1. Net annual growth in active donors.
Every year you add donors through acquisition and lose donors through attrition. The difference between these two numbers is your net growth. It’s either positive or negative (or unchanged–unlikely). Don’t measure just the number of new donors you add annually. That number might look impressive, but it’s false. 80,232 donors acquired minus 81,439 donors lost isn’t growth.
2. Net cost per donor acquired.
Figure out how much you need to spend to acquire a new donor for every channel you use (direct mail, face-to-face, online, direct response TV, special events, and so on). You need to know this number to win board approval for a donor acquisition budget. Donor acquisition costs money. The other number you need to know is Lifetime Donor Value by Channel (below).
3. Attrition rate by channel.
Donors die, lose their jobs, move, retire, divorce and do other disagreeable things that make them stop supporting your cause. Although many of these things are beyond your control, you still need to know the number of donors you lose each year, expressed as a percentage of your active donors, and calculated for every channel you use to raise funds. When you know your attrition rate, you know how many new donors you must acquire each year just to stop your file from shrinking. Because it is shrinking.
4. Renewal rate by channel.
What percentage of your donors who give a gift one year also give a gift the next year? That’s your renewal rate. Your renewal rate indicates how passionate your supporters are about your cause. It also indicates how successful your donor stewardship program is.
5. Second gift conversion rate.
Most people who make one gift to a charity never make another. If you have a low Second Gift Conversion Rate, you either are attracting donors who are unlikely to make a second gift, you are not treating your first-time donors properly, or you are not asking for that vital second gift soon enough (or all three).
6. Lifetime donor value by channel.
How much does one of your average donors contribute to your charity in her lifetime? That’s the number you need to know to justify your investment in donor acquisition and stewardship. Include in this number every gift ever given, including annual gifts, major gifts, special event gifts and bequests. Know this number for every channel you acquire donors by.
Alan Sharpe, Know Your Six Fundraising Numbers or Die