I was recently at a fundraising conference and there was a session on benchmarking. The discussion evolved around measuring the effectiveness of each stream of revenue, how to do that right, whether or not that was even relevant, etc. There was no discussion on how to measure the effectiveness of the donor pipeline.

To put it in human terms: how easy do we make it for donors to engage with us and give to their hearts’ content?

Here are some data-focused questions to help you measure how effectively your organization is moving donors through the major gift pipeline:

1. What is the source of the donors in your current major gift pipeline?

  • Why do we want to know this? Because this will give us a clue where we should focus new donor acquisition. I don’t know how many times I ask a database manager this question and they just shrug their shoulders.

2. What percentage of managed major donors are past or current volunteers?

  • I want to know this to see if engagement beyond giving increases their likelihood to end up in a portfolio.

3. What percent of donors from mid-level are you moving to major gifts every year? And what is the source of those donors?

  • Why do you want to know this? Because there are three things that make a mid-level program effective: keeping donors (retention), lifting donors (revenue per donor), and moving donors (up to major gifts). So many donor pipelines are clogged because either they don’t have a mid-level program or the program only has a direct-response aspect to it, with no personal representative assigned.

4. At the point of moving donors from mid-level to major gifts, what is the current revenue per donor?

  • So, let’s say you moved 40 donors over to major this year. You will want to know, after a year in a major gift portfolio, what their revenue per donor is to see how effective the MGOs have been with that group of new donors. Many times, I hear from DoDs that they are fearful of moving a top mid-level donor into a Tier C level major donor. The way to see the effectiveness of one-on-one cultivation is to track revenue per donor and retention rates.

5. Which donors in your current major gift portfolio did NOT come from mid-level? What was their giving behavior prior to giving a major gift and getting qualified into a portfolio? What were the offers they were giving to?

  • This will give you a clue on your donors’ passions and interests. Do you come across any trends? For example, what if you found out that 70% of your portfolio donors responded to just one aspect of your mission, even though you have multiple focus areas you have shared with donors? How might you change your donor cultivation offers and strategies?

6. What’s the average length of time for a donor to move from your “direct response only” program to mid-level and then to major gifts?

  • If you knew this, you could test different strategies to decrease that timeline. Or perhaps you find, no matter what you did, major donors take on average 10.4 years to move from a first gift to making a major gift. That would be a measurement to help the CEO and your board understand how long it takes to cultivate your donors.

Now, these are meaningful things to measure. Yet, most non-profits are not doing it. Measuring meaningful metrics will allow you to remove the barriers your organization has put up along the donor pipeline.

I’m curious, what are you measuring that will help you to understand how donors are moving through your donor pipeline? Share in the comments – I’d love to hear your thoughts.