeal like listing lower gift suggestion in the 2018 remit envelope.

In addition to looking at average gifts, ROI, and donor cost, take a look at all channels. Direct mail can actually be an important driver of online giving so don’t forget to find out where each gift came in from. Was it snail mail, online, over the telephone, or in person? Many donations might have been a result of a printed mailer but since we often promote online giving there as well include a mail-in donation option, you want to track those.

Conduct a debrief:

Schedule a project debrief with your team to document what you’ve learned and come up with ways to adapt and implement those changes for next year’s appeal. By the end of any fundraising campaign, staff and volunteers are bound to be tired. Everyone has invested a lot of time and energy and the last thing they want to do is sit down and do the next step of analysis and self-reflection. But after all the planning, writing, designing, and executing it’s equally important to look at your organization’s performance with a critical eye in order to figure out how to improve this year’s campaign.

It’s always beneficial to constantly be thinking about what you’ve done and how you can improve on it. A debrief meeting serves as time where you can ask yourself “did the year-end appeal work?” “Did we meet our goal? Why or why not?” Schedule a debrief within a month of the money being counted and thank you letter sent out, while the details (and any frustrations) are fresh in everyone’s mind.

Everyone involved should have a chance to give feedback. Consider sending out a worksheet or survey so folks can come prepared on specific areas you’d like them to evaluate. And encourage staff members to brainstorm ideas and opportunities for making your next year-end appeal even more awesome!

Thank your donors:

Now is also the time to thank donors for their gifts. This is a crucial follow up step.

Typically you want to send an email or personal note in the mail as soon as possible after receiving the gift. But January is a good time to send out a follow up email (or printed thank you letter if that’s more your speed), briefly letting people know the results (did you raise more than previous years?) of the year-end appeal and communicating how supporters can continue to give and help your organization grow. This letter should also focus on your mission and how year-end gifts had a direct impact. Donors like to know that they are contributing to the mission and that their donations had the impact you said they would so be sure to highlight that.

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From data, qualitative and quantitative, you can begin to get solid feedback and create a new and improved development strategy.

We hope your nonprofit organization took advantage of year-end giving and, if not, be sure to check out the key steps to planning your nonprofit’s end of year appeal.

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