KPIs for Nonprofits - A Comprehensive Guide to KPIs for Your Nonprofit

KPIs for Nonprofits - A Comprehensive Guide to KPIs for Your Nonprofit


One of the most important goals within a nonprofit organization is to make a meaningful impact. However, without a way to measure their efforts, nonprofits can struggle to see just how much closer each action takes them toward reaching their goals. They can use key performance indicators (KPIs) as a guide for measuring success, influencing strategic decisions, and improving their overall performance.

Every nonprofit makes a commitment to creating positive change within their community. KPIs can act as a road map in achieving objectives, such as increasing donor engagement, boosting fundraising efforts, or expanding the reach of advocacy campaigns.

A nonprofit needs to tailor its key performance indicators to their own unique combination of missions and initiatives. Whether this is tracking donor growth and total revenue or weighing up the value of email marketing campaigns and social media outreach, these metrics offer valuable insights into the overall sustainability and impact of nonprofit organizations. For instance, measuring the average gift size, donor retention rates, and funds raised per campaign can quantify success while also assisting with future strategies and resource allocation.

Strategic planning is an important task within the nonprofit sector, and relies on data-driven decision-making. KPIs act as the compass guiding these choices. In this article, we will cover KPIs and their importance in more depth, from tracking performance over specific time periods and analyzing trends, to calculating ratios and adapting to new challenges while making the most of the opportunities for growth. KPIs can empower your nonprofit to reach its full potential.

Key Financial Health KPIs, and Net Assets for Nonprofits

A nonprofit needs to fulfill its mission effectively. To achieve this, it has to be financially stable, so financial health KPIs will highlight the strength of an organization's finances and non-monetary resources. Fundraising efficiency and cost management are essential aspects of any nonprofit’s financial health. Measuring these will reveal insights into the organization's ability to raise funds and manage costs effectively, and any related areas that may need improvement.

Fundraising efficiency can be calculated by cost per dollar raised (CPDR) and the fundraising expense ratio (FER). These metrics will show a more detailed picture of the effectiveness of an organization's fundraising efforts, rather than simply saying how much was raised without acknowledging how much was spent. CPDR calculates the cost incurred to raise a single dollar in donations. A lower CPDR indicates that the organization can generate more funds with fewer expenses, indicating a strong fundraising efficiency. Similarly, the fundraising expense ratio compares fundraising expenses, which may include employee salaries and marketing costs, and the total sum of contributions. Again, a lower FER means that a higher percentage of donations can be used to directly support the organization's programs and initiatives. By using these measures, a nonprofit might show that they can manage limited finances, particularly at a time when people have less money to donate. This will encourage more people to support their causes, knowing that a higher percentage of the money will be used for their initiatives.

Cost management is an essential part of maintaining a nonprofit organization’s financial health, using resources in ways that maximize impact. Nonprofit cost efficiency metrics such as the program expense ratio (PER) and the administrative expense ratio (AER) can help to show how well the organization balances cost management with fulfilling its mission. PER assesses the amount of money allocated to program activities, which shows the organization's commitment to its core mission objectives. A higher PER indicates that the majority of resources are directed towards programmatic initiatives, creating a bigger impact within the community. However, the AER is the percentage of finances spent on administrative costs, including salaries, office expenses, and general management costs. To lower the AER, a nonprofit organization can make use of volunteers, goodwill from businesses who donate their products and services, and the media in promoting their cause.

Effective cost management is about more than just balancing financial ratios and using results to improve strategic decisions. Nonprofits need to gain the trust of their supporters, which means being transparent in their financial management, to show that they are making the best use of all their resources. Implementing cost-saving measures is important, but not at the cost of their mission. Some expensive and repetitive tasks can be streamlined by using technology to increase efficiency. This frees up paid staff, volunteers and supporters to concentrate on tasks that require a more personal touch. It also allows the money saved to be used to further the nonprofit’s cause.

KPIs for Measuring Nonprofit Performance

Program effectiveness and impact are important measures for assessing the performance of any business, but particularly in a nonprofit. These measurements can help the organization meet its mission goals. Although different initiatives may vary, the one thing all nonprofits have in common is their desire to create real change in the world around them and create positive outcomes for their beneficiaries. Evaluating program success through key performance indicators provides nonprofits with helpful insights into how well their interventions are working and whether they are on track to reach their goals.

Measuring program impact involves assessing the outcomes and effects a nonprofit organization’s interventions have on their target population, as well as the broader community or wider issue they want to address. This involves looking at the number of individuals served, or activities carried out, alongside the real-world changes and improvements as a result of the program. Outcome Indicators can show progress toward a desired outcome. This progress might be improved health outcomes, if the nonprofit’s funds are directed toward reducing the number of people with specific health conditions, or helping them to manage existing symptoms and reduce the strain on local health services. Alternatively, a nonprofit geared toward education and giving people better job prospects might judge their program’s success by the number of participants who complete their training, or find work in a specific period of time, or by increased economic empowerment in the local area. Other tracking indicators such as changes in behavior, knowledge, or attitudes among beneficiaries, can also be useful measures in determining the effectiveness of creating sustainable change through their programs.

Using beneficiary feedback can amplify the voices of those directly impacted by the organization's initiatives, while showing how they benefit from donations to the project. Asking for feedback from attendees can provide unexpected insights into their experiences, needs, and perspectives, helping nonprofits to adapt and tailor current and future interventions to meet their needs. This feedback can be through surveys, focus group discussions, or one-on-one interviews, depending on what they feel most comfortable with. Underserved groups may feel that nobody listens to their opinion, so asking what they think helps their voices to be heard and empowers them.

Feedback can be a reality check. Nonprofits want to serve the interests of their community, but may lack some of their lived experiences and realities. By actively listening to beneficiaries' voices, the nonprofit can discover areas for improvement, address gaps in service delivery, and increase the relevance and effectiveness of their programs. Involving the community in the process of designing and delivering programs will give them a sense of ownership and lead to bigger social change from communities.

How Nonprofits Can Measure Donor Engagement and Retention KPIs

Donor engagement and retention metrics are important for sustainable fundraising strategies in nonprofit organizations. Beyond encouraging donations, building meaningful relationships with donors will ensure their long-term support and investment in the organization's mission. This can be more than just through monetary donations. For example, donors who feel strongly connected to the mission may bring in other donors, or just help to build support by having their name attached to your causes.

Tracking donor satisfaction and engagement will provide valuable insights into donors' experiences and preferences, while also developing a culture of stewardship and loyalty within the donor community.

A nonprofit measures donor engagement by its effectiveness in building and maintaining relationships with its supporters. Donors who are actively engaged are more likely to contribute frequently, advocate for the organization, and participate in its initiatives. Therefore, if the only time the nonprofit gets in touch with a previous or potential donor is when sending out email marketing, this can deter them from funding proposed initiatives. Instead, communication that doesn’t ask for money can break up the requests to donate. This might include invites to events with special perks for those who have contributed to the cause, or updates on the work that has been funded so far.

KPIs for tracking donor engagement cover a range of metrics reflecting the donors' interactions with the organization. These will include donor retention rates, the frequency of giving, the average gift size, participation in events or volunteer activities, and the type of communication they respond to the most. Analyzing these indicators over time will allow your nonprofit to discover trends, areas for improvement, and ways to personalize engagement strategies, so that communication is based on donors' preferences.

Measuring donor satisfaction also provides nonprofits with valuable insights into donors' perceptions of the organization's impact, and how effective communication is. Similarly to gathering feedback from beneficiaries, surveys, and requests for feedback can help to assess satisfaction levels. For example, they may support your cause, but feel like one particular area doesn’t get enough attention. Or they may find your communication interesting, but want to be contacted with updates more or less frequently.

Fundraising performance metrics play a big part in evaluating the effectiveness of fundraising efforts and resource allocation. These metrics may include the total funds raised, the cost of acquiring new donors, return on investment (ROI) for fundraising campaigns, and the donor retention cost. Analyzing all of these measures, alongside donor engagement indicators, helps nonprofits gain a better understanding of their fundraising performance and make data-driven decisions to optimize their strategies.

Volunteer Management and Engagement KPIs

Nonprofits rely on the efforts of committed volunteers for so many tasks to reduce how much is spent and increase the donations and gifts that go directly to their mission. This is why volunteer management and engagement KPIs are so important. Volunteers play a number of roles from supporting organizational activities and driving impact, to furthering the reach of programs and initiatives. If your nonprofit measures volunteer impact, satisfaction, and engagement, this can help to create a more positive volunteer experience and increase the contributions of volunteers towards your organization’s goals.

As with most measurements, assessing the impact of volunteers involves looking at the tangible outcomes. How have volunteers’ efforts contributed to the organization's mission? The answers may come from metrics such as the number of volunteer hours, the value of their time, and the specific tasks or projects completed by volunteers. All of this helps to quantify their impact, so that your nonprofit can show stakeholders the true value of their work and track how effective volunteer programs are. and identify areas where volunteer support is most impactful. These key performance indicators can also highlight areas where more help is needed, or where a salaried employee is a better option. Volunteers kindly give up their time to support the nonprofit’s causes, but this means they can only afford to commit so much time and effort.

Also, measuring volunteer satisfaction and engagement will often provide insights into their experiences, motivations, and levels of commitment to the organization. If a nonprofit has a high level of volunteer satisfaction, this will increase retention rates, saving the time and resources that would be used in finding and training new people to replace them.

Volunteer engagement metrics, such as volunteer retention rates and the number that take part in training or development opportunities, are helpful for evaluating how engaged they are. Engaged volunteers are more likely to share their time, skills, and resources with the organization, support its mission, and represent the nonprofit and its activities within their communities.

Onboarding is an important part of the experience for those who freely choose to give up their time. In return for taking on unpaid work, volunteers want to feel valued and be part of something worthwhile. Delivering in-depth training, particularly when it can be used elsewhere, is one way of rewarding and including them. The number of volunteer applications received, recruitment cost per person, and overall satisfaction with the training and other resources provided can all be measured to determine how well they are treated. This, in turn, can provide insights that improve the organization's ability to attract and retain long-term volunteers.

Implementing and Tracking KPIs for Continuous Improvement and to Increase Funds Raised

Creating and tracking KPIs for monitoring continuous improvement is essential for nonprofits that want to increase their impact and the funds they raise. If you’re unfamiliar with monitoring and analyzing KPIs, the process can feel complicated and daunting. However, with the right tools and strategies in place, it gets easier. There are so many software tools and methods of assessing performance, which nonprofits can use to keep track of, analyze, and report nonprofit KPIs.

Performance management software is one of the tools more commonly used by a nonprofit for monitoring KPIs. This software enables organizations to store all their KPI data in one secure place where those with security clearance can easily access. This accessibility simplifies tracking performance metrics, and creates customizable reports and dashboards. Software solutions are built with users in mind, so they can be easy to learn, even for those with basic tech skills, which most people have these days. A software’s automated data collection capabilities and advanced analytics features empower nonprofits to make decisions based on the numbers, and drive organizational improvement initiatives.

Dashboard and visualization tools help those working within nonprofits to access KPI data in a format that makes sense to them. Platforms such as Tableau, Power BI, and Google Data Studio allow organizations to create interactive dashboards, charts, and graphs. This understanding improves the communication of KPI insights between nonprofits and stakeholders, and ensures everyone is working towards the same organizational goals. 

Besides software tools, the balanced scorecard method provides a strategic framework for organizations to match KPIs to their vision and strategic objectives. Categorizing KPIs into four perspectives (financial, customer, internal business processes, and learning & growth), helps nonprofits develop a holistic approach to performance measurement and continuous improvement. The balanced scorecard also increases the focus on leading indicators, which provide early warnings of potential issues and opportunities for proactive intervention.

Using frameworks, such as Scrum and Kanban, is another way to increase progress, and create continuous improvement cycles, so that organizations can quickly identify areas for optimization, and adjust KPIs as needed,

You may also encourage staff members to actively engage with KPI data, share insights, and work together on improvement initiatives. By doing this, nonprofits benefit from the combined intelligence and skills of their team.

FAQ's on Nonprofits and KPIs

What are net assets, and why are they important for nonprofits?

Net assets represent the remaining value of an organization's assets after essential costs are deducted. In short, this is the amount of resources available to support the nonprofit’s mission. Measuring net assets provides crucial insights into the organization's financial health, sustainability, and how much it can invest in future initiatives. Nonprofits often track changes in these over time to assess their financial performance and stewardship of resources.


How can nonprofits increase their total revenue?

Nonprofits can increase total revenue through several strategies, including expanding their fundraising efforts, building relationships with donors, applying for grants and sponsorships, and increasing other revenue streams, such as program fees or merchandise sales. Implementing targeted fundraising campaigns, making use of digital marketing channels, and maximizing donor engagement and retention, helps nonprofits expand their revenue sources and provide more support in the community. All of these are measurable KPIs.


What factors influence donor growth for nonprofits?

Donor growth for nonprofits can be influenced by various factors, including effective communication and storytelling, donor stewardship practices, organizational transparency, and impact reporting. Building on existing donor relationships and encouraging new donors, while using data analytics to identify and target potential contributors are all essential aspects of this growth. Introducing strategic fundraising initiatives and prioritizing approaches that value all financial supporters can increase donor numbers in the long term.

How can nonprofits effectively manage their net assets to support long-term sustainability?

Nonprofits can effectively manage their net assets with careful financial management, such as budgeting, cash flow management, and investment strategies. This may also include having salaried professionals who increase the value of the organizations by boosting the annual turnover by more than the expense of hiring them. Regularly assessing and adapting financial policies and procedures in response to changing economic conditions is also helpful for long-term sustainability.

Conclusion: Crafting Your Nonprofit's KPI Strategy

When creating your nonprofit's KPI strategy, it helps to understand the unique needs and objectives of your specific organization. Identifying key areas to focus on, and selecting relevant KPIs aligned with your mission, will lay the foundation for effective nonprofit performance measurement and continuous improvement. Throughout this guide, we’ve explained how KPIs play a critical role in assessing the performance of your nonprofit, and guiding strategic decision-making to create a meaningful impact.

Starting to track KPIs doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Begin small and focus on a few key metrics to help your nonprofit gain valuable insights and build momentum over time. Think of the process as a marathon where you need to pace yourself, rather than a sprint to the finish line. Prioritizing KPIs that directly meet your organizational goals and initiatives, helps nonprofits lay a solid foundation for future growth. This can be adapted as demands and resources change.

With technology becoming a more prominent part of our daily lives, embracing a culture of data-driven decision-making is a necessity. Data insights empower nonprofits to use KPIs to their advantage. Regularly spending time tracking, analyzing, and interpreting KPI data means that organizations can uncover trends, opportunities, and areas for improvement, enabling informed decision-making. 

The success of a nonprofit's KPI strategy depends on its commitment to learning, adaptation, and continuous improvement. Using KPIs as a tool for accountability, transparency, and performance optimization, allows nonprofits to achieve their full potential and make meaningful advancements towards achieving their mission.

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