Measuring Fundraising Success in 2021: 4 Tips for Tracking Virtual Performance

Erin Todd

Erin Todd

Digital Marketing Manager

As your fundraising activities continue to evolve, so should the way you measure their return.  

Fundraising organizations across the board have spent the last year trying out new virtual fundraising tactics. As we close out the first quarter of 2021, it’s a good time to take a step back and evaluate how these efforts are working.

From charity streaming to virtual races, there’s no limit to the innovation and creativity from nonprofits who are trying to make fundraising work in 2021. Most of the industry’s energy has been spent on researching virtual event ideas, how to launch them, and how to build and engage communities during this time. But what about measuring fundraising success?

How Performance Tracking Has Changed

It used to be relatively straightforward to see the success of an event before you even measured it. You could qualitatively gauge impact before you dug into the exact numbers.

At an in-person race, for example, you could see the crowd that had gathered and the excitement of fundraisers and supporters. You would know how many people registered and you kept an eye on fundraising growth up until event day. But things are different now. While we still look at those core metrics, there are more metrics to track and broader implications from those metrics. For instance, you can track metrics like live stream views or video replays, or you can track activity or engagement associated with participant fundraising. There is a dizzying amount of metrics to look at when engagement is all online, and it makes it harder to visualize in-the-moment.

However, there is a positive flip side to the magnitude of these virtual efforts. Your reach can now expand beyond geographical or schedule limitations. With virtual outlets, fundraising is more accessible than ever, and you can expand your audience and boost participation in a way that you may have never measured before.

4 Steps To Measure Fundraising Success of Virtual Events:

1. Define Success

If the past several months have felt like trial and error or throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks – you’re not alone.

“Success” might very well mean just getting a virtual event off the ground or keeping your existing community intact. This isn’t a bad goal, so long as you identify it as one.

But as you continue to figure things out and settle into a rhythm with your fundraising, your results will improve over time. So, even if you’re more concerned about executing an event at this point, it’s a good idea to think about what success means for your organization as you move forward.

Most organizations will want to meet or exceed fundraising goals. You should also be interested in attracting new donors or bringing a certain number of participants to your virtual events. As your community grows, so will your fundraising numbers.

Get specific with your goals. Set your objectives—what you want to achieve at a high-level—and underscore them with specific, measurable key performance indicators (KPIs).

Again, virtual results are going to look different from what you’re used to. So, you will want to look at KPIs you might not have considered before. Donor and fundraiser metrics are still important, but digital campaign metrics are floating to the top.

Some of these metrics include but are not limited to:

Fundraising Metrics

  • Cost Per Dollar Raised: Have you made gains on the investment you put towards your fundraising efforts?
  • Average Gift Amount: What is the average gift size in a given campaign?
  • Average Fundraising Amount: How much do you typically raise per campaign?

Donor Metrics

  • Donor Retention Rate: What percentage of your donors have given more than once?
  • Donor Growth: How much has your donor base grown?
  • Other Donor Data: Where are your donors located? Who are they?

Digital Campaign Metrics

  • Email Conversion Rate: How many supporters acted on a call-to-action in an email?

  • Social Media Engagement: How many people share, like, or comment on your social media platforms? How many people tune into social media live streams?
  • Landing Page Conversion Rate: How many of your donation page visitors actually complete the donation process?

This information, supplemented with historical data, will help inform you how you might need to adjust strategies and tactics in the future.

2. Choose Tools

Of course, you will need the right tools in place to help you capture all of this information.

You might be tempted to pull analytics directly from your fundraising page, social media platforms, and emails. However, for an enterprise fundraising organization, consider online fundraising software that can integrate with your CRM, analytics, and other marketing tools, and provide valuable event data in real-time. 

Virtual fundraising moves quickly. It will be easier if you can keep track of fundraisers, collect donor data, and view the impact of fundraising all in one place. These tools will also make it easier to generate custom reports so you can share information with your team.

3. Determine Timeline

You know what to track and you have the tools to track it. Now you’re ready to think about the timeline.

More often than not, virtual events take place over a longer time period than an in-person event. So, you will need to evaluate success over a longer time period – certainly longer than single-day, in-person events.

You then need to decide whether you want to measure the success of a specific event or whether you want to look at the sum total of your efforts over a few months.

Both are a good idea to track, but it’s important to pick one and be consistent about it. 

4. Review Data

Based on the metrics you have identified, the timeline you have agreed upon, and the tools you have implemented to help you, you can now regularly review your data and see if your virtual fundraising activities are hitting the mark.

Conclusion

Virtual fundraising has brought about changes in how we define and evaluate success. With such a rapid shift in tactics, results are undoubtedly going to look different. So, make sure you level-set your expectations. Keep a pulse on what’s working (or not) today, so you can make the most of virtual fundraising tomorrow.

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