How can you help improve the technical skill development of 11 year old soccer players? Change what you measure for “success”.

That’s the theory of a friend of mine, Willie Cromack from Champions in Sport, who, instead of preaching winning at all costs or individual goals, is tracking, measuring and rewarding his soccer players – with charitable dollars – for things like assists, amount of consecutive passes and total passes. By changing what he is measuring, he is hoping to change behaviour and ultimately improve the performance of his team.

And that’s what you can do too. If you’re fundraising isn’t working or becoming stale, perhaps you should change how you are evaluating success and choose some different fundraising metrics. So as we look to 2014, here are…

5 Fundraising Metrics You Should Care More About

1. Lifetime Value

When I build campaigns I always choose One Metric That Matters. This is the one thing, more than any others, that I’m interested in because it is most crucial to achieving and showing success. I believe that Lifetime Value (LTV) is that One Metric That Matters for quality fundraising departments. Or it should be.

And the biggest thing that helps boost LTV? It isn’t your fundraising … it’s your communications. You need to talk your donors more often, more specifically and about what THEY want to hear, not what you want to say. If you do, you’ll start increasing their and your LTV and ultimately your overall fundraising results over time.

2. Donor Retention

I feel like some charity skeletons started making their way out the closet in 2013 and the horrendous donor retention rates from the past few years – and the seemingly lack of empathy and effort displayed by organizations – was one of them. Look it’s not like you should stop acquiring donors, please don’t, but there has to be a greater effort to keep the donors you’ve been lucky enough to acquire.

Besides donor retention being linked with LTV, here’s another reason why you should care about keeping donors around: they can be great advocates and, increasingly, even fundraisers for you. People share and take action when they are moved emotionally but they won’t do that publicly unless they trust the people or organization they are sharing about or taking action for.

Keeping donors around is, at its core, about trust and the more trust you can build up with more people, things like peer fundraising, volunteering and sharing about your organization are more likely to occur.

3. People Talking About This (for Facebook)

Speaking of sharing…when it comes to social, People Talking About This on Facebook is what’s most important. John Haydon sums up his  The Only Facebook Metric That Truly Matters well with this:

Imagine the shift in your Facebook results when people stop asking: “How can we increase our reach on Facebook?” “How can we get more Page likes?” And start asking: “How can we get more people to share our Page updates with their friends?”

That’s the power of social media and the web as it currently is. People can share what’s important to them, not just get more updates about what you think is important for them. It’s not as though people weren’t talking about organizations (good and bad) before Facebook and social media but it’s never been so easy, powerful and accessible.

If you are still wondering if there’s value for your organization with social media and Facebook, start focusing on People Talking About This (and other similar share/engagement stats) and then make up your mind. WARNING: This means you are going to have to be worth talking about.

4. Total Transactions or Number of Donations

For many of our campaigns we don’t have access to donor retention or Lifetime Value stats and metrics for our clients so transactions or donations ends up often being our One Metric That Matters (note that it’s not the total dollars raised here but rather the amount of donations made). We do this for many reasons but the number of donations is what I call a “cascading variable”.

A “cascading variable” means it is something that if you have success with it there is a great chance that success will “cascade” down and lead to success in other key areas. This is also why I don’t like having total funds raised as the main (and definitely only) goal. You can set a $50,000 goal, get one unexpected cheque for $45,000 and boom. Success right? For the total goal but you have no idea about things like retention, acquisition, Lifetime Value, etc.

In theory, if you have more and more people making donations you are more likely also having success in retaining your donors, boosting Lifetime Value, acquiring donors and even reaching your total funds raised goal. It can cascade. It also has the benefit of being pretty simple to track and more comparable year over year.

5. % of Donors Who Care Less About What You Spend on Admin

Okay that isn’t really a statistic that is used (if you do, I’d love to high-five you right now) but it is something that continues to be imperative to the future success of not just your organization but our industry. Yes more people are talking about it and it is more common to hear donors talk about how dumb the “overhead myth” is but we can’t let up.

Great organizations produce impact – that’s what donors should be demanding out of the organizations they give to – and that can take investment. So when you get the chance to talk about this subject, take that as an opportunity to help the donor, yourself, your organization and the sector overall.


Whether you are coaching 11 year olds in soccer and looking for technical improvement or are fundraising for an important cause, shifting what you measure and use to evaluate success can be a powerful way to start getting the results you want and need in 2014.