The Most Essential KPIs for Purpose-Driven Organizations

Are you getting the results you hoped for? Are you reaching your goals? To answer these questions, you need to measure the impact of your campaign. You need to study analytics and collect the data pertinent to your efforts.

This is a moment to appreciate that you are marketing now and not 30 years ago. Collecting data is easier in the digital sphere than ever before. Indeed, the problem now might be that we collect too much data and then have a difficult time telling what is most meaningful.

The analytics that you collect should be rooting in your original goals. Remember the goals you set out in the beginning of your strategy? The ones that align with your organizations core values? Those meaningful, manageable and measurable goals? They’ve guided you through the whole process and they will guide you through measurement as well.

If your analytics aren’t rooted in your goals, they are arbitrary. They are fluff.

What Kind of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) Should You Use?

Each of your goals should have a Key Performance Indicator, or KPI. “A KPI is a measurable value that demonstrates how effectively a company is achieving key business objectives,” according to Klipfolio.

Mark Kelly of Salsa Labs has made a list of the most common KPIs for nonprofits and organized them in four categories: fundraising, donor retention, email and social media. Not all of these KPIs will be appropriate for your organization, but they might help you think about what metrics are the best fit to your goals.

Fundraising Metrics

1.    Gifts Secured: “The name says it all,” write Kelly. “Gifts secured simply accounts for how many gifts your organization received over a set amount of time.” The amount of time is up to you, though it makes sense to collect data throughout a digital campaign to track its effectiveness. You might also split this measurement up between gift types. For example, if you are trying to develop a major gift program, you might want to isolate major gifts. Keeping track of your gifts secured in real time can help you figure out if you are meeting your short-term goals. Real time measurement will also help you adjust your digital campaign if your numbers aren’t good before you go too far off track. To calculate: Add up how many gifts your organization received over a certain period of time. The sum equals your gifts secured.

2.    Donation Growth: “This metric tracks your gift secured over a longer span of time to help you make sure you're meeting your long-term fundraising goals,” writes Kelly. Are you getting more donations now than you were a year ago? More now than before you started your digital campaign? Do you see any patterns in gifts secured over time? If you notice there are times of year when growth is stagnant, you can make plans to increase growth at those times next year. To calculate: As with gifts secured, add up how many gifts your organization received over a certain period of time.

3.  Average Gift Size Growth: This metric measures the percentage by which your average gift size has increased (let’s hope) over a certain period of time. In a fundraising effort, you can try to increase the number of people that donate, but you can also try to increase the size of each gift. “Perhaps you can leverage your relationships and spend less time focusing on finding new donors and more time cultivating the ones you already have,” writes Kelly. After all, if you receive $10,000 from 5 people, that’s the same amount of money as getting 1,000 for 50 people. To calculate: Divide the sum of your donations last year by total number of donations last year. Repeat with this year's donations. Subtract last year's average from this year's average. Then, divide the difference by last year's average. Multiply by 100 to see your percent increase.

4. Fundraising Return on Investment (ROI): How many fundraising dollars come in per dollars spent on fundraising? “Return on investment is pretty important, especially to an organization with a limited budget,” writes Kelly. This is a very important metric because it demonstrated how well your marketing campaign and fundraising efforts are working. If it’s a good number, you can use it to promote your efforts to other people in your organization so that they can support your work. “Obviously, for this one you want your funds raised to be greater than your costs, but keep in mind there's always room for improvement. If you can lower your costs even more, the amount of money you can actually put towards your cause will be even greater,” writes Kelly. To calculate: Divide your total costs by total funds raised. If your result is less than 1, your organization gained more than it spent. If it’s greater than 1, you spent more than you gained.

5. Online Gift Percentage: What portion of your overall donations have come from online channels? This is a KPI that shows the success of your digital fundraising. “In most cases, the cost of acquiring donations online is much lower than through any other medium, so you want to maintain a healthy percentage of gifts received digitally,” writes Kelly. Fundraising software can track all gifts, which can make it easy to see how many of your gifts were made online and how many offline. To calculate: Divide the number of total online gifts received this year by total number of gifts. Multiply by 100.

Donor Retention Metrics

Acquisition of donors is good, but it won’t ultimately grow your organization if most of your supporters only give once and don't return. Donor retention is often undervalued, but it crucial to the success of many organizations. “Without solid donor retention, acquisition’s focus has to be on recovery rather than progress, where it should be,” writes Kelly.

1. Donor Retention Rate: This metric is the percentage of donors who have given more than once. “Recurring donors are incredibly valuable to nonprofits. In fact, about 88 percent of funds raised come from only 12 percent of an organization's donor base. A whopping 87 percent of those funds are made by recurring donors,” writes Kelly. Gaining new relationships is always more costly than cultivating existing ones. To calculate: Divide the number of recurring donors by total number of donors, then multiply by 100.

2. Donor Growth (Year-Over-Year): How much has your donor base grown (or shrunk) over a year? “Just keep in mind, this metric can reveal that your issue is with acquisition and not retention,” writes Kelly. The most thorough way of thinking about your donor base is to look at a bunch of donor KPIs together. Are you getting new donors? Are you keeping your old ones? To calculate: Divide the total number of donors in your base at the end of last year by the total number of donors in your base this year. Multiply by 100.

3. Recurring Gift Percentage: This metric tells your organization exactly what portion of your total gifts come from recurring donors. Like donor retention, this metric is important because recurring gifts are more important to most organizations than one-time gifts. “If you can confidently expect that you’ll continue to receive those gifts and recognize where those gifts are coming from, you may be able to leverage that and begin a small, targeted campaign to increase those gift sizes,” writes Kelly. To calculate: Divide number of recurring gifts by total number of gifts received. Multiply by 100.

4. Giving Capacity: This metric is an informed estimate of how much money your donors are able to give. Knowing the giving capacity of donors allows your organization can make more specific and relevant asks. “When coupled with other data sources such as giving history, you can roughly forecast how much your organization might receive from donors over a given year,” writes Kelly. “Giving capacity lets you know just how much to ask for.” Another note on this: If you have a group of donors who give large amounts, you might want to keep track of them separately. They may require different kinds of communication than donors who make smaller donations. To measure: For this one, you'll need the assistance of a prospect research and wealth screening software such as iWave or DonorSearch.

5. Conversion Rate: This metric tells you how many donors took an action when prompted by your organization. Look at a specific call to action? How many people did it? It shows you if your outreach is effective. It all also help you better understand the habit and affinities of your audience, which will help you next time you want to engage to do so better. It can be more insightful to look at the conversion rate for calls to action that don’t include asks for donation. “Your relationships with your donors run deeper than simply requesting and receiving donations, so it's important to determine that you're engaging them beyond the donation process,” writes Kelly. To measure: Divide total number of donors who took an action by total donors prompted by the CTA. Multiply by 100.

6. Outreach Rate: This metric shows how often you’re getting in touch with your donors. How often are you using a specific channel? Regular outreach is an important part of keeping your audience engaged. To measure: Count how many times you contacted donors through one or more channels over a certain amount of time.

Email Metrics

According to Kelly, a full one third of online funds are raised through emails, so he suggests having metrics related directly to the optimization of email marketing.

1. Open Rate: This metrics shows you the percentage of recipients who opened an email from your organization. “The engagement process is over before it even starts if your donors aren't opening your emails,” writes Kelly. “They won't see all of the amazing content you’re sharing about your cause or have the opportunity to donate if they're not reading.” If your open rate is low, you should experiment with subject lines. “Most email marketing software allows you to split test your emails so you can test the efficacy of different subject lines,” writes Kelly. Also make sure that the email address from which you are sending your emails is recognizable to the recipients. Do you open emails from unknown addresses? Other people don’t either. To measure: Email marketing software will automatically track open rate for you.

2. Click Through Rate (CTR): This metric shows what percentage of recipients clicked on a link included in your email. “Click through rate is an excellent way of determining how many supporters took the next step by visiting your website, your online donation page, or another important link,” writes Kelly. To measure: This is another KPI tracked by email marketing software.

3. Email Conversion Rate: The metric will show how many of your recipients followed through with your call to action. “If it turns out your email conversion is lower than you would have liked, one of the easiest fixes is tweaking your call-to-action. Make sure it's clear and easy to spot so that donors know exactly what you're asking for and how to act accordingly,” writes Kelly. To measure: This is a metric that your email marketing software will calculate for you. However, if you want to calculate it on your own, simply divide the total number of people contacted by the total number of actions taken, then multiply by 100.

4. Opt-Out Rate: This metric measures how many recipients in your list unsubscribed from your email campaign over a certain amount of time. Often if you email too often, you’ll have higher opt-out rates. Some types of content might also be a turn off for your audience. It is providing something of value to your recipients? To measure: Provided by your email marketing software.

Social Media Metrics

What social media metrics are most often relevant to nonprofit organizations? We kept the best for last here. Often there is an overemphasis on impressions, when what you could focus on instead is engagement. “You want to drive your followers to your website, not simply collect ‘likes’ on your Facebook page. In fact, pure social media reach on some platforms, like Facebook, may be a lot less valuable than you might think,” writes Kelly. Kelly suggests that you try to send more prospects from social media to your website, where you’ll be able to convert them and gather valuable information. It is also important, in the age of low organic reach on social media platforms, to encourage your followers to share your content.

1. Amplification, Applause, and Conversation Rates: These three metrics are more meaningful as a unit. Amplification refers to when a third party shares social media posts. Think retweets, shares, revines, repins or reblogs. “The better your amplification, the greater your reach,” writes Kelly. Applause refers to when someone interacts with your content in a relatively passive way. It’s a like or a heart or whatever other emoji. “Applause rate is like amplification-lite,” writes Kelly. “You won't learn much more than what people like and don't like from applause rate.” Conversation refers to when your post starts a chain of interactions. Think comments. Or replies on Twitter. “Conversations allow supporters to tell you exactly what they're interested in directly from their own mouths (or, in this case, keyboards!), so you want to post content that’s going to spark as many conversations as possible,” writes Kelly. Read comments. They will help you optimize your social media outreach, for sure, and may give you ideas about other things that your organization does. Look at these metrics together to figure out what your social network wants from you. To calculate: The “Insights” or analytics section of each social media platform will provide this kind of information, as will software like Sprout Social or Tweetdeck, among others.

2. Landing Page Conversion Rate: This metric measures how many visitors to your donation page—in this case, from social media—completed the donation process. Using a tracking tool, such as Google Analytics, you can determine how many visitors reached a specific page, how they arrived there, and how many completed the action on that pace. To calculate: Divide total number of visitors to your donation page by total number of donations made. Multiply by 100.

3. Fundraiser Participation Rate: This metric tracks how many of your fundraisers are working to secure donations on your behalf and what actions they’re taking to do so. If you do peer-to-peer fundraising, this will be an important metric for you. Look at how much money each fundraiser has raised. Then also note where and how often fundraisers took actions to participate in your campaign. “By viewing these two metrics in conjunction, you can determine how successful the efforts of individual fundraisers were and how much work each put into your campaign,” writes Kelly. To measure: Enlist the help of a great peer-to-peer software, which will automatically track fundraiser actions and allow you to oversee participation.


This article is an excerpt from my book-in-progress. For more about the book, check out my "why" for writing it.