If you’re reading this, it’s likely that you know donor retention is directly linked with the level of engagement your organization has with its constituency. It is one of those core insights we, as fundraisers, can all sense and feel – and, yes, maybe even talk about. However, knowing what we can do to measure and influence donor engagement is a bit more difficult.

But it doesn’t have to be.

Nearly every fundraiser knows that measuring donor engagement is important. Tracking the metrics is easy. The tricky part is compiling the resulting metric data into one central location.

Donor Engagement: a Three-Legged Stool of Key Perspectives

Think of donor engagement measurement as a three-legged stool. The three legs correspond to these three key areas of interaction with your constituents:

  1. Financial Transactions
  2. Actions and Activities
  3. Communications

Financial Transactions

Let’s begin with the easiest for just about any system to track: the financial transactions.

(Remember the tricky part is combining the results of all the tracking and reporting in a central location, which is easy to read and use!)

The chart below illustrates a few of the key financial transaction metrics used in the Bloomerang product. (Note: the “+” or “-“ represents how the engagement level needs to be adjusted.)

Automatic Engagement Factors

Actions and Activities

Our next grouping pays homage to the age old adage of “actions speak louder than words!” We all know how actions and activities play out in regards to personal relationships. The same is true for donor engagement. Now, we just need to quantify and measure those actions. Thanks to the magic of technology this process of measurement and consolidation has become standard for a few of the nonprofit CRM solutions.


The final leg of our stool usually provides the most instantaneous donor retention feedback and data. Since communication is happening on a regular basis, you can monitor, capture and utilize the resulting signs of increased or decreased engagement. I personally love how rapid this category of engagement can occur.

Everyone loves to share their opinion and should be able to, so you know what and how they think as valued constituents. The mere fact that your organization even asks goes a long way. Actually recording and using the resulting opinions places your nonprofit in quite an elite group.

A key survey question is finding out if they would suggest your nonprofit to others for volunteer and financial help. This is quite similar to the Net Promoter Score in the commercial world. If you do not know of this concept I urge you to read a bit further here.

Pulling the Donor Engagement Factors Together

We have now explored many key factors you can measure and collect to gauge donor engagement levels in your database. Although finding and collecting all of the key factors may seem like an achievement in and of itself, the real key to success and improving donor loyalty and retention is to combine all of these factors into a central area of your database or CRM system.

Only if the information is at your fingertips and usable for queries/reports, can it be a major factor in influencing fundraising success. This centralization can take many forms.

In the Bloomerang product, the various sections of the three-legged stool of engagement factors are pulled together to create a unique donor engagement meter. Not only is this a great visual stimulus, it provides a donor engagement value for queries and reports. Segmentation based upon this important criteria becomes easy, yet very powerful.

Virtually all of the recent research verifies a high level of donor engagement is directly proportional to and equally high level of donor retention. Hopefully, the various factors illustrated above allow you and your organization to take full advantage of this direct relationship.

Perhaps you will be fortunate enough to easily centralize and use the resulting data to increase your retention success.

Jay Love

Jay Love

Co-Founder & Chief Relationship Officer at Bloomerang
A 30+ veteran of the nonprofit software industry, Jay Love co-founded Bloomerang in 2012. Prior to Bloomerang, he was the CEO and Co-Founder of eTapestry for 11 years, which at the time was the leading SaaS technology company serving the charity sector. Jay and his team grew the company to more than 10,000 nonprofit clients, charting a decade of record growth. Prior to starting eTapestry, Jay served 14 years as President and CEO of Master Software Corporation. MSC provided a widely used family of database products for the non-profit sector called Fund-Master. He currently serves on the board of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University and is the past AFP Ethics Committee Chairman. Jay is also the author of Stay Together: How to Encourage a Lifetime of Donor Loyalty.