Averages, medians and modes… Oh my! | npENGAGE

Averages, medians and modes… Oh my!

By on Dec 13, 2011


Last week, I asked you to run a few reports to measure your participants fundraising performance.  The big question was… Are my participant’s effective fundraisers?  So, what did you find out?  What stuck out when you looked at your metrics?

As promised, below are some metrics you can use to measure fundraising performance.  These are averages.  If you’re familiar with my methodology you’ll know that I believe there are NO RULES [defunct link removed] when it comes to fundraising.  However, there are rules when you look at averages.  Here’s my disclaimer:  Averages are simply a gauge.  Averages will always be skewed by top fundraisers and zero dollar participants.  This is true for all organizations.  When you look at your own averages and compare them to my Friends Asking Friends global averages, you’re probably going to say to yourself “my numbers don’t look right.”  I hear this all time, but here’s the thing… numbers never lie. 

Averages provide 10,000 ft view and it’s a good place to start.  Metrics can be overwhelming, so averages help to Keep It Simple.  I think that should be our new motto.  When starting a new strategy or trying to understand performance it’s easy to get wrapped up in the numbers and in the details, so remind yourself to keep it simple.  There’s always opportunity to dig deeper and learn more, but if you’re new data analysis or if you’re not a numbers person averages will provide you with a good overview of your current state.

Friends Asking Friends Benchmarks: the numbers below are averages from more than 2,000 events in 2011 without a registration fee or fundraising minimum using Blackbaud Friends Asking Friends.  Averages include individuals who raised funds and zero dollar participants.

Average Online Gift: $57.75

Average Amount Raised: $114.54

Average Amount Raised Online: $74.33

Percentage of Participants Registering Online: 76%

Number of Donations Per-Participant: 1.54

Number of Online Donations Per-Online Participant: 1.24

Average Number of Emails Sent Per-Participant: 24.39

Percentage of Participants Changing Personal Page: 12%

If you’re ready to dig deeper, then let’s look at medians and modes.  Again, we want to keep it simple.  Medians and modes are relevant when looking at amount raised, amount raised online and gift size.  Compare your average with median (true middle) and mode (most common amount).    In some cases you’ll see your averages match up with the median and mode. 

If you want to continue to dig deeper into your metrics look at: your averages without zero dollar participants.  You’ll notice that zero dollar participants bring down your numbers.   You can also create segments – based on role: team captain, team member, and individual or based on fundraising performance: participants who raise $500+ vs. $100.  You’ll notice that individuals raising $500 tends to send more emails, used social media tools, and personalized their pages.

WOW… What happened to keeping it simple?  Again, if this is the first time you’re looking at metrics, keep it simple with averages.  Use the averages to identify growth opportunities and then create tactics based your opportunities. 


Amy Braiterman, principal strategy consultant at Blackbaud, supports customers with their peer-to-peer fundraising events with a process she refers to as “data-driven strategy.” Amy’s data driven strategy analyzes how effective event participants are using online fundraising tools and takes those results to develop an event fundraising plan. Prior to joining Blackbaud, Amy earned her fundraising stripes managing events for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Alzheimer’s Association and Share Our Strength. She shares her fundraising know how here on npENGAGE, by hosting educational webinars and speaking at customer conferences

Comments (2)

  • Holly Ross says:

    Thanks for the great primer Amy. I think median gift is something we should all track for campaigns, along side average. It can tell you a very different story about your fundraising campaign. Thankfully, excel makes it pretty easy these days!

    • Amy Braiterman says:

      Hi Holly – I complete agree! Medians are awesome, they help paint a clearer picture of what donors are giving and participants are raising.

      I was working with a client today and their average only gift was $70, but the median was $25.  It’s interesting to note that the mode gift was also $25. While the average is a nice big number most donors are giving smaller amounts.

      Has anyone else looked at their averages, medians and modes? 

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