| 5 min read

Measuring Donor Engagement: 4 Key Metrics to Track

When a donor is actively engaged in your nonprofit’s mission and activities, you know that they have a strong relationship with your organization and the potential to provide lasting support. But how do you use data to determine how engaged your supporters actually are?

According to Meyer Partners’ guide to nonprofit analytics, you need to set and monitor the right key performance indicators (KPIs) to understand and predict your donors’ habits. These four common KPIs can help you accurately gauge your donors’ levels of engagement:

  1. Per-Channel Response Rates
  2. Number of Event and Volunteer Sign-Ups
  3. Donor Retention Rate
  4. Online Engagement Metrics

Keep in mind that the best metrics to track will vary depending on your nonprofit’s unique goals, experience, and donor base. Use these metrics as a starting point, then go deeper into your donor data to make your final decisions on what to track.

Learn how to measure donor engagement using key performance indicators (KPIs) such as Response Rates, Sign-Ups, Retention, and Online Engagement Metrics.

1. Per-Channel Response Rates

Nonprofits use a variety of communication channels to connect with donors, from direct mail to email and beyond. Measuring the number of responses you receive from each channel you use helps you discover which channels and types of messages your donors engage with most. 

Across channels, monitor how many donors respond to:

  • Fundraising appeals: Responses to fundraising appeals can include more than just donations. A response might be a request for more information about the campaign or a commitment to donate next time. Compare your fundraising appeal response rates for direct mail and email by segment to find out which appeals capture donors’ attention most effectively.
  • Requests for feedback: Whether you send post-event surveys or general questions to your donors, measure how many supporters respond and give their input. Not only can you gather valuable insight into donors’ interests from these surveys, but you can also find out how many donors are engaged enough to take the time to provide feedback.
  • Social media posts: If your nonprofit creates interactive social media content like Q&As or posts asking supporters to comment or share, keep track of how many people respond. 

If a certain channel’s response rate is much lower than your other channels, this is a sign that you should update your content or donor segmentation strategy. On the other hand, If response rates are low across channels, that’s an opportunity to re-think your strategy and add more personalization. Messages that are tailored to different donors’ preferences, interests, and engagement histories will be more relevant and therefore more likely to get a response.

2. Number of Event and Volunteer Sign-Ups

Event attendance and volunteer participation are major indicators that donors are engaged and want to stay involved with your organization. Keeping an eye on volunteer sign-ups is especially important because according to Bloomerang, 85% of nonprofit volunteers are also donors. 

If you see low numbers of registrations for events or volunteer activities, try:

  • Updating your marketing strategy. A low number of sign-ups could point to a misaligned marketing strategy. Think about how you’re currently promoting your events and volunteer opportunities and how you could improve. For instance, should you start marketing further in advance or across more channels? Do you need to send more personalized invitations? 
  • Analyzing your donors’ preferences. Maybe donors aren’t attending your events and volunteer opportunities because they don’t resonate enough with your audience. Analyze donors’ engagement history to discover which types of events and activities they prefer, then use that data to re-align the opportunities you offer with their interests.
  • Improving your registration process. You could be seeing low registration numbers simply because donors find it confusing or difficult to sign up. Make sure your registration page is accessible, easy to find, and straightforward. Limit the number of form fields, and link to the registration page in every promotional message.

Boosting event and volunteer attendance also gives you more opportunities to get to know your donors and develop real relationships that last. The better you know your donors personally, the better you’ll be able to engage them and retain their support in the future. 

3. Donor Retention Rate

Explaining Donor Retention Rate: Track and retain loyal donors for sustained nonprofit success. Formula included.

Even if you consistently acquire new donors, your long-term fundraising success will be determined more by how many donors remain committed to supporting your nonprofit over time. By measuring the donors you retain, you can monitor how many supporters are engaged enough that they donate to your organization again.

To calculate your donor retention rate, follow these steps:

  1. Take the number of active donors at the end of a specific time period (such as a year) and subtract the number of new donors acquired. 
  2. Divide that number by the number of active donors you had at the start of the time period.
  3. Multiply by 100 to get a percentage. 

For example, say you started the year with 180 donors. By the end of the year, you had 200 donors, 120 of which were new. You would calculate your retention rate like this: 

((200 – 120) / 180) x 100 = 44.4%

Keep in mind that the average donor retention rate in 2022 was 42.6%. If your retention rate is significantly lower than this average, or if you see a sudden drop compared to your organization’s usual rates, this is a sign to increase your donor stewardship efforts or take a new approach.

4. Online Engagement Metrics

The degree to which your donors engage with your nonprofit’s online content and communications can tell you how interested they are. Depending on the channels you use regularly, you might measure online engagement metrics like: 

  • Email open rate: This is the percentage of recipients who open your emails.
  • Click-through rates: In an email, on a website page, or in a social media post, this is the number of users who click on links out of everyone who accessed the page or saw the post.
  • Donation form abandonment rate: This metric calculates the number of users who start to fill out your online donation form but don’t complete their donation.
  • Website traffic sources: Find out which channels are driving the most traffic to your nonprofit’s website.
  • Social media interactions: Social media engagement metrics include the number of shares, likes, and comments, along with click-through rates.

If you see consistently low online engagement metrics, try improving your online content based on nonprofit marketing best practices. Focus on developing and prioritizing storytelling strategies, emotional appeals, and donor-centric language.

Visual: Key Online Engagement Metrics - Email open rate, click-through rates, donation form abandonment rate, website traffic sources, social media interactions.

As you decide which donor engagement metrics to track, choose metrics that will help you reach your current organizational goals. Make sure all metrics are specific, concrete, and easy to track. If you want expert advice, consider getting the help of a marketing agency that understands nonprofits. They can analyze your data, clarify your needs and priorities, and choose the best metrics to measure your progress toward your donor engagement goals.

For more of my favorite fundraising tips and tricks, check out my Resource page! Here, you can find relevant articles, webinars, quizzes, etc. about fundraising in the nonprofit sector. In addition, you can subscribe to What the Fundraising for ongoing conversations about how you can fundamentally change the way you lead and fundraise. And to learn how to raise more from the right funders using the Power Partners Formula, you are always welcome to join one of my free Masterclasses at malloryerickson.com/free.

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