How Do You Measure Your Performance as a Fundraiser?

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Simone P. Joyaux, ACFRE is recognized internationally as an expert in fund development, board and organizational development, strategic planning, and management. She is the founder and director of Joyaux Associates. Visit her website here.

And how does your boss measure your performance as a fundraiser?

I’m always stunned (and disappointed) when I hear that bosses and organizations—and fundraisers themselves—measure performance by dollars raised. I’m always angry when I hear that fundraisers must meet financial goals.

The institution sets financial goals and the goals belong to the institution, not to any single individual. Staff and board members together are responsible for reaching those financial goals. And those financial goals better be set in an appropriate manner. See my column of July 28, 2011, “Setting Realistic Annual Contributions Goals in 2011 (and Beyond).”

The institution must have other fund development goals, not just financial ones. Goals like donor loyalty (retention rate), which is more important than gift size. Goals like donor satisfaction, which is so rarely measured in our business but is so important. Goals like the quality of the relationship-building program, which includes donor-centered communications and extraordinary experiences. Goals like board-member participation in the process. And how effectively the organization identifies those predisposed to give and qualifies them as prospects. And how many qualified prospects are ready to be asked. And so much more. See the fund development plans—and measures—in my book Strategic Fund Development (Third Edition).

Assigning dollar goals to fundraisers seems so old-fashioned, so limiting, so inappropriate, so out-of-step with what really matters. Assigning dollar goals to fundraisers doesn’t adequately take into account the economy. Or the effect that other parts of the organization can have on fund development—for example, the quality of program and the quality of customer service. Or the level of participation of board members and the CEO in this important process.

With dollar goals flashing on the radar screen, fundraisers may cut short the relationship-building process. Fundraisers may take short cuts. Fundraisers may ask prematurely. And this violates good fund development. This violates donor centrism.

So how do you measure your own performance as a fundraiser? How should your boss measure your performance? How about some of these measures:

  • Ability to create realistic plans based on a comprehensive analysis of trends and implications
  • Understanding and application of the body of knowledge regarding fund development (see, for example, the CFRE Test Content Outline at
  • Ability to communicate effectively with internal and external audiences, both orally and in writing
  • Effective enabling of board members (see Strategic Fund Development (Third Edition))
  • Effective relationship building (which is proven not just with money!)
  • Diversity and depth of relationships built

One of these days, I’ll develop a performance appraisal process for development officers. But for now, check out the job description of the chief development officer, posted in the Free Download Library on my website. Check out the CEO’s job description, also posted in my Free Download Library. And check out the performance appraisal process for the CEO. I think you’ll find some good ideas there.

For now, stop the madness. Quit measuring performance based on dollars raised.

  • Morten Schmidt

    Good inputs. I agree. We turned the financial targets into shared goals for the whole institution, but also integrated diversification and consolidation goals, and then we transformed the funding goals into being learning, support/advisory oriented, and relationship management oriented.

  • Simone Joyaux

    Very nice. I like the concept of shared goals for the whole institution – not just in fundraising but in so many areas. If you have a chance, would you share with everyone a bit of what you mean by “diversification and consolidation” goals?

  • John Godfrey

    I agree, Simone – a fundraiser’s priority is building relationships and promoting a case for support. Dollars raised are a function of those two factors. It is much more effective and encouraging for fundraisers to specify metrics and KPIs based on these rather than dollars raised.

  • Susan Murphy

    Well put! Often priorities are in the wrong place and by shifting them to the right focus with the right people more can be accomplished. Fundraising ins a process not a finite goal.

  • Nathan Slovin

    I like your analysis, but need more like what is the standard for donor retention? What is a donor retention rate that we should shoot for?