I love metrics.  I love fundraising.  I love to put them both together to drive strategy.  But I’ve noticed that in some development shops that metrics are often utilized to produce a fury of activity and not actually drive strategy.  In fact, as I run donor data analytics for organizations across the country, I am finding that the more activity-based metrics a shop has in place, the less money fundraisers bring in.

Current trends in fundraising goals and fundraising ROI

The field of philanthropy has been forced to evolve over the last 7 years because donors were settling into a recession after the housing bubble burst.  As the field contracted and was compelled to shed some of its outdated perceptions about donor engagement and giving, we’ve made it to the other side smarter and better poised than ever.  Some major trends:
  • Programming is driving philanthropic dollars (as opposed to philanthropy driving program efforts) and partnership between front-line fundraisers and program experts is critical;
  • Development shops are trending toward smaller portfolios, and donors are getting much more specialized attention for longer periods of time (pre- and post-solicitation);
  • Non-profit sector is demanding HR/professional development positions specifically focused on the fundraising department to help with training and mentoring, recruitment and staff retention;
  • (here’s the biggie I want to focus on today!) Goals have been scaled back and are much more realistic and strategic, even the goal setting process has evolved (from a tops-down approach to a collaborative one).

Setting the right fundraising goals, means using the right fundraising metrics

Fundraising goals shouldn't be about creating hurdlesGoals and metrics are moving away from tactical activities (# of visits, calls, etc) and gravitating toward meaningful productivity with donors.  If you have a blanket goal for the team (i.e. 18 visits/month) then gift officers, in their attempt to meet quota, will count their meaningful visits but scramble to meet with anyone if they are short by a visit or two.  Do you really want your gift officers to spend two afternoons with two donors who are not the right donors, so they can meet their meeting quota? Here are 5 steps you can take to set useful and effective fundraising goals for your organization.

5 steps to setting the right fundraising goals

  1. Let your gift officer set his/her goals – a good leader allows their staff to spread their wings.
  2. Don’t set blanket goals around activities – tailor all goals for each gift officer based on experience, portfolio, and programmatic area of focus.
  3. Introduce metrics that encourage the right activity for the right reason.
  4. Set realistic goals (in my findings, high activity goals are often attained but revenue does not increase)
  5. Do more monitoring than measuring.  Analysis paralysis around activities is not conducive to dollars in the door.
The key is not to build hurdles for your fundraisers, break them down.  These five items will not only help you retain your staff but train your staff to stay at the strategy level, which is where the dollars are.