How Many Individuals Gave Money in 2016?

How Many Individuals Gave Money in 2016?

Yesterday was the 9th, which means that you have now received gifts from everyone who actually wrote their checks and mailed them on December 30th. So the fundraising year 2016 is now officially over.

Here’s what I want to know: How many different individuals gave you money last year? It seems like such a simple question, but I have had more trouble getting clear answers than I ever would have suspected.

Some of the confusion is just the nature of the beast. But much of it relates to this not being a very interesting data point for many people. It should be. Here’s why:

  • The number of people giving you money in any given 12-month period helps you predict revenue for future 12-month periods. Will you have enough money to conduct your business?
  • The number of people giving you money this year who also gave you money last year is one measure of a renewal rate. This is one instant measure of your fundraising program. 70% and less? You can do better. 75% or more? You rock!

How you count and what you count obviously matters, but even more important is being consistent, so when you use your “best judgement,” write it down, and use the same answers every year. For example, will you count restricted giving? (I would.) Regardless of your answer, use the same answer every year.

Here are some common judgement calls:

  • Memorial gifts: I would not count any gift in memory of someone who is deceased. I would count gifts that are made in honor of an anniversary or birthday.
  • Estate gifts: No
  • Corporate or business gifts: I would count business gifts for small businesses in which the business owner is the actual decision-making donor. I would not count gifts from larger companies. If it is too difficult to tell, don’t count it.
  • Foundation gifts: Same as corporate – yes if the gift is made by a single decision-making donor, such as through an advised fund or family foundation. No if from a larger public foundation. If it’s difficult to tell, then no.
  • Non-cash gifts: Count stock gifts, gifts of land, and tangible in-kind giving such as gifts of goods donated for an auction. (I would not count gifts of time, even gifts of professional time.
  • Non-gift cash: No – don’t count ticket sales, people who buy merchandise or things at the auction, or people who pay to run, bike, or golf.

So with those guidelines, how many people gave you money last year? And…..

  • How many were renewals from 2015 (first renewals)?
  • How many were lapsed from 2014?
  • How many were lapsed from years before 2014?
  • How many were first-time donors?


If you’re willing, let me know. I’ll be tracking this information all year, and I’ll regularly report on what we learn together.





Photo by Teddy Kelley courtesy of

Share this!
1 Comment
  • Heidi Habeger
    Posted at 10:09h, 10 January

    David, we run donor metrics for fiscal years, not calendar year. When we run our numbers in July, I’ll let you know then what we find.