Tag Archives: metrics

Measuring Affinity

With a variety of internal and external data easily available, prospect researchers and analysts are able to provide greater insight to reach their organization’s goals. In order for data to help grow the prospect pipeline and inform decisions, one must be able to turn this data into valuable measurements.

I learned this first-hand in my initial attempt to create an affinity score to assist with prospect identification. To prepare for the task, I asked myself a series of questions. Some of those questions included:

What is affinity?

How do I define affinity for my organization?

Who would I consider has a high affinity for my organization?

What data is available to me that supports the statement, “a constituent has a high affinity?”

Do all significant donors or volunteers represent their affinity in the same way?

Which data points that are common between “high affinity constituents” and new prospects are, or are not, coincidental?

Which data points have greater ‘weight’ than others?

Which data points should have a maximum capacity in the resulting total score?


All of these and more were critical in my attempt to create a score.

Please note the use of the word ‘attempt’ above. I stress this because there is quite a bit of trial and error in the path to a final product. This is a project where one must continuously validate, adapt and iterate until the results successfully inform the decisions of your team.

Do not be afraid to try this on your own. There are services that can help with the process, but Excel is a great tool to begin the data manipulation required to calculate your score. Whether or not you use Excel or a specialized application for developing a score, it does not eliminate the need to question and understand affinity for your organization.

So I ask you, what is affinity for your organization?

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How to calculate donor retention

Recently I stumbled across this great how-to from the DonorPath blog that discusses practical ways to pay attention to your donor data.  In addition, it highlights a formula for calculating retention.  If you’re not already keeping up with this measurement, put this on your to-do list.



In my office we look at retention over time (1 to 5 years) by cohort groups.  If you have a novel way of evaluating retention that you’d like to share, let me know!


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The value of information – Lifetime Value

I read a Harvard Business Review article recently that cited a glaring omission in the nature of our traditional accounting systems. Our accounting practices focus on revenue, inventory, and assets, but assign no value, not even a mention, to information.  For businesses that heavily leverage information to succeed, that can be a big problem, and here’s why:  when no value is assigned to information, the costs associated with managing, stewarding and upgrading information become a low priority.  There’s no way to incorporate financial gains to an ROI calculation.


So what to do?


Well, here’s an idea, we could start citing constituent value in our activity reports, status reports and project reports.  And that starts with being able to assign constituent value.  One way to do that is by computing lifetime value.  KISSmetrics offers a great how-to for understanding and calculating lifetime value (click on the image below to view the full discussion).



Lifetime value, combined with other segmentation variables, such as membership in more than 1 constituency class, giving capacity, probability or recent interaction can help the emerging development of quantifiable information.


If you have an example you’d like to share, please let me know!



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Case study – Technology innovations at DePaul University

Another 2015 CASE award winner, DePaul University’s Advancement Services wowed the judging committee with their impressive technology tools all designed to facilitate development officer self-service in an intuitive and transparent manner.

This is just one of the sample screen shots from their interactive reporting tool–




To browse through their full presentation, click on the image above and prepare to be amazed!


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5 campaign metrics you might be missing

If we’re going to commit the time, energy, budget and personnel to a communication or solicitation campaign, we’d be irresponsible not to take a critical look at our success indicators.  Mike Snusz, of npEngage, authored this excellent article earlier this year that reveals insight into campaign metrics, particularly for organizations employing a multi-channel communication strategy.


We’ve all been hearing about multi-channel communications quite a bit, but it’s more than HAVING multiple communication channels.  It’s about using them TOGETHER in a cohesive way for a single campaign.  In his article, Mike steps us through some examples of metrics we might be overlooking in a multi-channel campaign.


Here are a few for examples —

1) do you include a URL in your direct mail solicitations for donors that might prefer to give online?  If so, is the URL unique to that campaign?

2) do you give your online donors a chance to “share” the news of their gift to their own social media timeline?  If so, are you counting this?

3) do you publish your donor honor roll or annual report online as a slideshow?  If online, are you tracking conversions to the donation page from slideshow views?


Click here or on the image above to read Mike’s article.  Fabulous insight!



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The difference between measurements and metrics

I attended a great workshop last week and throughout the day the speaker peppered the audience with questions related to quantifying our experiences — how many of you measure these outcomes?  how many constituents do you have in these categories?  how would you measure success if your email includes 4 call-to-actions?

More on that later.  First I thought I’d take a minute to refresh my memory about the distinct difference between measurements and metrics.  Seems like the words are interchangeable.  But there’s a big difference.



A measurement occurs when you assign a finite number to something.  Like 451 first-time donors last month.  Or 295 leads assigned last quarter.  Or 148 major gifts received last year.


Sometimes you can count something in a more complicated way, describing it in two dimensions, but it’s still a measurement.  Like 129 first-time donors last month who live outside of Houston.  Or 113 leads assigned last quarter with giving capacity of at least $100,000.  Or 99 major gifts received last year from alumni-donors.  These are all examples of drilling down into the data.  This is always a valuable exercise, but it doesn’t make it a metric.


So how does a measurement become a metric?  When you calculate something.  Like lead conversion rate.  Or cost per dollar raised.  Or percent of market share.  Or donor retention rate.  Or median donation per campaign.


I referred to an article by BSC Designer to check my definitions.  It is a great article and discusses Key Performance Indicators at length.  To read the article, click on the image above.




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Bookmark this — measuring your impact

Consultants, donor interviews and research papers tell us that donors give because they want to make a difference.  And some donors are truly committed to driving social change.

And this is why we need to understand how to communicate the impact of our good works.  This week’s recommended bookmark is a tool for doing just that. via galleryhip.com

The Success Equation is a methodology for demonstrating progress in quantitative terms.  Jason Saul is the creator of this methodology.  To read more about his approach, click on the ruler.


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Program metrics and the halo effect

For a number of years, my colleagues have struggled with selecting measurements that can serve as true indicators of program success.  And here’s why – we interact with people individually and sometimes personal interaction creates a halo effect that yields unanticipated, happy results for philanthropy.

via beinghuman.org

I read yet another article recently on Linked-In about why our business analysis falls short of expectations.  The 5 reasons listed were exactly what I’d expect to see.  One of the reasons specifically stated that we fail to select the correct metrics that will actually deliver the insight needed to review our progress or success.

In our sector, we trip over this obstacle time and time again.  We get distracted by wonderful halo effect outliers and try to measure them as a substitute for true program goals.

Don’t misunderstand – I’m not against measuring results of any kind.  Where we get trapped however, is when we place more emphasis on tracking halo effect measurements than the original program measurements.  As humans, we get incredibly enthused when something completely unexpected and wonderful happens.  And rightfully so.  Let’s just not forget to measure the outcomes of the objectives we’re attempting to achieve.


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3 ways to prioritize constituents

This blog post appeared originally in August on the old blog, but it was one of the reader favorites, so I thought it might be a good idea to publish the content again on our new platform.  Here are 3 calculations that can be useful for filtering or prioritizing constituents before examining at the individual level.  Courtesy of Fundraising Success.

calculationsIf you’d like to share a formula that you use, let me know!!



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The new rules of thumb for fundraising metrics

I recently read an article by Thomas Grabau and was hooked from the very beginning.

Grabau_quoteHe goes on to discuss old management practices regarding metrics (old, as in 2008) versus better choices for metrics that facilitate more effective fundraising results.  Here’s an example.


However, beyond the discussion of some of the fundamentals, Mr. Grabau makes insightful suggestions about using internal metrics as a yardstick for projecting results in future years.  It’s a 2-step process.  First, he computes performance based on what we did last year ( we probably all have the ability to do this).  The key computed indicator here is yield.


Then, he uses the Team Average Yield metric (5.8%) to project future results at an individual level based on assigned portfolio capacity.  Each individual goal can be adjusted up or down (in this case there are a couple of stretch goals based on small increases in the yield factor).



Even though the article was written in 2012, it’s still completely relevant and full of suggested ways to adjust measurements to better manage fundraising effectiveness.  Click on any of the pictures here to access Thomas Grabau’s white paper.



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