Evaluating Fundraising Effectiveness


The pending end of the year makes now a good time to think about how you will evaluate your fundraising effectiveness in preparation for planning for a successful 2018.  Beyond the obvious measure of funds raised, you might consider evaluating how well you have set your organization up for long-term fundraising success by evaluating each step in the fundraising cycle: identification, information, involvement, cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship. These stages have important accountability considerations. That is, a gift solicitation begun today may not mature for many years yet the person working with today’s prospect provides a vital link in the chain of events that eventually leads to the gift.

Therefore, evaluating each stage of the fundraising cycle provides not only a measure of current effectiveness but an assessment of future potential. Measuring just dollars raised becomes insufficient for determining advancement successes. For example, knowing how many qualified prospects remain in the pipeline for future solicitation predicts future success and future needs. Using the fundraising cycle as a guide, I propose measuring success in each phase of the cycle with the following data points.

Stage 1: Identification

  • Number of prospect contacts

  • Number of prospects referred to prospect research or researched

  • Aggregate or estimated wealth of researched prospects

Stage 2: Information

  • Number of informational “touches” (e.g., newsletters, letters, etc.)

Stage 3: Involvement

  • Unduplicated number of people who attend organizational events

Stage 4: Cultivation

  • Number of cultivation contacts

  • Number of newly assigned prospects/year

  • Time to first gift from cultivation visit

Stage 5: Solicitation

  • Total funds raised (and by purpose if emphasis placed on a given purpose)

  • Donor renewal rate

  • New donor acquisition

  • Upgrading versus downgrading of donors

  • Numbers entering a special recognition category versus number dropping their support at this level

  • Total number of donors

  • “Market penetration”

Stage 6: Stewardship

  • Number of stewardship activities per donor

  • Amount of time spent in stewardship

  • Renewal rate


  • Time involved moving donors through the fundraising cycle

Of course, you do not want to spend all of your time measuring and none of it actually raising money so you want to balance your time spent measuring fundraising success and fundraising. For each organization, what to measure and how will differ.

What will work best for you?