Running Shoes Optional: Doing a Mid-Year Fundraising Check-In


On Memorial Day I ran my first 5k race in eight months, feeling uncertain.

I had come away from my previous race last fall feeling confident, after coming close to my personal record by six seconds. In the months since, though, a busy calendar hadn’t allowed me to train in the way I’d like.  After that lag, how slow would I be?

My race day result was about what I expected. It was an important benchmark, because I wanted to know how I need to train to get back into form for my next race. In assessing myself, I thought of management theory guru Peter Drucker’s wisdom: “What gets measured gets improved.”

Running shoes optional for fundraising assessments, but mid-calendar-year is a great time to take stock of your fundraising progress. How are you tracking against your goals? How engaged are your donors? Honestly gauging where you are in June helps you strategize toward where you want to finish in December.

Every quarter, and certainly at the midpoint of your fiscal year, compare your fundraising revenue results to the previous FY or two with these questions in mind:

  1. How many donors do you have?  How many of them are new? Recurring (gave last year but not yet this year)? Lapsed (have given in the past, but not last year or this year)?
  2. How many of your donors are renewing their gifts this year?  If you think you’re starting to lose donors, reach out to those who haven’t yet made their gifts.
  3. How are your donors feeling? What’s their average gift amount? Are their giving levels increasing, decreasing, or staying the same? If you can track donors by various gift ranges ($1-$249, $250-$499, $500-$999, and so on), you can see where to focus attention on increased donor communication or staff/Board outreach.

Are you on course with last year?  If not, what do you need to do in the remaining months to get back on track?

Maybe it’s prioritizing more personalized outreach to certain segments of your annual supporters or scheduling in-person meetings with key donors. Or perhaps it’s switching up your communications calendar and sending out a survey to your audience to get a temperature check on how they’re feeling.

It is also a good time to look at how your Board can help you connect with and steward your donors. Penelope Burk’s research in her book Donor-Centered Leadership shows that if a donor receives a thank-you call from a Board member within days of making a gift, 93% said they would definitely or probably give again when asked. What a wonderful way to involve your Board in building relationships with your donors that lead to better retention. 

Too often we (and our Boards especially) stay locked on only meeting budget goals. That’s important, but since fundraising is more than just asking for money, metrics that measure donor engagement help us know how satisfied our donors really are with us and if they will stay with us for the long-term.

Each time I put my running shoes on, I’ll think about not just my last race time, but now other factors like drills to improve my speed, my diet, and weight training I need to do to get closer to a new personal record. Your mid-year assessment is the perfect moment to take stock of where you are and what you need to do to finish the year with your own new personal best.

Interested in learning more?  Check out my Development Plan template and guide and join me for my Foundation Center webinar on July 24. 

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