Drakes Bay Fundraising
A Next Generation Fundraising Company

Archive for the ‘Lifetime Value’ Category

A Dramatic Case of Lifetime Donor Value

Posted by Christopher Dann
Thursday March 24, 2011
Categories: Lifetime Value

Most calculations of lifetime donor value make no sense. We wrote about this in a paper – Making Sense of Lifetime Donor Value – a short while ago, noting that when the term first entered the language of fundraising it was meant to define both aggregated annual support over an extended period of years and the probability of extraordinary giving when a capital campaign came along or when a donor made her estate plans.

One could count on the fingers of one’s hands the number of organizations keeping records long and accurate enough to support such measures and have enough free fingers for a reasonably lively riff on an eight-string guitar.

But most organizations aren’t the New York Public Library, where keeping track of things is science and passion.

Last year the Library recorded bequests from 94 donors who at one time, and for some time, had been members of the Friends of the New York Public Library. Those 94 donors gave $184,844 in annual support during the various lives of their support and their bequests amounted to $16.9 million. While they were surely acquired as donors in times of lesser fundraising expense, even if we apply today’s average acquisition cost of $30, the lifetime values and returns-on-investment are metaphorically Himalayan.

Is the New York Public Library’s donor base typical? Definitely not. There are more and less valuable donor bases, albeit undoubtedly many fewer more valuable than less valuable.

But this awesome case from the New York Public Library reminds us to ask at least two questions:

Am I measuring lifetime donor value properly? If you’re in doubt, do check out the paper.

Am I investing enough in acquiring new donors?

To request a copy of Making Sense of Lifetime Donor Value, leave a message in the comments section below.

What’s the Lifetime in Lifetime Value

Posted by Christopher Dann
Wednesday March 2, 2011
Categories: Lifetime Value

We’ve had some really interesting discussions lately about measuring lifetime donor value. The partners at Drakes Bay Fundraising have 60 years of fundraising experience between them, and one of them is quite young. So while our view may predate Excel, it’s demonstrably not old-fashioned.

We believe that the lifetime of a donor is the same as the donor’s actual lifetime. So it follows that an assessment of average donor lifetime value includes the incidence of estate gifts.

Another perspective recently came to us from an agency we’ve been working with. It applies to organizations like medical and cultural institutions that have multiple opportunities to engage donors apart from their charity or philanthropy. In their view, lifetime value is the lifelong accumulation of the value of all that engagement.

We are reminded of something we have often said and written. We’d rather attract the person who gave $1,000 a year to the symphony for 25 years than the one who just gave $25,000.


Next Generation Fundraising and Drakes Bay Fundraising merged in the fall of 2013, bringing the longstanding professional acquaintances of their four principals – Tim Oleary, Carol Leister, Cindy Germain, and Christopher Dann – into a single company and combining the special resources and experiences of each to provide clients greater breadth and depth of service.

For more information about Next Generation Fundraising, click here.