There are a number of techniques for reporting on and analysing contributions. The contribution dashboard gives a quick overview of your current contributions, with breakdowns for months and years, which you can view as a chart or table.
That's a good start but there are a couple of ways that you can create more detailed and customised analysis using CiviCRM's search features and CiviReport.
Out of the box, CiviCRM comes with eleven contribution reports designed to help you analyse your contributions.
A contribution summary report allows you group contributions by different criteria including including the contact that made the contribution, time period, type, location and view summary statistics for these contributions. The accompanying contribution detail report is automatically called when clicking on any rows from the summary report. It can also be called on its own to provide a detailed report for a specific subset of contributions. These two reports can be useful for analyses such as what percentage of our income is coming from different fundraising campaigns, or from events vs. memberships, etc.
The repeat contribution report compares the total amount of contributions that contacts have made in two different time periods. As well as the totals, it shows the percentage increase/decrease. This report is useful for tracking contacts who have stepped up their giving, or who giving less than before. SYBUNT AND LYBUNT are two strangely named but useful reports that allow you to find donors that gave in 'some years / last year but not this year'.
Two reports, the contribution by household and contribution by organisation allow you to agregate contributions by household or organisation. This is useful for organisations that make use of these two concepts. For example, you can see all contributions that have been made by employees of one organisation and thank them as a whole, or see the contributions made by a particularly active family. These reports will also include any donations that are attached to the organisation or household record, for example a donation made by the organisation after an collective office fundraising event.
The top donors report provides a list of the top donors during a time period you define. You can include as many donors as you want (for example, top 100 of your donors).
The personal campaign pages report is useful to get an overview of the status of all personal campaign pages. You can filter by contribution page to see personal campaign pages for a single campaign and other appropriate criteria.
The soft credit report is useful for looking at all your soft credits and seeing who are at least partially responsible for other people's donations.
CiviCRM comes with two pledge reports that are useful when analysing pledges. The Pledge report and Pledge summary report work in much the same way as the contribution detail and summary reports. An additional Pledged but not paid report pledges which are not completed and have a due date in the past.
CiviCRM makes an important distinction between contributions and the people that made the contributions. It is important to appreciate the difference between the two when you are searching contributions. For example, if you want to send a gift to all people that made a contribution in the last year, what would be more appropriate? Contacts or contributions? The answer depends on whether you want to send two gifts to people that made two contributions and there is of course no right or wrong answer - it just depends on your approach. It is important to think about this each time to do a search.
The Find contributions search allows you to search based on contribution data and return contribution records. The Advanced search allows you to search based on some limited contribution data (and combine that with other contact information) and return contacts. You can also choose contribution from the column to show contributions rather than contacts.
Searching based on criteria gives you access to simple totals and also the option to export as CSV for further analysis.
If you can't do what you want with a built in report or search, consider commissioning a new report or custom search. Read the CiviReport section for more information.