What Are the Numbers Telling You?

News | March 2, 2018

By: Luke Driscoll, Managing Director, CCS Fundraising and Kurt McKinley, Regional Director of Special Projects, CCS Fundraising

As fundraisers, data and statistics are always so important to us. But, data is simply a bunch of numbers unless you know what you’re looking at and how to interpret what the numbers are telling you. Your fundraising data can give you a plan, suggest hints of promising results, or foretell a very cloudy future. How you interpret data and translate it into strategy can make a huge difference in your fundraising performance.

Your first step is to start off with a sound and proven fundraising plan based on best practices and principles required for success. The next thing to do is to execute that plan, of course! Third, you should evaluate your results, analyze your effectiveness, and use data points to derive further success. What are the best tools to do this task? In addition to comparing your year over year performance, you should benchmark your efforts against both your peers and aspirational organizations.

Historically, the challenge for those of us charged to raise money within the association sector has been finding a source from which to benchmark and measure our current results. For our peers raising money for universities, there is the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) who provides helpful data. For the healthcare world, there is the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy (AHP) as an organization sharing plenty of helpful statistics. Even the K-12 set has the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) to guide it in determining how it is performing overall, as well as its peers and aspirational schools. Depending on your sector, you may discover valuable information from one of these resources, but when it comes to benchmarking fundraising performance, you’ll be comparing apples and oranges.

In collaboration with our partners at the Association Foundation Group (AFG), CCS recently released the 2018 Association Benchmarking Survey to help you use data far more effectively to evaluate your results, offer insights into how you might fine tune your fundraising structures, and measure your overall effectiveness compared to other associations and association foundations.

So, how do you use the information outlined in this report and translate its findings into impactful fundraising strategies for your organization?  Begin by comparing scales of operation. These provide an important context and are used by CCS when selecting an appropriate comparison group for more tailored analysis.  Then, review the return on investment metrics to discover if your organization is as productive with current resources as it could be.  After these two key steps, measure constituent productivity to others. To boost fundraising results, you will need more donors and/or larger gifts or a combination of both. This approach provides you with actionable data to approach your Board and/or CEO for any additional resources – financial or staff. You now know where funding gaps exist based on peer review and can use that information to build strategy and achieve your goals.

To dig deeper into the 2018 AFG Benchmarking Report findings, and get the most out of the study, we recommend purchasing a copy of the AFG Data File.  This file allows the user to customize queries and more closely compare your results to peer organizations.  Listen to what the numbers are telling you and get started today using data more effectively to improve your fundraising performance.

CCS is a strategic fundraising firm that partners with nonprofits for transformational change. CCS plans, manages, and implements programs that achieve fundraising goals and mission impact. Learn more about CCS.

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