5 Ways to Measure Success

Episode Script: Hi! Welcome to the latest episode of The High-Five Nonprofit Marketing Ideas. I’m Julia McDowell, Marketing Strategist for Five Ones. The High-Five is my video series of marketing strategies and tactics for nonprofits and associations.

Today I’m discussing the very last step in any marketing plan—measurement. How are you measuring success? What does success look like? When you create a marketing plan and subsequent goals, you need to also identify what data you will consider and what the ideal number is for success.

Here are a few ways to measure:


This is an obvious one, right? One of the biggest things an organization looks at year over year is the total amount of money raised. I bet that number is etched in your head! Did that number increase or decrease from the previous year? Why? Setting a goal figure at the start of the year or campaign can give you a good number to work towards. You can also break this down in other ways like average donation amount, a total number of donations, or frequency of donations. But, it’s important to know what you’re aiming for in terms of total donations and whether you hit that number, surpassed it, or missed the mark. Do the math and you can set realistic goals and marketing efforts to support them.


It costs money to acquire donors so retaining them is key. It’s also imperative to know whether your donors tend to continue donating, for how long, and their frequency. This can help you determine whether you’re continuing to reach and satisfy your current audience. A large drop-off can signal a need for change in your marketing strategy, whereas a high retention rate can indicate that you should double down on your current efforts, or just throw your donors more love.


While retention is important, you need to continually grow your donor base as well because although it would be great to have 100% retention, we know that’s not realistic. Looking at the number of new donors you acquired over the year or a specific time period is a key way of knowing whether you’re targeting the correct audience. Look at data from past years and also consider what time of year you acquired the most donors. Then, think about what campaign you were running during that time to get an idea of what was more successful. It could be a combo of a lot of things, but as marketers, we need to test, test, test, then analyze, and go with the winning formula.


Social media and email marketing are two of the top ways to reach both new and current donors. Look at how your social media account grew over a period of time. Was there follower growth and a steady or increasing engagement rate? And for email marketing, what were the open and click-through rates? Knowing these numbers can help you create benchmarks for next year’s campaigns and also look at what content was successful in conversion.


Finally, the measurement all marketing and communications professionals should know, and be keeping track of, is awareness. Did you know research says that the average consumer needs to view an ad, or a communication at least 7-8 times before they’ll be interested enough to act? You may not need that much time with B2C transactions, but it definitely applies to fundraising. So, awareness metrics can really help you determine if your marketing is taking you the distance. What type of traffic are you seeing in your analytics? How are they interacting on your website? Are they watching your videos? For what duration? What type of mentions are you getting on social media? What is the sentiment? All of these can create benchmarks for your future marketing decisions.

Ok, I know this is a lot of math and calculations, but measuring your results is incredibly important in marketing and marketing planning. Want to know other ways to measure success? Check out my video Five Metrics to Consider Beyond ROI.