The Most Useless Fundraising Metric. . .Usually

In any given year, most advancement shops that work smart and with effort will focus on increasing either gift income or donor numbers. Those two metrics – gift income and donor numbers – are, easily, the most important when assessing the success of any given fundraising year.

Occasionally, though, I’ll hear an advancement leader proudly lead with the proclamation that, “our average gift size increased this year!”  Typically, this means that they didn’t raise much more money (if any) as compared to the year prior and their donor numbers actually decreased – sometimes dramatically.

Average gift size is a not a direct nor a consistently accurate measure of effectiveness.  You can have an average to even poor year with donors and dollars and still see average gift size increase.

The truth is that most advancement teams do not implement specific strategies to increase average gift size – it simply fluctuates based on what happens with donors and dollars.

But. . .if you increased gift income and the total number of donors and increased your average gift size all during the same year, you’ve done something special.  When taken together, these results strongly suggest that your team strategically asked more donors for more money – a combination that, while sounding simple, is achieved by very few.


Programming Note:  For the last few years, my Gonser Gerber colleagues and I have talked about creating a more meaningful educational experience for higher education vice presidents.  I am pleased to announce that we’ve just started marketing the Community Colloquy For Private Higher Education Vice Presidents.  The Community Colloquy is designed as part support group, part reading group, part discussion group, and part professional cohort.  We will meet virtually for 3 days in 2021, and enrollment will be strictly limited to ensure group engagement.  Enrollment is on a first-in basis and is open now.

If you (or someone you know that serves as a private higher ed. vp) is interested in leadership growth and exploring a rich landscape of perspectives on important advancement leadership issues, this is the opportunity!


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