Last month, my blog post on how to analyze #GivingTuesday resonated with many people. So many, that I thought I should follow it up with how to analyze data for the end of the calendar year.
It’s January, so first things first. Breathe. Congratulate yourself, your co-workers, your volunteers, and, above all, your donors and funders for helping you end 2023 strong. There were many challenges that you had to overcome but you did it and raised money that will help you achieve your nonprofit mission in 2024!
Next, please join me in wondering who started this confusing mess by having fiscal years that can start and end at any time in the calendar year. This was obviously not a development department decision since the most common nonprofit fiscal year-end is June 30th. Since that is not something we can spend more than a minute considering, let’s move on to where we should focus our time this month.
End of Calendar Year Data
I have seen statistics that say anywhere between 25–30% of an annual fund is raised in December. I have also heard that another 10–15% comes in November (thank you early birds!). But how do your end-of-year totals help you predict whether you are on track to reach your Annual Fund goal?
Someone recently told me they estimate giving by December 31st should be approximately 60% of your total annual fund goal if your fiscal year ends on June 30. Many think it should be 70 or 75%. With the organizations I am currently working with, I think that tracks. but I would love to know what you have found.
What Data Are You Tracking?
Here is a list of what you could be considering when looking at your year-end:
- Total Giving from the beginning of your fiscal year to Dec 31 (assuming you are not on a Jan 1 fiscal year)
- Total Giving comparing last year and this year’s FY to Dec 31 (pre-Covid we would compare the last five years of data but 2020 and 2021 are not good predictors for future giving)
- New Major Donors
- Major Gifts that were renewed, not renewed, upgraded, or downgraded
- Segmentation results based on your criteria for your appeal strategy. For instance, you might ask:
- What was the response to the targeted letter to your first-time donors?
- Did your first texting campaign increase Millennial and Gen Z gifts?
- Were you able to upgrade donations by increasing the asks in the letters you mailed?
- What percentage upgraded compared to previous years?
- Did you notice a difference if your emails offered the same increased asks?
- Did the stewardship calls to 60 people in the fall cause them to increase their donations compared to those who did not receive a call? Was there a difference if someone had a conversation vs. leaving a message?
- Were there external factors that may have impacted your giving? While they are not simply excuses for not reaching your goal, you do have to include these factors in your analysis. Will those factors continue through this year and/or beyond? If so, what will you do to make up the difference and reach your annual fund goal?
Most of these considerations are based on your current contributors. But every nonprofit is unique in its fundraising. That means they will read each statistic differently. Increasing to 43% retention for first-time donors may be stellar for one organization and a dramatic drop for another.
The key is that each mailing, email, phone call, text, and post for your annual fund appeal should be a strategic decision working towards a specific goal. Yes, you want to raise more money in your annual fund this year. But are you trying to raise more money by increasing gifts from the parents of program participants? Or are you trying to increase your number of renewed donations?
Both can be solid strategies. Yet, each requires different elements and segmentation. Which is why development people should love data. I may like it more than some, but I don’t think anyone can ignore the importance of “knowing your numbers” to enable you to raise the remaining 40%+ of your goal.