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Metrics 101: Where to Start

Thank you to DRG Group member Sarah Sims for this insightful guest post! 

Metrics, metrics, metrics. It’s all we hear about these days in donor relations. And rarely is there consensus, clarity, or tangible case studies that anyone can point to when having the conversation. It’s a tough challenge, but one that is critical to the success of donor relations teams – especially those that are fighting for resources, need a seat at the table, or are trying to shift entire cultures at their organizations. There is no easy answer to this need, but often the mere state of mind needed to develop metrics is a significant roadblock for some of us. Surveys, flow charts, analysis, Gantt charts, dashboards, coding, reporting….we get tired and overwhelmed before we even start! However, it doesn’t have to be that hard. As they say, eat the elephant one bite at a time. 

For example…

1. Start surveying and gathering statistics on one strong, well-developed initiative already in place – such as annual endowment reports:

  • Survey annually (yes, annually, and give them the ability to complete on-line)

  • Track overall response rate year to year

  • Insert questions that gauge overall satisfaction rate and track year to year

  • Add questions designed to gauge their understanding of the impact their gift is having

  • Track number of individual donor inquiries or follow-ups your team handles

Here's an example from the University of Florida:

2. Identify one high-profile project your team creates and track follow-up giving rates and year-over-year retention rates. (Yes, this will likely involve IT and sounds a bit soul crushing, but in the end, it will be worth it.) For example, here at the University of Florida, we have developed a successful program called Grateful Gator Day where students come together on campus and write thank you notes to some special donor constituencies. This year we sat with the Data team and brainstormed how we could track 30, 60, and 90-day giving rates from the donors who received a thank you note. There are many nuances to the data we are getting back, but being to say on a high level “we sent 2,000 notes in 2016 and those households gave a total of $500,000 in the 60 days following GGD” goes a long way with leadership and development partners. Can we take credit for that $500,000? Not always, but we can definitively say we had a role in bringing that money in the door.

3. Ask the right questions BEFORE you do something. I say this until I am blue in the face, but every decision your team tackles should affect one of the following three areas:

  • donor retention rates

  • pledge fulfillment rates

  • donor pipeline management

If your initiative doesn’t affect one of these three key areas, than you should be asking yourself and your team whether you should even be doing it – is worth the time and resources you will expend?

Remember, one bite at a time. It’s not always easy, but always worth it!


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