3 Types of Donor Metrics that Your Database Might Be Missing

Aug 6, 2019

As a nonprofit, you already know that your donor database is among the most important tools at your disposal — and if you don’t yet have a dedicated CRM platform, now’s the time to invest in one!

A well-configured and well-maintained database will help you to continually refine your strategies across all aspects of your operations, most importantly your fundraising and marketing plans. By tracking key metrics over time, you can look back to analyze the performance of past strategies, quickly seeing what effectively mobilizes your donors and what doesn’t.

At DNL OmniMedia, we specialize in supporting nonprofits using Blackbaud platforms through custom integration, configuration, and development projects. If you’re already using a Blackbaud product like Raiser’s Edge, though, taking the time to build it out with the integrated tools your team needs isn’t quite enough.

You have to back up those customizations with solid data collection and management strategies, too! After all, that’s the purpose of using integrated tools connected to your central database — generating more data and reporting it in more intuitive, streamlined ways.

Many organizations, especially as they graduate from their very first database solutions, aren’t sure exactly what types of donor data they should be collecting.

Of course, the basic donor metrics (donor name, contact info, donation history) are essential for practical purposes. How can you make your database a stronger asset for long-term strategy development, too?

Your database should provide useful insights whenever you’re planning a new campaign or project, and it starts with tracking some additional metrics that you might be missing. We’ll walk through a few of the most useful metrics, broken down into these 3 main categories:

  • Donor engagement metrics
  • Giving potential metrics
  • Goal-related metrics

Ready to start making the most of your donor database? Let’s get started.

Donor Engagement Metrics

Donor engagement metrics include any and all data generated by interactions between your organization and its donors.

The basics like donor information (name, contact information, etc.) and transaction history are essential for your day-to-day operations, communications, and record-keeping, but they also give you a big-picture view of your performance from one campaign to another.

Understanding your interactions and how donors respond to them is the whole purpose of tracking donor engagement, and it provides some of the most immediately useful insights for nonprofits to refine their strategies.

If you’re moving to a new CRM platform like Raiser’s Edge (or if it’s time for a strategy update), take some time to think about what donor engagement metrics you’re already tracking and what you might want to start tracking. By tracking additional or more detailed engagement metrics, you can gain even more actionable insights on each fundraising or marketing push you conduct. Consider these examples:

Solicitation History

Knowing when and how much each donor gave to your organization is crucial. But do you make note of every time you ask them for support?

Asking donors for contributions too often, or too shortly after they’ve already given one, is a surefire way to give them a bad impression of your organization, so tracking a donor’s solicitation history can have major benefits for your stewardship and retention goals.

And this doesn’t just apply to your major or mid-level donors. You probably shouldn’t send generalized email blasts asking for donations to any donor who gave recently, regardless of how much they gave. Pressuring donors too much and too soon implies ingratitude for their support.

If possible, configure your CRM to include a solicitation history field on each donor profile. How exactly you report data here will vary, but the main point is to keep track of each time you reach out to donors and only when they complete a donation. You might find that increasing or decreasing your asks in strategic ways has clear impacts on your ability to retain donors.

Attendance and Participation Rates

Chances are you already track event attendance metrics, so you might be wondering how they differ from participation rates. Here’s what we mean:

  • Event attendance. Who attends which in-person events, and how often?
  • Campaign participation. Who engages with individual campaigns (in any context), and how?

The main idea is that fundraising campaigns are more complex today than they used to be, containing a mix of in-person events, online fundraising tools, and peer-to-peer elements, all being promoted across a variety of marketing channels.

Any engagement data your multichannel campaigns generate should be properly attributed to the campaign first and not sorted into a completely different silo. This gives you a more accurate view of the campaign as a whole, and then you can dig deeper into specific types of engagement that occurred.

Plus, it allows you to more effectively track non-donor supporters who nonetheless regularly engage with your campaigns and events.

If you’ve invested in Blackbaud peer-to-peer fundraising tools (check out our comparisons here) and are planning a P2P campaign leading up to an event, this is a great opportunity to make sure all the data they generate delivers as much strategic value as possible. Ensure your reporting tools are configured to tag incoming data from any donor-facing tools with the appropriate campaign.

Giving Potential Metrics

Next, let’s walk through a few examples of giving potential metrics that you might be missing in your donor database currently.

A donor’s giving potential is essentially their financial ability to make a mid-size to a major gift. These insights are determined from public records of ownership, stock transactions, and biographical data.

If your organization conducts prospect research in order to identify and approach potential major donors, your team needs easy access to any wealth screening databases that you subscribe to. Ideally, they’ll integrate directly with your database, basically merging the two. The Salesforce-DonorSearch integration is a typical example.

However, even without a direct integration, it’s still a very good idea to configure your database to include some prospecting metrics on current and potential major donors. This is particularly true of the data points that traditional wealth screening methods can easily overlook. Here are 2 examples:

Philanthropic Indicators

A prospect’s philanthropic indicators are just as useful (if not more so) than wealth data in determining a lead’s potential, and they should definitely be accounted for in your database.

As opposed to wealth data, which indicates a prospect’s ability to give, philanthropic indicators represent their likelihood to give. A prospect won’t feel inspired to make a significant gift to your organization if they don’t feel personally attached to your mission.

Common philanthropic indicators that you may want to track in your database include:

  • Previous donations made to your nonprofits and other nonprofits
  • Information gathered from social media and in-person interactions, like a prospect’s hobbies and interests
  • Involvement as advocates or board members for other nonprofits

Past giving and philanthropic involvement are the best indicators of future giving! Make sure your database is fully supporting your prospecting goals by tracking philanthropic data.

Once you’ve created fields in your database to include this information, you’ll be able to easily develop a lead scoring system that will save your development team a lot of time and effort. With more comprehensive prospecting data, you can even calculate the average giving capacity for different segments of your donor database and create brackets to help focus your efforts.

Employment Information

A donor’s employment information should definitely be tracked in your database. The world of corporate philanthropy can open up huge new sources of revenue for your organization, but only if you know where to look.

Matching gifts are the perfect way to get started. In matching gift programs, employers will provide donations to match those made their employees to eligible nonprofits. It’s basically an easy way for the company to support its employees and give back without needing to develop a full-fledged philanthropy program.

To start tapping into matching gift funds, though, you’ll need to know your donors’ employers whenever possible. Donors often aren’t even aware of their own eligibility for these programs, so taking the initiative to find out and notify them can help boost the chances that their matching gift request will be fully completed and successful. Explore the Re:Charity matching gifts guide for more background on these programs and the submission process.

Make sure you configure your database to store the employment information of donors when possible, and you’ll be able to get started in no time.

Goal-Related Metrics

Finally, it’s important to take the time to fully consider what success means for your organization. Depending on your current projects and campaigns, different goals might guide your work from one season to the next.

It’s important that your donor database can keep up. You should be able to configure additional metrics as needed in order to accurately measure your progress towards specific goals.

These goals will vary heavily from one organization to another, but one typical metric that many nonprofits rely on to measure success is their cost per dollar raised, or their fundraising ROI. Only a comprehensive database that includes a wide range of engagement and transaction metrics will be able to provide a truly accurate measure of fundraising ROI.

This metric is a reliable way to track the sustainability of your fundraising methods, but you have to be working with a flexible, configurable donor database in order to really benefit from ROI insights.

Alternately, you might focus on shorter-term success metrics that will help you measure your progress. For instance, if you’re investing heavily in a major event you’ll want to determine a few event-specific conversion metrics to focus your efforts on. These might include registration rates, the number of donations or bids made on the big night, or post-event follow up responses. It depends entirely on what your organization is hoping to accomplish with that particular event.


Your donor database should be an essential asset for your nonprofit organization and actively improve your ability to refine your fundraising and marketing strategies. By working with a customized database and a set of integrated tools, you can configure your data strategies to fully support any new goals from season to season.

Even if you’re new to using a professional-grade CRM platform, there’s no reason why you can’t collect and benefit from more data points than the bare essentials!

Carl Diesing