Skip to content
We are now Bonterra

A guide to nonprofit fundraising metrics and benchmarks

April 12, 2022
A man points at a laptop displaying nonprofit fundraising metrics.

Effective fundraising is the key to your nonprofit organization’s success. Therefore, it’s crucial to have predetermined ways to measure how well your campaign efforts are paying off. Collecting relevant data ensures that you have everything you need to analyze your fundraising performance and identify strategic improvements to better meet your goals.

Nonprofit fundraising metrics, or Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), and benchmarks are essential for keeping your organization on the right track toward progress and growth. In this guide, we’ll provide a few essential metrics and explain how your nonprofit can make the most of tracking and analyzing them. First, let’s define fundraising metrics and benchmarks in more detail. 

What are nonprofit fundraising metrics and benchmarks?

Fundraising metrics are measurements used to evaluate the quality, progress, performance, or efficiency of a fundraising operation or one of its components. Closely related are KPIs, which are beneficial for analyzing principal organization objectives and goals.

Benchmarks serve as a comprehensive overview or reference point for these metrics, allowing your organization to compare metrics year-over-year, between organizations, or across industries.

For instance, you may want to compare your Cost to Raise a Dollar (CRD) to a similar campaign your nonprofit ran last year. If last year’s CRD was $0.24, that could serve as a benchmark to evaluate your fundraising efficiency year-over-year. If you calculate a CRD of $0.20 this year, you’ll note an improvement in your organization’s fundraising efficiency. You may also want to compare your CRD to a similar organization or to an industry standard.

General fundraising metrics

Take the time to review these general fundraising metrics to determine the most relevant and useful ones for your organization. Your fundraising software should facilitate the process of tracking and calculating these numbers to ensure accuracy and efficiency.

Cost to raise a dollar

Cost to raise a dollar evaluates the efficiency of your fundraising channel or program. However, remember that efficiency is not the same as effectiveness, since there may be times when a larger fundraising investment leads to a larger net gain for your nonprofit, though CRD may be higher.

To calculate CRD, divide your nonprofit’s overall fundraising cost by the amount raised. For instance, if a campaign cost $10,000 and raised a total of $50,000, the CRD would be: $10,000 divided by $50,000 = $0.20.

For direct mail acquisition, $1.00 to $1.60 is a very acceptable benchmark, while $0.20 is an average CRD for a fundraising program. This metric is especially important to keep on your nonprofit’s radar, as charity watchdogs use it as a rating variable.

Growth in giving

This metric shows your nonprofit’s increase or decrease in overall fundraising dollars compared to the previous year. To calculate growth in giving, take your organization’s net gains in giving and subtract losses in giving. Then, divide by total giving from the previous year and change the calculation into a percentage by multiplying by 100.

If your nonprofit’s calculations are indicating a low growth in giving, then this could be a sign to optimize your donor acquisition and stewardship efforts to secure more lasting support.

Growth in donors

Similar to growth in giving, this calculation measures your fundraising program’s growth in the number of donors contributing to your cause. To calculate this, subtract your total number of donors from the previous year from your total number of donors this year. Then, divide by the total number of donors from the previous year and multiply by 100.

According to the AFP Fundraising Effectiveness Report, donors appear to be down 7.1% from 2021. With this in mind, your nonprofit can strive to improve its donor acquisition strategy through more personalized outreach and multichannel communications.

Donor retention rate

This important metric indicates the number of donors who continue to support your organization year after year. To calculate your donor retention rate, add up the number of donors from this year and last year, then divide by the number of donors who gave last year. Multiply by 100 to change the number into a percentage.

Nonprofits retained around 29.9% of donors from the previous year. This benchmark serves as a reminder to take the time to engage and appreciate your current donors. By providing frequent updates and personalized opportunities to deepen their involvement, your organization can ensure that they remain invested in your purpose for years to come.

Direct marketing metrics

To understand the effectiveness of your nonprofit’s direct marketing efforts, take the time to consider these metrics:

Response rate for donor acquisition appeals

This metric gauges how well a campaign or appeal succeeded in attracting new donorsTo calculate this response rate, divide the number of responses you received by the total appeals mailed, then multiply by 100 to obtain a percentage.

For acquisition mailings, a response rate of 0.5% to 1.5% is typically considered adequate to excellent. To maximize your organization’s efforts, be sure to include compelling visuals and employ engaging storytelling techniques to catch your recipients’ attention.

Response rate for appeals to current donors

This calculation is similar to the previous one, except this one focuses on a campaign or appeal to seek additional support from current donors. Calculating this response rate is the same: the number of responses divided by the total appeals mailed, then multiplied by 100.

Make the most of your fundraising software to segment your donors and create messages that personally resonate with each recipient to boost your response rate.

First-time donor renewal rates

This metric indicates the quality and effectiveness of your organization’s acquisition channels and/or your welcome approach. To calculate, take your number of newly acquired donors from the past year that have given again this year and divide by the total number of newly acquired donors from the past year. Multiply by 100 to find the percentage.

According to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, 13.7% is the average renewal rate for first-time donors. This means only about one in 10 newly acquired donors tend to give again in the second year. Help prevent these first-time donors from slipping through the cracks by following up regularly and reporting the impact of their gifts.

Digital marketing metrics

With more people online than ever, it’s crucial to monitor the effectiveness of your nonprofit’s digital marketing strategy to ensure that you’re making the most of your efforts. Consider these key metrics to evaluate your ongoing performance.

Online giving percentage

This metric will give your organization an idea of the size and effectiveness of your online presence and campaigns. Online giving, which increased by 9% in 2021, has trended upward for years, so work to grow your program year-over-year to take advantage of this trend. To calculate online giving percentage, divide the dollar amount your nonprofit raised online by the total amount you raised overall. Multiply by 100 to turn the number into a percentage.

Blackbaud Institute notes that 12% of total nonprofit fundraising in 2021 came from online giving. Make it easy for your supporters to contribute to your cause by having an optimized donation page and promoting matching gifts online.

Email open rate

Email is an essential and efficient way to stay connected with your nonprofit’s supporters. This metric will indicate whether your content, particularly the subject line, is successfully reaching your target audience. To calculate this metric, divide the number of emails opened by the number of emails sent by your nonprofit, then multiply by 100.

Email click-through rate (CTR)

While it’s important for email recipients to open and look through your content, your nonprofit’s email CTR can reveal whether your ask or call to action is compelling people to respond. To calculate this CTR, divide the number of emails in which recipients clicked a traceable link by the total number of emails sent. Multiply by 100 to obtain a percentage.

M+R reports that 0.54% is the average CTR for nonprofit fundraising emails. To improve your nonprofit’s results, make sure your calls to action feature strong words that convey urgency such as “now” and "today.”

Donation page completion rate

To delve deeper into your online fundraising efforts, your nonprofit’s donation page completion rate measures the quality, ease, and efficacy of your giving process. To calculate this metric, divide the number of gifts completed by the number of click-throughs to your donation page and multiply by 100.

The M+R Benchmarks report reveals that 19% is the average donation page completion rate for nonprofits. There are several ways to optimize your giving process, such as by making your donation form mobile-responsive and offering multiple secure payment options to supporters.

Email unsubscribe rate

Your organization’s email unsubscribe rate can be useful for determining any areas for improvement in your email marketing strategy. This percentage usually increases with the frequency of emails sent, so this will indicate whether you’re over-mailing your supporters. To calculate this rate, divide the number of recipients who unsubscribed by the total emails you’ve sent. Then, multiply by 100.

The average nonprofit, according to M+R, experiences an unsubscribe rate of 0.18%. To gain more insight into your audience’s email preferences, consider sending out a survey to find out how often they’d like to be emailed and what types of content they’d like to see most.

Return on digital advertising spend

This calculation allows you to track the effectiveness of your nonprofit’s digital advertising strategy. To calculate your return on digital advertising spend, simply divide your net revenue by the cost of advertising.

M+R notes that nonprofit digital advertising spending is increasing, with nonprofits spending an average of $0.33 for every dollar raised online.

Social media metrics

Social media has become a popular way for people to connect with their personal networks, meet new people, and interact with organizations online. Therefore, it’s necessary to track how supporters are engaging with your nonprofit’s social media accounts to maximize your fundraising efforts.

Facebook followers compared to email subscribers

This metric allows you to evaluate the size of your follower base and compare it with other organizations. To calculate, divide your number of Facebook followers by the number of email addresses you have on file, then multiply by 100.

While this percentage will vary widely depending on your nonprofit type, the M+R Benchmarks report states that nonprofits had an average of 685 Facebook, 208 Twitter, and 160 Instagram followers for every 1,000 email addresses.

Social media engagement scores

Your nonprofit’s social media engagement score indicates whether or not your content is motivating your audience to take action in support of your nonprofit. The higher the engagement score, the more your current content resonates with your audience. To calculate this score, take the total number of users engaging (liking, sharing, etc.) with a post and divide by the total number of followers on that day.

Across all nonprofits, M+R indicates an average Facebook engagement score of 0.21%, with posts featuring photos and videos tending to generate greater engagement than those just containing links.

Donor sentiment metrics

While the previous metrics are quantitative measurements of your nonprofit’s fundraising strategy, it’s also important to gather insights into your donors’ personal experiences with your organization through surveys and face-to-face conversations. Their feedback can be vital for identifying ways to improve your content and strategy to better engage donors and secure their support in the long run.

For instance, ask your supporters how they feel about your nonprofit and what motivates them to give. Let’s dive into a few essential metrics and the questions you’ll ask to track them.

Donor nonprofit ranking

Determine how important your nonprofit is in the eyes of your donors by including this question in a poll or survey: “Where does our organization rank within your top philanthropic interests?”

Make note of those who rank your nonprofit as the top, or top three, on their list in your CRM. These individuals are especially important to retain and encourage deeper engagement from. Regardless of their response, however, be sure to always thank your donors and report the impact of their contributions to create a fulfilling experience.

Donor opinion on purpose

Another productive question to ask donors is: “From a scale of one to five, how important do you consider our purpose to be?”

Responses will demonstrate how well your organization’s purpose is resonating with your supporters. To strengthen this connection, take the time to educate your audience about your purpose and impact on your nonprofit’s website, in email newsletter updates, and social media posts. Delve deeper to find out what draws donors to your cause and appeal to these reasons.

Opportunities for more giving

To encourage further support from your donors, include a question in your survey asking: “Would you consider making a larger gift in support of our organization?”

According to the previously mentioned Fundraising Effectiveness Report, contributions from donors who give under $500 are falling much more than larger donor categories. Therefore, it’s not only crucial to retain supporters, but to cultivate mid-level and major donors who will continue to invest in your cause year after year.

The key to boosting results year after year

While these fundraising metrics provide a comprehensive overview of your nonprofit’s fundraising success, you’ll have to decide which ones are most important to calculate and track depending on your priorities and resources. Maximize the value of these metrics by using them to better understand how to appeal to your supporters and guide your future goal-setting.

Ready to Get Started?

    Donor Engagement
  • Nonprofits
  • Digital communications & marketing
  • Fundraising ideas