Recently, we’ve been assessing program performance for prospective and new regional clients, and one thing keeps popping up. Often, when it comes to reviewing fundraising performance, organizations are unsure about what is and isn’t included in their agency’s regular campaign performance reports.
So how do you measure the success of your fundraising appeals? Though these reports may seem pretty straightforward, beneath the surface there are actually quite a few ways that logic can vary. Understanding those variations may mean the difference between a thumbs up and thumbs down on performance trends for your charity’s campaign.
Before you draw conclusions from your campaign performance reports, be sure to ask these questions:
- Costs: Are the costs of each appeal included in the report? What about fees, rental lists, modeling costs, and creative costs? Are they applied to the full annual program, or are they wrapped into the line item costs for specific campaigns? Have they consistently been included in the same way, or do the costs change by appeal? These answers can help you properly measure net revenue and ROI for each tactic — while monitoring your ongoing program effectiveness and making competitive comparisons.
- Campaign or cash flow basis: Does the report reflect all gifts received from the included campaigns in total, regardless of when the gifts were received (campaign basis) — or does it include all gifts received within that fiscal year, regardless of which campaigns the gift were for (cash flow)? The key difference between these models lies in the beginning and end of the year. A “campaign basis” report won’t be considered complete until all appeals have been fully exposed (90 days in the case of direct mail, with white mail gifts typically cut off with the end of the fiscal year). A “cash flow basis” report will start with gifts dated between the first and last day of the fiscal year, which means it will include some gifts that were in response to prior year appeals that arrived in the next year (spill in) and will NOT include gifts that come in for the late-year appeals that arrive after the year ends (spill out). Either basis can be fine, but the report should never be a mixture of both. Doing so would risk double-counting revenue by reflecting complete campaign results with gifts received after the year ended, plus including prior year remit gifts. It’s got to be one or the other.
- New donor acquisition results: If you intentionally include lapsed donors in your acquisition plan, and/or include strategies that don’t suppress active/lapsed donors (like zip saturation and FSIs), do your reports show results for those audiences separately? If not in your regular reports, are there other reports/intervals where volume and responses from prospects vs. donors are measured separately? If you are relying on campaign performance reports to measure your actual new donor acquisition rates, make sure you keep this in mind, because a portion of those gifts is from donors.
- White mail: What are the rules being applied for reporting on white mail gifts (online and offline)? Are no-remit/unattributable gifts being accounted for in the line item appeal results based on gift date assumptions? Are all gifts received in the mail without a remit being lumped into a single “white mail” line? Are online gifts received from donors/prospects who your agency solicits included in digital campaign revenue in those reports?
We’ve seen these rules vary widely across reports. Ultimately, the most important thing is to be aware and in agreement with whatever report criteria is in place.
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