Donor Insight. Fundraising Action.

Fundraising Metrics that Matter #5: Donor File Growth

Posted by Caity Craver on 07/2018

The last of the Five Vital Fundraising Benchmarks is Donor File Growth.  But  “last” sure doesn’t mean least important.  In fact, it’s an essential metric for spotting trouble ahead.

Growth Score thumbs up and downAt DonorTrends donor file growth is expressed as a number we call the Growth Score.  This simple metric evaluates the number of donors added to the file compared to the number of donors lapsing.

If your Growth Score is more than 1, your donor file is growing.  Less than 1, your file is shrinking.

Since donors are the principal asset for most organizations, this metric is essential to:

  • Balance acquisition and reactivation efforts
  • Target your greatest risks for attrition
  • Implement strategies for the prevention of future “bleeding” or donor attrition.

One of my favorite images to help organizations understand the math behind the Growth Score is the ‘Leaky Bucket’.  [this image can be found on page 13 in a free report called the Masterfile Audit and Action Plan  - or MAAP Report.  Calculate your leaky bucket starting here]

Here’s an example:

In FY18, this organization:

  • Acquired 10,000 donors
  • Reactivated 4,300 donors
  • Retained 55,000 donors [donor who gave in FY17 and gave again in FY18]
  • Lost 14,750

Did this organization’s donor file grow or shrink in FY18? 

 Growth Score and the leaky bucket The Growth Score is file is .97.  The donor file size declined in FY18.

Here’s the math:

Donors gained = donors acquired + reactivated

Donors gained = 10,000 + 4,300 = 14,300 donors

Donors lost = 14,750 donors

Donors Gained – Donors Lost = -450 donors

The donor file declined by 450 donors

Do you know if your donor file is growing or shrinking?   To protect donor file size, set a goal for each of the statements below.  Ensure that these goals have enough donors  to cover the ones ‘leaking out’ of the bucket. 

Fiscal Year Donor Category Goals:

Last fiscal year I retained ___________ donors [the water in the bucket]

Last fiscal year I lost __________ donors [the water pouring out of the bucket in red ]


I expect to acquire __________ new donors.

I expect __________ new donors from last year to give a second gift this year [also called new donor conversion].

I expect __________ existing donors from last year to give again this year [also called existing donor retention – the water in the bucket].

I expect to reconnect with __________ lapsing donors  [donors who have not given in 24 – 60 months]

I expect to reacquire with __________ deeply lapsed donors  [donors who have not given in 60+ months]

Fight donor attrition by calculating your Growth Score and ‘Leaky Bucket’.

And don’t forget to reach out to our DonorTrends team with any questions.  Our advice is complimentary as is the calculation of your Donor Growth Score.  Just contact us here.



Topics: Retention, benchmarks, donor file growth, The Growth Score

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