Vetting for Value
The question was simple and direct: “What’s the best way to evaluate our fundraising programs for efficiency and effectiveness?”
The questioner was a nonprofit fundraising executive who had a wealth of experience and an impressive track record of success. Without a doubt, she knew her stuff. But despite her experience, she and her colleagues didn’t have a firm handle on what parts of their program were producing the best long-term results. They’re not alone.
Many nonprofit fundraisers don’t have a solid understanding of how their decisions are helping or hindering the effectiveness of their fundraising. And that’s because they lack the factual information they need to make wise
Net present value’s power
Every salesperson, no matter the industry, knows the importance of net present value. A car dealer knows exactly how much he can spend to get a customer to take a test drive because he knows the potential value, or NPV, of that customer. The insurance agent knows how much he can spend to acquire a new customer because he knows the NPV of a customer’s
premium payments. The same is true for fundraisers, because they should know the NPV of new donors.
Simply stated, NPV is the long-term value of a new donor in today’s dollars. It’s a complex calculation that takes into account the costs of acquisition and of cultivating or servicing the donor over time. NPV is the equivalent of net revenue, and it’s a powerful statistic to understand.
Determining the NPV of donors unlocks a huge opportunity to treat them
differently, even to ignore some potential new donors because their value will never exceed the cost to acquire and service them. For example, a donor acquired through direct-mail acquisition with an NPV of $225 can and should be treated differently than a special-event-acquired donor with an NPV of just $89. A donor acquired from outside List A with an NPV of $189 is less valuable than the donor from List B with an NPV of $269.