Measuring Donor Participation by Giving Levels

Gift reports provide total dollars raised, a valuable summary.  But, how much can we learn about donor participation from total dollar raised?  Important clues can be found in two gift report areas from 2015-1016 research data provided by AFP’s Fundraising Effectiveness Project (FEP).

1. Donor Renewal Levels: 

Donor retention studies include measuring how many new donors acquired in 2015 renewed their first gifts in 2016.  These results were combined with returning donors from prior years for an overall donor retention rate of 45% according to AFP FEP data (see Exhibit 1).  Continued acquisition of new donors will be essential to replace the 55 percent who failed to give in 2016.  Further, a review of 2016 donors by giving levels shows a healthy rate of first-time donors at the three highest giving levels ($250 and above) at 47%, 60% and 56%, which suggests continued investment in acquisition at these levels also will be rewarded with positive gift revenues.

2. Donor Giving Levels: 

Donor participation also measures revenue from donors whose giving levels were the same as last year, gave more, or gave less (see Exhibit 2).  Upgraded donor participation between 2015 and 2016 was 42%, a   62% increase in revenue and a one-year growth rate of 108%.  Donors who gave the same (27%) were 13% of total revenue, while donors who gave less (30%) caused a revenue loss of over $1 billion (-53%) from 2015 giving, resulting in an overall 2016 increase in revenue of only 5% from these three key donor groups.



Donor attrition harms every nonprofit with the loss of loyal contributors and their valued gift support.  Greater understanding of how often donors give and their giving levels is essential to preserving their generous commitment.  For questions and comments on interpretations of these FEP analysis reports, contact Jim Greenfield at:

To improve your donor retention results, increase revenues and receive detailed donor giving trends, submit your data to the Fundraising Fitness Test at:

James Greenfield
James M. Greenfield, ACFRE, FAHP, is a 40-year veteran fundraiser who is among the first to measure fundraising results for effectiveness and efficiency. He can be reached at:
James Greenfield

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