When you’re halfway through the year, it’s a good time to conduct a midyear fundraising evaluation.
A midyear evaluation will show you how you are doing and highlight areas where you need to improve.
Because wherever you are with your fundraising, no matter how far behind you think you are, with six months remaining in the year, you have plenty of time to make changes and raise more money.
If you operate on a calendar year, your fourth quarter will be your most lucrative by far. And you’ll know exactly how much you need to raise during that season if you take the time to do a midyear evaluation now.
Still, it’s hard to take a cold, hard, honest look at the numbers, especially when you are fundraising for a new nonprofit and still learning the ropes. Or if you anticipate the numbers won’t look too good. Or if you aren’t a numbers person.
It’s hard to compare your results to your budget, breaking down your fundraising to see where you need to improve. You’re facing reality, and reality can be uncomfortable.
To get past your discomfort, reframe the fundraising assessment as shining a light so you can see where you need to focus your time and energy during the next six months.
Often in the nonprofit world, we try to focus on everything at the same time. That makes sense when everything seems important.
But you can’t do everything. You have to pick and choose which strategies get your focus.
A midyear fundraising evaluation can help you pick the right strategies – the ones that will give you the biggest bang for your buck, while making sure your fundraising plan is saturated with gratitude, stewardship, and donor love.
Start with the Big Picture: How Much Money Have You Raised?
Your first step in a midyear fundraising evaluation is looking to see how much money you have raised year-to-date and whether or not you’re on track to hit your revenue goals for the year.
If you have a CRM with an analytical dashboard, like Little Green Light or Bloomerang, you are presented with this number daily. But do you really think about it? Or do you push it out of your mind?
You’ll need a copy of your budget handy as well as your fundraising plan so you can see what you thought you’d raise compared to what you’ve actually raised. What has worked? What didn’t?
Are you on track? Are you ahead? Or worse, are you behind?
If you’re on track or ahead, congratulations! Now, evaluate your fundraising plan for the coming 6 months and make sure it’s still relevant and on target.
If you raised more than you spent, that’s great and you have some options. You can add to your financial reserves. You can expand programs and serve more people or animals. You can invest in something you need but have not budgeted for, something that can be tricky to raise money for, such as a marketing tool or a staff development opportunity.
You can split the difference, adding a portion of the extra funds to your financial reserves and investing the remainder in growing your nonprofit or moving people or animals off the waiting list.
Work with your Board to decide the best course of action. Be intentional so you can make the best use of the money you worked so hard to raise.
What if your numbers are lagging a bit behind? How much ground do you need to make up? Remind yourself that you have plenty of time to make adjustments and additions to your fundraising calendar to catch up.
A Deep Dive into the Numbers: What Do They Tell You?
Whether your numbers are right on track, running behind, or tracking ahead, it’s time to take a deep dive to see what strategies are working and which ones are not.
Look at your fundraising plan and apply your midyear fundraising evaluation to every category:
- Individual donors
- Major donors
- Monthly donors
- Corporations and small businesses
- Foundations and grantmaking nonprofits
- Churches and synagogues
- Government entities
You may or may not consider every one of these buckets as sources of revenue for your nonprofit. But, it’s important to look at how much revenue your organization brought in from each category that you do have. As part of your fundraising audit, compare each number to your fundraising plan. Now compare each number with previous years (if you’ve been around long enough to have historical data).
Do you see any patterns? Are there trends in giving, like an increase in donations at certain times of year or in response to particular stories?
Are gifts from major donors up? Yea! This means you are stewarding your donors well and nudging them into bigger gifts.
Are foundation grants down? Why? Have you been denied grants you previously received? Have you searched for new grant opportunities?
Every category is important! Look for areas where you think you could improve. When you see an area that is lacking, dig deep to figure out why.
Slice Data One Way, Then Slice It Another Way
Now that you have sliced your data one way, let’s slice it another. Let’s look at specific fundraising strategies.
What have you done over the past six months?
- Events: Did you hold any events? Evaluate each event from top to bottom. How much did you raise? How much did you spend? How much staff time did the event require? How was attendance? How did this event compare with previous years? With previous events?
Analyze each event to see what you can do better next time. And if an event just didn’t bring in enough net income to justify the time spent planning, think about how you will replace this event next year with a strategy that yields results.
- Campaigns: How many fundraising campaigns did you have and how did each one perform? Did you reach your goal? Did they perform better than last year? What is the average gift size, and has it gone up or down?
If a campaign fell flat, do a deep dive as to why. Maybe the messaging was off, or maybe it was the timing. Did you push the campaign on social media and through email marketing as hard as you could?
- Appeals: Did you send any appeals? How did they perform? Did you reach your goal after deducting the expenses of sending the appeal?
If your appeal underperformed, what are the possible reasons why? Did you choose the right story? The right message? Did you center your donor as the hero? Did you make it easy for the recipient of the letter to give by mail and online via a QR code and an easy URL?
There are many strategies for writing the strongest appeal you can to get the highest possible return on your investment.
- Stewardship: Run a report looking at repeat donors. How many donors who donated during this period last year gave again this year?
What did you do to engage current donors? Did you maintain a 3:1 ratio, providing donors with three warm touches between Asks? Did you send regular, engaging program updates? Handwritten notes? Thank-you texts or phone calls? Update videos?
Did you have face-to-face meetings with donors or ask donors their opinions about your organization’s work? Have you asked donors for guidance in areas where they have expertise?
Next look at donor acknowledgment. Is your donor acknowledgment process refined, so donors receive a thank-you within 48 hours? Did you update your thank-you letter each month with fresh stories?
Whew, stewardship is a lot of work! But it pays off, so it’s important to do it. When you invest in stewardship, you will see your donations grow and your midyear fundraising evaluation will have a greater chance of showing that you’re on track to meet your goal.
- New donor outreach: How many of the donors who gave during this period were new donors? How many donations from new donors did you receive during this period last year? How do those numbers compare?
Look at the activities you did to reach new donors. Did you speak to church or community groups? Did you enlist current Board members and supporters to hold house gatherings of their friends and family members? Did you set up a table at a community event?
New donors don’t just show up. You have to go out and get them and when you’re consistent in that effort, your donor base grows steadily, giving you more revenue for your operations.
Listen to Your Data
Now that you have analyzed your data, what do you know? What has worked so far? Where are the best opportunities over the next six months to raise more money?
For most organizations, the best opportunity to raise a lot of money is with major donors. For the coming six months, focus on donors who gave $1,000 or more over the last year or two but haven’t given yet this year. Focus on stewarding these donors. Make sure they feel important, involved, and appreciated that they give again, maybe at a higher level.
Then look at donors that have given more than $100 but less than $1,000 over the past year or two. How many of these donors have not given this year? Make a plan to steward these donors, too.
If you are not bringing in enough new donors, make plans to work on it. Look for opportunities to meet people who are most likely to care about the work your nonprofit does. Refine your message and your Ask so it inspires people to give and get involved.
If you need more grant funding, search out grant opportunities with a high likelihood of succeeding. If you have opportunities in the business community, think about ways you can engage them and offer value for their sponsorship.
There are so many things you can do to succeed over the next six months. It’s a matter of finding the right strategies that will deliver the biggest results. Let your data tell you where the best opportunities are.
The Bottom Line
It’s not hard to understand why a midyear fundraising evaluation can feel overwhelming. No one is excited to create a document that tells them to do more. But measuring your fundraising effectiveness can help you do less, by showing you which tasks to focus on. What pays off? What gets a good return on your time investment?
An evaluation of your fundraising efforts will help you prioritize. You can stop wasting your time on strategies that don’t move your organization forward, freeing you to spend more time on more effective strategies. Without a thorough analysis, you’re just making educated guesses about what’s working and what’s not.
When you bravely examine the first six months of fundraising, you can get a true picture of your fundraising efforts and make some tweaks for the second half of the year. You’ll raise more money, do more important work, and change more lives. And that’s what it’s all about!