Measuring Success: Your Guide to Conducting a DIY Fundraising Campaign Audit

The madness of end-of-year (EOY) fundraising is behind us. Hallelujah! But before you start celebrating there’s something you really need to do: conduct a comprehensive EOY fundraising campaign audit.

You can’t measure success without mapping results to objectives. And you can’t comprehend the true extent of your successful without comparing this year’s results to data from previous years.

You gotta compile the data. You gotta crunch the numbers. You gotta analyze the results. Quite simply, friends, you gotta geek out!

Some people live for this (so I hear) but let’s face it, data analysis isn’t for everyone.

Love it or hate it, a comprehensive campaign audit is critical to the success of future campaigns and the growth of your organization.

A careful assessment of your campaign will help you understand what messages (and images) resonate and inspire people to give, which channels are most effective, where you’re wasting your time, and areas for improvement.

With a clear understanding of what worked and what didn’t, you’ll gain keen insight into how you can improve future campaigns and raise more money.

Your fundraising campaign audit will also enable you to make data-driven decisions about future fundraising initiatives.

So, how does one conduct a fundraising campaign audit? By breaking into bite-sized chunks that, when assessed individually, will reveal specific, critical, and practical information you can use to build better campaigns in the future. Those chunks, or categories, include:

  • General Information
  • Donor Data
  • Gift Data
  • Channel Data

Feeling anxious? Don’t. This guide will help you get through your campaign audit as quickly and painlessly as possible.

Getting Started on Your DIY Fundraising Campaign Audit

Get ready to collect data. Lots of data. You need to collect data from your most recent EOY campaign as well as previous EOY campaigns in order to compare outcomes and draw useful conclusions about what’s working and what’s not.

If this was your first fundraising campaign, consider this year’s audit a benchmark report you compare future campaigns against.

Let’s start with the basics.

BASIC AUDIT INFORMATION

Begin by recording the most basic information about your EOY campaign, with comparative data from previous EOY campaigns (if available). This info should include:

  • Campaign name/focus (what did you raise $ for?)
  • Dates and length of campaign (launch date – end)
  • Target Audiences: Did you only appeal to individual donors, or did you seek corporate gifts, grants, money from foundations, etc.?
  • Channels used: Did you launch email campaigns? Did you send out a direct mail appeal? Did you leverage social media? What about personal phone calls, text messages, etc.?
  • Goal: Generally, this will be the amount of money you aimed to raise. Campaigns may also have different goals, like converting donor segments into monthly donors, securing sponsorships, or boosting membership.
  • Amount Raised: The total amount raised through this campaign.
  • Net Income: The total amount raised minus the amount you invested in the campaign (i.e. direct mail expenses, costs for social media advertising, staff time, amount invested in a dedicated giving page, etc.)
  • Additional notes: This could include new strategies implemented that worked as well as events or activities that may have prevented you from achieving your goal (i.e. problems with your donation page, major weather issues, no budget for direct mail, etc.)

Here’s one way to organize this information:

Table containing general End of Year campaign information for fundraising campaign audit.

Comparing this data to data from previous years gives you a high-level overview of your campaign’s performance and enables you to start drawing conclusions about the amount raised based on your theme, target audiences, channels used, and other variables you may have included in the “Additional Notes” section.

You could stop here, but you’ll obtain more critical insights if you take your research one step further. There’s a lot you to be learned about your donors. This is where things start to get really interesting.

DONOR DATA

By comparing data about donors from your most recent campaign to similar previous campaigns, you’ll be able to determine how you’re doing in terms of acquiring new donors, recapturing lapsed donors, losing donors, and securing recurring donations.

This is the kind of information your executive director lives for! (And you should too.)

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Total # of donors
  • # of transactions or gifts: You may not think this is that critical, but all of my clients saw a higher number of transactions than number of donors. That means some donors are giving more than one time during one campaign. (One of my clients actually had almost twice as many transactions as donors.)
  • # of recurring donors: donors who already gave during the 2018 calendar year, including monthly donors
  • # of lapsed donors — # of donors who gave last year but did not give again this year
  • # of recaptured donors — # of donors who did not give last year (or who have not given for several years) but made a gift to this campaign
  • # of new donors — donors who gave for the first time

You should be able to pull this from your CRM or donor tracking system. Here’s one way of compiling it into an easy-to-read spreadsheet:

Table containing donor data for a end-of-year fundraising campaign audit.

Note: You know you’ll be up for an MVP award when you see a decrease in the number of lapsed donors and an increase in everything else.

These numbers are getting juicy now. Get ready to sink your teeth into something you can really chew on.

GIFT DATA

Did you see an increase in your average gift size? Did you receive more major gifts this year? Did you have more supporters running P2P campaigns for you? Did they raise more this year? If the answer is yes to any of these questions, you’re making good progress!

Below is an example of the kind of data you need to compile to assess gift data:

Table including gift data for end-of-year campaign audit.

Since you’ve already put so much work into this, you might as well take it one step further and assess which channels are working best for you.

CHANNEL DATA

In compiling channel data, you’ll need to create separate tables or (or tabs) for each channel you use.

Perhaps you ran a multi-channel campaign leveraging email, direct mail, and social media. In this case, you need to compile data from each channel and compare that data to data from previous EOY campaigns.

Email Audit

If you sent out more than one email appeal, the easiest way to compare data is by comparing the averages of all emails distributed during this EOY campaign to the averages of all emails distributed in previous EOY campaigns.

What you want to see here are year-over-year increases in open rates, click-through rates (the number of people who clicked through to your giving page), and conversion rates (the number of transactions resulting from email.)

Email data for end-of-year fundraising campaign audit

Once you’ve done this, you may as well take it to the next level by determining which kind of content performs best for your various list segments. Which emails performed best? Did more people give through an email campaign that included a campaign video? Did stories about the people you serve inspire giving? How about a donor or volunteer testimony?

Direct Mail Audit

Direct mail may still be king, but based on a series of audits I recently completed for my clients, email is close to overthrowing the throne. In fact, based on my own client’s results, nearly 50% of all year-end giving came through email this year.

That’s shocking. In previous years, direct mail has been responsible for generating 60-70% of my clients’ year-end donations. This is the first year I’ve seen more than 40% of donations come in online.

I’m still a huge fan of direct mail, but if you employed direct mail this year, you’ll definitely want to assess the results to determine how it’s performing compared with email.

Direct Mail Audit

Social Media Audit

While social media can be a very effective channel for raising money through P2P campaigns, most nonprofits are still struggling to drive revenue through it. But those who have embraced P2P fundraising, Facebook Live, video, etc. are definitely beginning to see the fruits of their labors.

One of my clients was a social media stand-out this year with almost 50% of year-end donations coming directly through social media channels!

Whether you knocked it out of the park or saw only modest improvements in your EOY social media campaign this year, you’ll want to evaluate those efforts now so you can identify where you need to improve, what’s working, and where you should be investing more of your time and energy.

While you’ll want to compare the amount raised through the various social media platforms you employed, you’ll also want to look at how each platform performed compared with previous years.

A couple of key metrics to consider include:

  • Engagement – How many people are engaging with your content? This includes shares, likes, comments, retweets, etc.  
  • Reach – This tells you how many people saw your social media content but DID NOT TAKE action. In other words, it showed up in their feed, but they scrolled right past it without clicking it, liking it, commenting on it, or sharing it.
  • Traffic – The amount of traffic a social media channel drove to your giving page.
  • Conversion Rate – The number of people who engaged with your post, clicked the link, and actually made a donation.
  • Hashtag Usage – How many people included the hashtag you created for your campaign in their own posts. This is an especially important measurement for Instagram and Twitter.

Using Facebook, I’ve created an example of how you might compile and compare EOY data for this particular platform. With minor adjustments, you can create similar tables for Instagram, Twitter, etc.

Social media data compiled for end-of-year fundraising campaign audit

Visit Facebook Insights, Tweet Analytics as well as Google Analytics to compile the data you’ll need to assess the effect of social media on your campaign.

Once you have a general idea of the effectiveness of each channel, you’ll want to dig even deeper to determine which posts performed best. Questions you might ask include:

  • What kind of posts are seeing higher engagement rates – posts with images, videos, quotes, links, etc.?
  • Are there certain times of day or days of the week when you’re seeing high engagement?
  • Which messages are really resonating with your audiences (based on engagements)?
  • What posts appear to be a complete waste of time?
  • Did you boost a post or create an ad? How did it perform? What was your ROI?

THAT’S A WRAP

Crunching all these numbers is mind-numbing bleary-eyed work. I know. I feel your pain.

But if you take the time to evaluate your data, I promise you’ll have a much clearer view of what campaigns work, which messages resonate best with your donors, how they’re inspired, which channels are worth your time, and which activities are a waste of time.

Make good, data-driven decisions about future fundraising initiatives by performing your EOY campaign audit today!

Need help? Smack Dab’s here for you. Send me a note at sarahlambie@smackdabcommunications.com

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