Salsa scores and Year End Fundraising - taste the Geekery

Salsa scores and Year End Fundraising - taste the Geekery

Year end fundraising is a huge opportunity for most non-profits. A well planned drive drive at the end of the year can raise 5-20 times more (yes 500-2,000%+) than a ‘typical’ month. But you need to plan and prepare your drive carefully (more on that here on what really works for end of year online fundraising). It all comes down to this: asking exactly the right people for exactly the right amount of money at exactly the right time. So we’re getting together with some friends at Salsa Labs to profile one of the most powerful tools in your Salsa center for evaluating your best prospects and targeting year end emails: the Salsa scoring tool – and chances are, you’re not using Salsa scores right now.

Here’s an only slightly painful (in the awesomely technically specific) preview of what we’ll be talking about with Salsa scores. PS – can’t get enough of the Geekery? PowerThru resident Salsa genius Jon Wheeler has also laid out a more detailed, explanation of the complex Salsa scoring model below, and some other cool tricks for scoring. Check it out.

First off, Salsa Scoring is located in your supporter tab – if you need to turn it on you can request the package from your dashboard or contact

Salsa scoring in action
Now, when you first open up the scoring tool and try to make a “new score” you may feel an urge to drink heavily. Listen to that urge. Don’t try and be a hero.

No really folks, it’s going to be ok … let’s just break it down a little more. There are 4 basic parts to any score:

  1. The OBJECT – refers to the part of salsa you want to score – like Actions OR donations. We’ll talk more about why those are different and how to score them in a minute.
  2. The MULTIPLIER is like the starting value you give this action. One way to think of it, what’s the smallest unit of measurement for action in your organization? Is it signing a petition? If so, you might assign a multiplier of 1 to the OBJECT of Supporter Action
  3. The EXPIRATION and MINIMUM determine how low a score someone can have, and how fast it takes to get there. Most of us intuitively understand that someone who signed a petition yesterday is more valuable than someone who hasn’t signed a petition in years. This is how you give that difference a numeric value. If signing the petition is worth +1, what’s EVER having signed a petition worth? Maybe it’s 0, or maybe it’s some teeny tiny number like .001. If you think about donors it might make more sense. What’s the value of someone who JUST gave you $5 vs someone who gave you $500 2 years ago? I bet it’s not .001…..
  4. And finally there’s HALFLIFE this is the time it takes someone to change from the value=MULTIPLIER to VALUE=MINIMUM. A half life of 0 is like an on-off switch. You either have the Multiplier score, or the minimum score. It’s handy for making a broad statement about people – this person IS a member – but a little crude for telling what membership means to someone. An Expiration of 365 days and a half life of 180 would give you a score that degraded very evenly over 1 year before arriving at the Minimum value and staying there.

This is what all this would look like on a graph – with each color line being a different member, the score tracking on the vertical axis, time on the horizontal.

Simple Salsa scores

See simple!

Ok, maybe not so much. So let’s show you 2 examples of scoring.

  • One a simple version that answers the question “who are my current members”
  • Second a more complicated version that uses 3 different scores to track different kinds of members (donors, activists, email readers)

This is the simple example. Remember not to panic. Or feel free to have a drink. Maybe both…

simple salsa scoring
Here’s what’s happening on the screen:

  • Each row you see is a kind of action people can take in salsa – like signing a petition, writing a letter to the editor or making a donation.In our case we give ANY action the same “multiplier” meaning any time you do any of these, your score gets +1.
  • Then we set an expiration of 365 days and a minimum value of zero. Meaning if you take an action on day 1, one year later your score reverts to zero.
  • We also set NO half life, which means this is like an on-off switch – if you take an action on day 1, on day 364, your score is still 1, on day 365 it’s zero.
  • But because anything in the system gives you +1 lots of people will have a score value of 5, 10, 25 or 100.

And here’s the complicated version. You should now begin to panic.

First thing that makes this more clever and sophisticated – we’re using different scores to tell us about different kinds of actions.

More salsa scoring

Instead of an on-off switch, this is like 3 dials that you can rotate to see what LEVEL of action people are at in one of 3 categories – Fundraising, Action or Email reading.

Why do you care? Because there’s a real difference between someone who signs a petition and someone who gives $10 a month. And emails that tell people “we know you have given before” or “we know you signed the petition, but you’ve never donated” are really really effective, especially at the end of the year when people are planning their annual giving.

complex salsa donation scoring

So let’s dive in a little deeper and look at that Fundraising score, for example. Here, each row is a different piece of the supporters donation:

  • The top row adds a value of 10 for making a donation, no matter what size. If you donate $5000, you get +10. If you donate $5, you still get +10.
  • That top row also has an expiration of 365 and a minimum value of 5. So if you’ve EVER donated, you’ll never have a donation score of less than 5.
  • But it also has a half-life. That means the value doesn’t just turn off or on, like our simple example. Instead, it slowly degrades – in this case 180 days after you make your donation, the top row score will degrade by 50% – to 5. and then stop degrading since it’s reached minimum value
  • The bottom row ads a value equal to the AMOUNT of the donation *1 – meaning if you donate $5000 you get +5000, and if you donate $5 you get +5.
  • This also has an expiration of a year, and a half life of 180, but a minimum value of only .5 – that means that 180 days after I make a donation of $100, my bottom row score will be 50.

So, why do you care, you know, at all?

Imagine it’s time for the year end fundraising drive, and you want to target supporters who’ve taken an action, but haven’t given this year. If you’ve taken time to set up an activism and a donation score like we show above, it will take you all of 45 seconds to target the exact right people in your email tool – or query them into an exportable file for your volunteer or paid phonebank.

Here’s how it might look:

Salsa activist scoring

So to wrap up – Scoring is a slightly overwhelming tool, but it’s actually pretty simple. You need to set up a score for each KIND of action(the object) you value, and then assign each object a multiplier, minimum, expiration and halflife. Once you do – you just sit back and let the awesome knowledge flow over you until you’re ready to raise money or more precisely target your supporters.

Have more questions or need help using Salsa scoring for your organization? Contact PowerThru.