The Best Way for Your Nonprofit to Do an Annual Review of Your Fundraising Program

January 31, 2020
6 minutes

Fundraiser, you made it to the end of the year. Give yourself a pat on the back and treat yourself to one of those fancy coffee drinks, 'cause making it through a full calendar year of fundraising is no joke. You wrote appeals, filled out endless grant applications, met with major donors, sent dozens of thank you's, and more. Some days it probably felt like an ultra-marathon. Other days, like the ones when you got to talk to superawesome donors, you probably felt like you had the best job in the world.

As we approach your new year, that means a new fundraising plan. Before you jump into the deep end, there’s an important first step you should do—an annual review of your nonprofit's fundraising program. Your fundraising program has so many moving parts and pieces that it pays to review them all before you make shiny plans for your new year. By reviewing your fundraising program and all that you’ve accomplished this year, you’ll have data-driven insights to make better, more strategic decisions for the year ahead.

Let’s dive into how to do an annual review of your fundraising program.

Start with the big picture

The best place to start with an annual review and audit of your fundraising program is to look at the total amount you raised. If you have a donor CRM, you can pull a query to get this number for the year. Alternatively, you can look at your nonprofit’s accounting records to pull the final number of donations received.

Once you get this number in hand, take a few minutes to compare your actuals to your goal. Did you meet your yearly goal? Were you shy of meeting that goal? No matter how the actuals compared to the original goal, take a few minutes to recognize your team’s accomplishments. After all, you started from $0 and now you’re here!

Review each campaign

To dive further into your fundraising data, we recommend doing a review of each fundraising campaign. This tends to be the most labor intensive part of a review, but there are rewards to be reaped! By looking at all of your campaign data side-by-side, you can see which ones are performing best and what new opportunities you may have.

Here’s a handy chart we recommend using for campaign review.  

Table with 5 columns and two rows. Columns, left to right, are: Campaign, Goal, Date Segment, Amount Raised. The two rows are fully filled out with example text.


In this chart, we’ve included 5 columns to help you organize your information.

Campaign

Start by naming each campaign, appeal, or activity you executed for the year.

Goal

Next, list out the goal for each campaign. This is what you hoped to accomplish as a result of the campaign.

Date

To remind yourself what happened and when, include the date or date range for the campaign.

Segment

For comparison purposes, it’s useful to include the audience segment information for each campaign

Amount Raised

Finally, include the amount you raised from that campaign. We know that sometimes it can be tricky to do attributions, so do your best.

Once you’ve got your chart filled out, it's time to put on your critical thinking cap. Ask questions about your campaigns and their success:

  • Which campaign was most successful? What elements contributed to its success? Can you bring those elements into other campaigns?
  • What challenges did you repeatedly encounter with campaigns? What experiments were implemented to try to find solutions?
  • Are there any campaigns you should stop running altogether next year?
  • What should you start doing to make next year's campaigns more successful?

Audit donor retention and giving behavior

Part of any fundraising program review should include an audit of your donors. Don’t go running scared just yet, fundraiser! You don’t need to run complicated math formulas to get answers to this. Here’s our simplified list of data points to assess the health of your donor file.

  • Total number of donors who gave last year
  • Total number of new donors who gave last year
  • Donor retention for the year
  • Average gift size
  • Median gift size
  • Average number of gifts made per donor

When reviewing these numbers, compare them to past years' reports to see the bigger picture trends to make decisions for the new year. And good news—if you've got Funraise, our Fundraising Intelligence feature will make gathering and analyzing all these reports easy as pie.

Systems review

So far, your review has focused on the numbers. But numbers aren’t the only thing you should review in your fundraising program. Another critical piece of the fundraising puzzle are your systems. This includes any tech systems and tools that you use, as well as process systems you have in place. It’s a good idea to review everything annually to make sure that it’s still what your organization needs and to have the opportunity to explore other options.

Here are a few examples of systems you may want to review in your fundraising program.

  • Donor CRM—this is a big one! Make sure it’s doing what it needs to do and streamlining your work as much as possible.
  • Gift processing systems
  • Project management tools
  • Events and Ticketing programs
  • Stewardship and acknowledgement processes

How did this year go for you?

Ask yourself this question and answer honestly—it's just you you're talking to.

You’ve put a lot of work into this review and most of it has been objectively looking at numbers and systems. Before you wrap up, we want to make sure you capture your experience in the review. How you felt about the work, bumps in the road you encountered, and more should be factored into your review of your fundraising program. Why? Because you matter! We want you to have a job you truly love, so think of this annual review as an opportunity to make your fundraising program work for you.

Showcase it all in an annual report

Even if it wasn't your Best Year Ever, we're certain there are things to celebrate, and now's the time to get those wins together and show 'em off in a glittery, confetti-filled annual report. Here are some resources and examples to help you out.

Phew! We did a whole lot of reviewing together, fundraiser! We hope that this step-by-step guide provides you with the direction you need to evaluate your fundraising program so that you can take it to the next level next year. By reviewing and taking inventory of your fundraising program, we know you’ll gather better insights to reach that next-level goal and beyond.

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