What Does Success Look Like?

Most nonprofit organizations count on strong year-end giving, even if their fiscal year ends in June or another month.  So it’s natural to be anxious about evaluating the success of your direct response fundraising program.

But what should you be looking at?  And when?


Annual analysis based on your fiscal year will provide you with the most valuable strategic insights, but you can and should evaluate tactics at any time during the year that you are concerned about results. 

For digital communications, you can monitor results daily and weekly.  For direct mail results, you need to allow more time (a minimum of 30 days after the mail date, but 60/90/120 days will provide you with the most accurate results).


For email, you should focus on three key metrics:

1. Open Rates

How many people opened your email message? Use the rate as a comparison to your open rates for your emails (not other baselines).  Which emails had the highest open rates in the past three months? 

2. Click-Through Rates

How many people clicked on links within your email?  This helps you determine if your message is truly engaging.

3. Unsubscribe Rate

This rate shows you how many people out of 100 unsubscribed from the email message you just sent.  Each email has its own unsubscribe rate.  What you should look for is any kind of increase in opt-outs/and unsubscribes.  A spike in rates means you have a messaging or strategic problem that must be corrected.

For social media, look at the metrics that measure impressions and engagement. Depending on the platform, you should track Likes, Reach and Engagement.

Direct Mail

You should track several results metrics for direct mail, including Response Rate, Average Gift Amount and Cost-Per Dollar Raised.  But one key metric that can help you identify success (or failure) is the Net Yield Per Thousand (NYPM) pieces mailed.  This is a great comparative metric that takes into account both the audience size and the performance.  Divide net revenue (N) by the total mail quantity (Q) then multiply by 1,000:  NYPM=(N/Q)*1000).

Next Steps

If any of your key year-end metrics indicate that you are not meeting your goals, maybe it’s time to take a fresh look at your overall strategy.  The seasoned team of fundraising experts at Meyer Partners can help provide insights and guidance to help your organization succeed in your direct response fundraising efforts.  Please contact us today.

John Payne