FOCUS IN PUBLIC MEDIA: Which Are the Key Membership Metrics Worth Tracking?

Key Membership Metrics
Date Published
Kate Ryan

There’re a bazillion metrics used in data analysis these days – many of them super-important: number of gifts, average gift amount, and response rate to name a few. Before you can really start digging into the pieces, though, an understanding of the whole pie is essential. Keep track of these numbers in an Excel worksheet and leave a place for notes. Devote a couple hours each month to completing a worksheet to track change. Include the following metrics.

  1. Active Member Count by Month – Pick the same time every month (right after you run renewals is a good time) and record how many Active Members you have. Make sure to include Contributors. Jot down some notes on why you think the file went up or down – this is important to be able to explain to the station’s leadership when they ask in December and when they ask again in June. Active Member count isn’t static!
  2. Monthly Retention Rate – Retention rate is the percentage of Active Members retained over a certain time period. Increase your Retention rate and decrease the spend on reactivation. Retained donors drive your growth in add gift and sustaining revenue. You’ll need 2 months’ worth of data: Active Members at the beginning of month 1 (A), New Members during the month (B), and Active Members at the beginning of month 2 (C). The calculation for Retention rate is: ((C-B)/A)*100.
  3. Monthly Churn – The rate at which your members lapse out is called Churn (Current/Lapsed members). How can you decrease the Churn rate? One idea is to track it for a few months, then set a goal for lapsed recapture that your membership service staff can rally behind.
  4. Average Member Lifetime – This number will become larger as the number of monthly-giving donors in your program increases. If you find a large drop-off in the number of sustainers, for example, at 17 months, you could introduce a benefit at 18 months to keep them on file. Not only will this increase the average lifetime, but it’s another opportunity for stewardship.
  5. Gross vs Net – Admittedly, I’m obsessed with this one. Because, um, GOALS. Here’s an example, and for simplicity’s sake, let’s compare Direct Mail and Pledge.

WDMW has an annual Gross Revenue goal of $500,000 for Direct Mail and $550,000 for Pledge.

Direct Mail expense including consulting, lettershop, print, and postage is $180,000. Pledge expense ends up being $250,000 with premiums and live production.

Let’s say both campaigns hit their revenue goal. If your goal is to hit Gross Revenue, Pledge wins. NET-wise? Direct Mail brings in $20,000 more.

Know what the goal is and get specific. Track both gross and net, and use specific results to educate staff in your status reports.

Remember to record your metrics on a monthly basis. Consider posting them in a public place so that your team can be apprised and motivated with actionable goals.

About the Author:
Kate Ryan
Account Director, Agency Services

Role at the Company

My role involves helping fundraisers find and keep loyal donors while making a positive impact in their communities. Every day, I apply whole-brain solutions to the work I do, using analytics, creativity, and a big dose of nerd to help our clients succeed.

What excites you about your work at AFG?

I love data! And having client-side experience with all three divisions of AFG allows me to rev that motor in a big way.

If you weren’t at AFG, what would you be doing?

Running an apocalypse-themed bowling alley and bar. Probably goat yoga. Managing my kids’ Youtube careers.

What are your hobbies/interests outside AFG?

Spending time with said children, acrylic fluid painting, traveling, bowling (really!), reading, and if there’s time after, a good zombie movie.

What’s something most people don’t know about you?

The first time I was ever in a plane, I jumped out. That one time I skydived was pretty cool!

What’s your favorite childhood memory?

As a kid, my family went to Tablerock Lake for our summer vacation. We had a small motorboat that was just big enough for the five of us, and my brother and I learned to waterski soon enough. One morning, dad threw out the ropes and off we went. We tooled around the lake for a long time, neither of us willing to take the first fall of the day. Dad kept circling the boat, forcing us to jump the wakes – still neither of us would take the dive. Finally ran the boat entirely out of gas just outside our cove. Dad got towed back. We had to swim.

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