November 16, 2020

How to Evaluate Fundraising Effectiveness and Strategy

Fundraising is an essential part of grassroots marketing. The amount of funds raised can be a reliable indicator of the overall effectiveness of a particular strategy. If a specific marketing campaign is working well, it will generate income. You can also use fundraising analysis to determine the longevity or sustainability of a particular campaign.

When establishing a bottom-up grassroots campaign, securing reliable funding is crucial to success. Gaining fundraising traction can be complicated; however, it requires specific strategy, planning, and analysis, and that last item might be surprising. When thinking of fundraising, data analysis is often overlooked or seen as less important.

Proper data analytics is one of the most valuable aspects of fundraising. The data you gather from fundraising analysis functions as a roadmap to inform you about how to proceed with your plans. But having the information is only half of the issue; you also need to classify and analyze the data to effectively understand its meaning.

This article will outline general tips and pointers for successful fundraising methods and explain how proper analysis of those campaigns improves success rates. With this information, you will be able to plan and implement effective fundraising.

Keys to Fundraising Infrastructure

Having the appropriate infrastructure for your fundraising campaign can save you many headaches down the road. Organizing everything properly and good bookkeeping skills are vital to any fundraising campaign.

Your infrastructure’s fundamental keys include hiring the right kind of staff and technology to support the operation. You need the right tools, not only to spread your fundraiser’s message but also to keep track of your income and expenses. You may not think that’s important initially, but things can quickly become overwhelming as your campaign grows.

Fundraising Effectiveness Strategy

Many fundraising organizations adopt the mindset of not wanting to spend money to build their infrastructure. However, your organization’s infrastructure is the most critical foundation of your campaign because you will not be able to function without it.

Some infrastructure tools that you will want to invest in include:

Effective communication 

 You’ve heard before that communication is key, and this is undoubtedly true for fundraising. Adequate communication tools will allow you to communicate effectively between different departments and teams to coordinate efforts in-house and on the ground. You also need a way to communicate with your greatest asset: your donors! This interaction can take the form of a regular newsletter or a smartphone app if your members are particularly tech-savvy.

Staying connected to your team and members is crucial. The more time you spend “out of mind,” the more likely they will forget about you entirely!

Powerful database software

 As mentioned, you’ll need to keep track of your income, but there’s a lot more than that. You will also need to keep records of your members, your staff, and specific dates, times, and communications.

 While you could theoretically do this on paper, a database is an incredibly valuable tool, allowing you to cross-reference the data into meaningful sets. By making intelligent use of database software, you will be able to build a stronger connection to your audience.

A loyal core group

Though every army starts with a single warrior, you need a dedicated core group to promote your fundraiser to get off the ground. These are the people who will typically provide the initial capital and help spread the word about your campaign. Word of mouth is critical to building momentum early in your fundraising.

Even in this digital age, there is still no substitute for old-fashioned personal endorsements. Person-to-person, human recommendations carry a significant amount of weight for many people and are an integral aspect of non-profit solutions.

Data analysis and evaluation

Data Analysis and Evaluation

So we have briefly touched upon the fact that data analytics are an essential aspect of fundraising, but how exactly do you analyze the data once you have it? Data analysis and evaluation begins before you start raising any funds.

An initial evaluation of your fundraising project is an essential first step. This principal analysis examines things such as your project’s support sources, organization structure, and potential for success. It’s important to understand that it can be quite challenging to build a successful fundraising campaign. Not all fundraisers succeed, and the initial evaluation phase is designed to judge the likelihood of success and foresee any potential issues.

Analyzing your data metrics

Once your fundraiser has begun and donations start coming in, you need to be capturing that data and analyzing it. Data points, such as donation demographics, growth circles, and average donation amounts, can provide useful information that adds to the larger picture. With this data, you can begin building a model of how your fundraiser performs overall, as well as assess your strengths and areas with room for improvement.

Over time, this data can construct reliable estimations of how your fundraiser might perform in the future. While never 100% accurate, forecasting can help you prepare against foreseeable economic downturns or drops in donor revenue.

Return on investment (ROI) is another crucial metric you should track. Knowing precisely how much your organization is spending in relation to how much revenue you are receiving gives you a quick “snapshot” of general success.

Using these key data points can help you make informed decisions regarding how to proceed towards your goal. By analyzing this information, you can see the fine, granular details and make specific performance changes.

Is one particular demographic underperforming? You can see when the drop began and which campaign was being run at that moment, giving you a clear corrective action plan. This example is merely one scenario where data analytics can be an invaluable tool in your fundraising efforts.

Mission-Focused Goals

One of the main pillars of fundraising strategy is setting focused goals, with emphasis on focus. Your goals should always revolve around your core mission. Obviously, any fundraising operation’s primary goal is to raise funds, but there is more to it than that. For example, you can set a series of smaller goals that act as checkpoints towards a larger target goal. In this way, you can keep your team organized, encouraged, and productive without being overwhelmed.

Your fundraiser will generally have financial and non-financial goals. The financial goals would be budget targets for costs such as advertising and revenue goals for each campaign and demographic segment.

Non-financial goals would be things such as the responses from your donors. In fact, one could say that these goals are paramount since the relationship between your organization and your donors leads to revenue generation.

It’s necessary to define all of these goals ahead of time so that you can have a clear roadmap for your fundraiser. Lack of coherent plans often causes confusion, delays, and failure in projects. And studies have shown that when teams aren’t given a clear direction, performance and efficiency are greatly hindered. 

Ongoing Fundraising Evaluation

Once you have all of these “pillars” of analysis and strategy in place, you might be tempted to let the operation run itself semi-autonomously. We can’t stress enough the need for continual evaluation. Ongoing analytics are a vital part of monitoring fundraising effectiveness. By continually monitoring fundraising operations, you can effectively graph over time how performance is trending.

If you notice the trend-line falling, you will be able to ask “why?” and get a meaningful answer from the collected data metrics. Did revenue fall off in a particular region? Perhaps a notable donor moved or decided to stop their support. You need to know these things and make adjustments, sometimes rapidly. 

Ongoing evaluation gives you that quick feedback that allows you to make course adjustments when required without too much delay. Without ongoing evaluation, you will never have a specific point in time to reference a growth peak or valley.

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Consistent Data is Essential for an Effective Strategy

Continual evaluation of your fundraising performance also plays a crucial role in strategy development. The more data you can gather, the better plans you can create. The goals you set are the destination, and the information you collect is the compass that helps steer you in the right direction.

By analyzing your data continually, you will have reliable indicators of which strategies work well and which of them need improvement (or dropped entirely).

Also, consider that even if your current campaign performs well, there could still be areas for improvement. Continual evaluation gives you that window of opportunity to examine the present data to see what is happening where and make shifts as desired.

Beyond the financial aspect, you should also keep regular time records. If you notice that fundraising consistently takes more time in a particular area, you may want to examine why. As the adage says, “time is money.” In fundraising, this is especially true.

A Machine With Many Parts

So now you can begin to see how everything, from the analytics, evaluations, strategy, and ongoing monitoring, work together to form a cohesive fundraising operation. If we take one part away, the entire process begins to suffer. If all of this seems a bit overwhelming, you might consider getting some help from a strategy consulting firm. Such firms offer expert data analysis, marketing research, and real-time data evaluation. Even if you are just getting started and don’t have the resources for comprehensive, real-time data analysis, we can help you.  At Universal Creative Solutions we can give you a clear portrait of how your fundraiser performs. Contact us for a free consultation so we can assist you in soaring even higher.

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We help them plan and achieve their WHY by coupling it with the HOW - a pathway to making that vision a reality. We clarify the concepts or objectives, break down the goals into the required assets, stakeholders, and key results, as well as provide or connect them to any needed resources and consulting services every step of the way.

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