NonprofitTechnologyConferenceRecently, I had the chance to present at the Nonprofit Technology Enterprise Network Conference (NTEN) in Austin, TX — an event focused on data, CRM, and technology tools for better and smarter fundraising In case you missed the event — you should know there is a lot of talk in the industry about benchmarks and metrics. To help fill that gap and increase industry knowledge, our session (which included Mary Hackett of Delve Analytics) focused on the most impactful metrics, how often to look at them, industry trends, and what changes you can make to move the needle towards improved results.

On a basic level, some of the key benchmarks to evaluate include the following:

  • Percent of Active Donors
  • Attrition Rates
  • Retention Rates
  • Growth Goals
  • Donor Pyramid Distribution
  • Revenue Mix Across Multiple Channels
  • Pipeline and Donor Upgrades

Each of above metrics should be checked at least annually. Dips and deviations should be contrasted to industry averages. For hundreds of our NPO clients, Innovairre Communications does master file audits to evaluate these items and many more. Our clients usually find the effort invaluable. If you haven’t explored these statistics recently, you should.

Beyond rigorous and regular results analysis, your CRM system and processes are also obviously key to your fundraising success. At the NTEN conference I attended a session on how to select a CRM system. As a CRM provider, I found this really fascinating. It was like I was a fly on a wall. If you’re looking for a new CRM, below are some of my takeaways:

  • Ask all the users and stakeholders what they want in a system. Then rank them from Must Have to Nice to Have.
  • Don’t shoot for the moon. There isn’t a CRM system that meets every database need. You may need to have a separate case management system from your donor database system, and that might be just fine.
  • Understand how you need different systems to talk with each other, and find vendors or consultants who can make that happen. But make sure you understand the opportunity costs it takes to make that happen, and evaluate if it’s worth it.
  • Ask for few demos before finalizing your Must Have list, and finalize your list.
  • Talk with your peers at other like organizations or look for recommendations from places like TechSoup or Idealware.
  • Put out a request for information (RFI), NOT a request for proposal (RFP). RFIs are likely to ensure more of the vendors you really want will participate.
  • Once you have narrowed down the list to two or three favorite contenders ask for demos, but dictate to them what you want to be shown instead of sitting through their standard demo.

Data and technology are critical for every NPO’s success these days. NTEN is a great place to learn about both. I hope to see you there next year!

– Traci Prantner is a Client Services Team Manager and data expert at Innovairre Communications, which supports more than 500 nonprofit organizations around the world. For more about Innovairre, contact us at