When it comes to getting to know our donor so we can be more effective fundraisers, the only thing worse than no information may be information that we ignore. Maybe we’re too busy, or maybe we really don’t understand what the report is saying. Maybe we are afraid that the reports will tell us what we don’t want to hear, or maybe…

Whatever the reason, if we are serious about getting inside our donor’s mind, wallet and heart, we have to use the information we have, whether it comes from surveying the donors, testing options in direct mail or measuring results on an ongoing basis.

Many donor management software programs come with a myriad of built-in reporting that can become overwhelming. On the other end of the spectrum is the organization with little to no reporting leaving them totally blind to what is truly happening. Truth be told, it can be daunting on either end of that continuum.

The secret to managing too much information from reports or creating a set of reports that is feasible for your organization is to decide what you need to know and therefore, what is actionable. Much of the information falls into the “nice to know” category, not the “need to know” category – and until you have mastered all you need to know, you’re better off setting aside anything else.

So what do you need to know? Begin by realizing that the reason for looking at reports is much like the reason for having regular medical check-ups – done often enough, they are mostly “wellness reports.” You have to know what’s not working to be able to fix the underlying problem rather than simply put a Band-Aid over it for temporary relief.

So, every month, be in the habit of looking at reports that tell you the following, going back three years when possible to monitor trends:

  • Number of donors who have given in the last 12 months
  • Number of new (1st time) donors and their sources
  • Number of new donors converting (giving a second gift) and what the conversion rate is for each month since acquisition (i.e., how many convert in 1 month; 2 months; 3 months, etc.)
  • Attrition rate/retention rate
  • Average annual value per donor
  • Key performance results (income, expense, net income, number of gifts, average gift, etc.) for every individual activity (e.g., direct mail appeal, eAppeal, newsletter)

Once you have mastered taking the information from these reports and using it to impact strategy, you can dig deeper. But if you want to get into your donor’s heart, mind and wallet, this is the minimum you need to review monthly to be sure you have a healthy fundraising program and donor file.