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4 Major Gift Metrics Nonprofits Need to Track

Major Gifts

Launching a major gift program can be a massive undertaking. You can ensure that your organization is doing all that it can to optimize the whole process by tracking success metrics (aka key performance indicators, KPIs).

You surely already have a set list of KPIs that your team uses for evaluation, so along with the addition of major giving to your fundraising initiative, add in major giving metrics. 

The four major gifts metrics below are a good place to start.

Major Gift Metrics

1. Asks Made

Definition of the Metric

Just as it sounds, asks made tracks the number of times a given fundraiser (or, all of your fundraisers) explicitly asks for a major gift in a certain time period. Nonprofits will typically set monthly goals for and be very actively engaged with this metric. 

To count as an ask, the fundraiser has to deftly and directly conduct the solicitation. A donor in the cultivation process cannot be recorded as an ask. The ask is a very singular moment. 

Reason for Using the Metric

A proactive ask strategy is the best way to ensure that your major gifts program grows. Tracking asks made on a monthly basis guarantees that ask frequency is always a part of the planning conversation. 

There's somewhat of a worry that encouraging frequent asks might rush the cultivation process and end up generating unwanted results. There are two main concerns:

  1. The fundraiser makes an ask too early. Due to the rush, the donor is not ready for the ask and turns down the fundraiser.
  2. The push for a sped up time line puts the fundraisers in a position where they are not asking for the maximum amount and are, instead, settling on a lower number.

Both potential problems are valid points, so your major gifts team has to be aware of the pitfalls and consciously avoid them. Yes, asks should be consistent, but they should never be rushed. At the end of the day, quality wins out over quantity. 

Method of Tracking the Metric

Asks made is a fairly easy metric to track. Fundraisers can include this on the team's major gifts activity spreadsheet. Just remember, only mark actual asks. Leave off any cultivation-in-progress. Those don't count yet. 

Unlike many metrics, asks made does not necessarily need to increase every tracking period. Over time, as your major gift initiative grows, your asks made should increase, but on a month-to-month basis, that won't always be the case. 

Set your monthly goals according to other fundraising initiatives, the statuses of donors in your pipeline, and upcoming events. Target reaching or exceeding those goals. (You can use your donor management software to help with this!)

Then, across a larger time period, use this metric in conjunction with other major gifts metrics to determine if it's time to raise the volume of your asks. 

2. Face-to-Face Visits per Month/Quarter/Year

Definition of the Metric

Just like you can't secure a gift without asking for it, you can't build a relationship with a donor if you don't meet with the donor. There are numerous ways to get in touch with major giving prospects, such as:

  • Calls
  • Letters
  • Emails
  • Meetings

This metric tracks meetings in particular because face-to-face time is an invaluable resource. To put things bluntly, major gifts are a big deal. Such an important solicitation warrants in-person time, if at all possible. 

Reason for Using the Metric

There are a few reasons why a nonprofit might not meet its major gift prospects in-person as often as is ideal. 

  1. Time and resources are always on short supply in the nonprofit world. Face-to-face visits take up plenty more time and resources than phone calls or letters do.
  2. There can be some solicitation reticence on the part of those new to major gift fundraising. Making an ask in-person is nerve-wracking enough, but that anxiety is compounded by the fact that the ask is for such a large donation. In those situations, a well-written, well-executed letter can feel like a far superior option.

Letters have their place in the solicitation process, but they can't replace the power of face-to-face ask. As far as time and resources go, as your program grows, you should be able to work in more meetings because you'll have a better sense of the process and greater funding. 

Although both points are valid, in-person meetings with prospects should be a priority, and tracking them is a good way to boost their priority level.

Method of Tracking the Metric

You will track this metric in much the same way as the asks made metric. One caveat, though, is that it could be helpful to both look at face-to-face visits on a broader scale, like organizational totals, as well as from donor to donor. 

Tracking how many visits staff members have with a prospect before making the ask is crucial in optimizing the cultivation and solicitation processes. Compare visit count to conversion rate to find the average amount of visits your prospects require. That gives you a concrete, researched goal to go after. 

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3. Amount Raised

Definition of the Metric

You're already looking at how much money your organization is raising year-over-year. This amount raised metric is just like that but specific to major gifts.

As your organization and your major gifts fundraisers learn the ropes and finesse the cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship strategies of major gifts donors, this number should concurrently rise. 

One final part of the definition to note...amount raised is sometimes referred to as gifts secured. 

Reason for Using the Metric

If there are problems with your program, you'll see the effects in this metric. You might not be able to deduce exactly where the issue is -- that's what the other metrics are for -- but decreases or stagnancy in major giving will tell you that you need to be troubleshooting in the first place. 

How can you judge the success of your program if you don't know how much money it has raised? With amount raised, you can reverse calculate the fundraising return on investment (ROI) and cost per dollar raised (CPDR), for example. 

Method of Tracking the Metric

As was mentioned in the definition section of this metric discussion, you can track major gift amount raised alongside your total amount raised. 

You will have set the parameters of major gift amounts prior to starting your initiative, so use those numbers as a filter to pull the amount raised total for major giving. 

4. Percentage of Prospects in Each Stage of the Donor Pipeline

Definition of the Metric

If you end up securing a gift from a prospect, that prospect will travel through four stages in your donor pipeline. 

  1. Identification: This time is when the prospect is determined. Using prospect research and a combination of other factors, your fundraising team will be able to isolate the best candidates for major giving. 
  2. Cultivation: Once the prospect is identified, your fundraisers take up the task of building a relationship with the prospect. Sizable donations aren't normally secured through a cold call. Your nonprofit has to go out and develop relationships with the prospects and learn about them before they can move to the next stage.
  3. Solicitation: This is the ask portion of the process. Solicitation usually involves a formal presentation and proposal. 
  4. Stewardship: Regardless of how the prospect reacts to the ask, stewardship will be needed. If a prospect turns down the ask, your stewardship afterwards is going to determine if that prospect stays engaged with your nonprofit or pulls away totally. On the other hand, if a donor says yes to the ask, your exemplary stewardship is your ticket to retaining that donor. It's the first step on the way to repeat major gifts.

This metric looks at the percentage of your prospects/donors in each of these four phases.  

Reason for Using the Metric

Tracking percentages in the donor pipeline helps your organization with its efficiency and effectiveness. 

Knowing how many donors you have in each stage tells you if you are moving donors along at the right rate and if you have any weaknesses by stage.

It's a great metric for evaluating the overall fluidity of your program.

Method of Tracking the Metric

To track this metric, you'll need to know the total number of donors in your major gift pipeline. In the identification phase, make sure you are only counting prospects for major giving, not your entire prospect pool. 

Over the course of your major gift efforts, you should see more and more supporters in the stewardship phase. Retention of major donors needs to be a major priority.

There are certainly more metrics you can be tracking for major giving. Pick and choose which of these make the most sense for you organization and complement the performance indicators you're already using for your other activities. We all have multiple ways we can improve, so we have to seek out an equal number of avenues for evaluation.

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Topics: Strategy Fundraising