Cultivation & Stewardship

6 Important Donor Relationship Metrics to Track

To look at donor engagement, it helps to start with data points that can paint a picture over time of the effectiveness of your donor stewardship program.

Strong relationships with your supporters occur at the intersection of donor stewardship and data management. What you track in your donor database can inform how you:

  • Recruit new donors
  • Retain current donors
  • Encourage donors to increase their level of support

While there are many ways to look at donor engagement, it helps to start with a handful of data points that can paint a picture over time of the effectiveness of your donor stewardship program. Below, we’ll share six metrics to track to gauge the state of your donor relationships.

1. Record of Interactions

First, you’ll want to keep a record of your interactions with each donor. These could include:

  • Seeing them at an event your hosted
  • Inviting them to a volunteer opportunity
  • Sending them a newsletter
  • Mailing them a thank-you card

You’ll want to document the date, time, location, and any relevant notes for each interaction with a donor, both in-person and digital. By tracking their event attendance and how frequently they’ve interfaced with your materials, you can see whether their engagement has increased or decreased over time. You can look for patterns in their engagement to understand how to improve the personalization of your outreach.

Keeping a record of interactions with donors also ensures you’re maintaining the right cadence with each donor based on the cohort they’re in. For example, major donors will have more frequent in-person interactions than grassroots givers. 

2. Donor Sentiment

When designing the Instil platform, we understood that effective relationship-building with donors requires more than knowing how many times you’ve asked them for support. You also need to be able to gauge how your donors felt about your requests. This lets you adjust your strategy accordingly to best relate to their values and interests. For this reason, Instil includes an option to track donor sentiment—how a donor responded to an ask.

You can note whether a donor’s response to your appeal was positive, negative, or neutral. You can note if they said that now isn’t a great time, but that they’d like to give in the future. You can see whether they’ve shown no interest and may be best suited for less intensive forms of outreach. You can record whether they’ve responded positively to event-based giving, but not to direct appeals.

Tracking donor sentiment informs your future asks for support and helps you gauge the overall strength of your relationships. At the end of the day, it’s important to know how a donor feels about your organization, and this metric lets you tap into that more emotion-based data.

3. Engagement Over Time

Tracking engagement over time helps you prevent lapsed donors and identify those you need to re-engage. There are two reports you can run that provide insight into your donors’ engagement over time:

  • LYBUNT Report: This means “Last Year But Unfortunately Not This Year,” and shows donors who didn’t give this year but did last year. It helps you see who to target right away to avoid letting additional time pass in re-establishing your relationship. 

  • SYBUNT Report: This means “Some Year But Unfortunately Not This Year,” and shows donors who have given at some point but didn’t ultimately return. It gives a wider look at your overall retention rates and how you can adjust your engagement strategy to shorten your SYBUNT list over time.

It costs significantly more to recruit a new donor than to keep a recurring one. Tracking this donor relationship metric helps your donor stewardship program remain as cost-effective as possible.

4. Donor Categories

Effective nonprofit fundraising relies on a multitude of donor types. You have major donors who help you launch new projects and keep your operations going. You have mid-level donors who provide consistency and reliability to your budget. And you have grassroots givers and volunteers who are passionate evangelists for your cause.

Understanding the breakdown of your donors by cohorts like these can help you see where to focus your efforts. For example, you may find that you need to recruit additional first-time givers and volunteers, or you could identify a few mid-level donors to steward into your major donor category.

5. Donor Acquisition Costs

Recruiting new donors requires an investment. You likely have a budget set aside for marketing materials, events, and other outreach activities to introduce new supporters to your organization. It’s important to track how much you’re spending per donor acquired. 

Understanding your cost per new donor helps you see where you can make improvements in your recruitment strategy. Look for which outreach types are the most effective at securing new donations. 

For example, if you’re hosting a monthly happy hour meet-and-greet that comes with a hefty price tag but ultimately only recruits a new donor every now and then, you may want to consider ending that initiative or testing how an annual or quarterly version of it impacts your overall donor acquisition costs.

6. Donor Referrals

Your current supporters are some of your best marketing tools. That’s why Instil is focused on collecting holistic donor data. By understanding your supporters’ wider networks, communities, and identities, you can tap into prospective donors who have already heard about you from their friends. 

Track how your current donors’ relationships are bringing in new supporters to your organization. Use these data to see how you can better tap into your donors’ workplace giving programs and other community connections. 

This donor relationship metric is all about creating a community of support through your donors’ existing networks. It’s a great way to strengthen relationships and also cut some of your donor acquisition costs.

Strengthen Donor Relationships Through Thoughtful Data Management

Donor management platforms let nonprofits track valuable data on how their supporters interact with their work. When you invest in this nonprofit technology, it helps to start with a few key metrics to track. Those above will help you better understand your current donor relationships and plan for ways to strengthen them as you continue to grow.

Instil makes this data analysis easy with holistic community profiles and simple data visualizations built right into the solution. You can contact the Instil team for questions, demos, or educational materials any time through our website to learn more about how our software can work for you.

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