Measuring fundraising

If you’re just joining the conversation, you should catch up by reading Part One and Part Two.

Wow. A three-part column. I might have to create a monograph of these three columns and include them in my Free Download Library.

But that’s for later.

Now, let’s talk about measuring the performance of the fundraiser.

What does measuring mean?

Too often, “measuring” means metrics, and metrics seem to mean numbers only.

  • How much money did you raise?
  • How many donors did you talk with each month?
  • How many new donors did you bring in?
  • How big were the donor gifts?

But what about the qualitative stuff? How satisfied were the donors with their treatment by the development office? How donor-centered are your organization’s operations? How effective are your donor communications?

So much to consider when measuring fund development. So much to consider when measuring anything.

Read Jim Collins’ monograph Good to Great and the Social Sectors. Collins talks about qualitative and quantitative measures. He talks about inputs, i.e., money put into the organization to help raise money). He talks about outputs, like money.

But what about the outcomes? Always remember, money isn’t the outcome. Service is the outcome.

However, I digress. Let’s go back to measuring the performance of the fundraiser.

Performance appraisal ratings

What scales do you use? See below. Yes, these are somewhat “subjective.” But you’d best use them as objectively as possible.

  • Exceeds expectations: The individual is making an exceptional, significant contribution to the organization. This person constantly accepts responsibilities beyond those of the job held and continuously exceeds expectations regarding completion of work assignments. There are few areas regarding performance of job responsibilities in which she could improve.
  • Meets expectations: The individual is a steady, consistent, dependable performer and carries out duties in a fully responsible and effective manner. Meets and occasionally exceeds expectations regarding job responsibilities and completion of work assignments. Even though present performance is acceptable, there may be areas regarding performance of job responsibilities in which the person should improve.
  • Needs improvement: The individual falls below standards or expectations. It is expected that with the appropriate improvement plan, performance will reach a fully satisfactory level within a specified time period.

The regular stuff to measure for any employee

Right now, forget about fundraisers and fundraising. I’ll return to that topic later.

First, think about any employee. What are the basics that you expect to measure? I looked through an old file of mine that had samples (unfortunately with no attribution). And you can certainly look at the Internet for more ideas.

Here’s what I expect of all employees, things like:

  • Productivity (amount of work produced)
  • Quality (degree to which work is error-free and complete)
  • Reliability (absences, lateness)
  • Dependability (requires only limited supervision, or none if in a senior position)
  • Initiative (works independently, initiates work and completes it)
  • Creativity (introduces new and original ideas and sound courses of action)
  • Communications (effectiveness both orally and written)
  • Job knowledge
  • Working relationships (interpersonal skills)
  • Stability (withstands pressure and remains calm in crisis)

Those are just the basics. Here’s what I want for supervisor types…and definitely for senior staff.

  • Planning and budgeting
  • Organizing and directing
  • Designing, supporting, and managing change
  • Problem analysis and solution
  • Recruitment, supervision, and retention of other staff
  • Leadership (and we’re all aiming for Collins’ Level 5; also see Chapter 5 in the 3rd edition of my book, Strategic Fund Development, Wiley 2011)

I expect all my senior staff to be organizational development specialists. I don’t want senior staff that are experts only in their specific job arena, e.g., finance. I want them to know about governance, because they’ll likely be working with a board committee and that means governance. I want them to know a bit about fund development, because the nonprofit will likely require charitable gifts.

Visit the Free Download Library on my website and read my monograph, “Choosing Your Road: Organizational Development Specialist or Just Another Fundraising Technician?” Eliminate the term “fundraising” and substitute “just another finance technocrat” or “focused only on program and not interested in anything else.”

Check out the performance appraisal process for the CEO, also located in my Free Download Library. You’ll find lots of performance measures there that just require a bit of modification to apply to any senior staff person. For example:

  • Assures a work environment that recruits, retains, and supports quality staff and volunteers. (You don’t even have to change anything in that performance measure.)
  • Works effectively with the board, its officers and committees to define their roles and responsibilities. Helps evaluate their performance regularly. (That didn’t need any changes either.)
  • Fosters a culture of philanthropy and assures a donor-centered organization that nurtures loyalty through a comprehensive relationship-building program. (For all senior staff, I’d edit this as follows: Helps foster a culture of philanthropy and operation as a donor-centered organization.)

I insist/demand/expect my senior staff to effectively enable other staff and volunteers. You’ll find my list of enabling functions in my Free Download Library. You’ll find a short description of each function in my book, Firing Lousy Board Members—And Helping the Others Succeed. And you’ll find comprehensive details and examples in my book, Strategic Fund Development, 3rd edition.

Of course, I expect all senior staff to keep informed of developments in the organization’s mission area, general business management, governance, philanthropy, and so forth.

Okay. Okay. Now you want fundraising performance measures for your fundraiser.

So here are some of my favorites. You can also visit my Free Download Library and review the job description for the chief development officer.

Of course, you’ll apply the same performance ratings as noted earlier in this column. And you’ll work with the fundraiser to outline any necessary performance enhancements before the next appraisal.

  1. Fosters the development of a culture of philanthropy and a donor-centered organization
  2. Keeps CEO, board, and board’s fund development committee fully informed regarding the status of fund development and all internal and external factors influencing effectiveness and productivity
  3. Recommends appropriate measures, both qualitative and quantitative, to the CEO and board regarding fund development
  4. Partners effectively with other agency departments, staff, board, board members, and committees to assure the organization’s relevancy, effectiveness, and results
  5. Assures that appropriate policies, standards and controls, systems and procedures, materials, and resources are in place to guide and evaluate the fund development operation
  6. Provides general oversight of all fund development activities, manages day-to-day operations, and assures a smoothly functioning, efficient operation
  7. Assures a comprehensive gift management/CRM system, analysis, and reporting to support quality decision-making in philanthropy and fund development
  8. Helps ensure (and enable) board members to carry out philanthropy and fund development activities
  9. Guides the process to identify, cultivate, and solicit donors and prospects
  10. Assures a top-notch relationship-building program that incorporates donor-centered communications and extraordinary experiences to build loyalty and lifetime value
  11. Provides training and information, advice and counsel for all fund development activities of the organization

I suspect that what you really want to do—the boss and the board—is to fire the fundraiser that didn’t make goal. Really? How about figuring out why the person didn’t make goal?

Make sure you pay attention to the variables that affect whether the fundraiser can make the goal. And probe a bit. For example:

  • Dead donor, and no replacement at that level yet: How robust is your organization’s relationship-building program? What is the process for identifying the predisposed, qualifying them as prospects (or not), nurturing the relationship, etc.? Are your board members helping? Is your chief development officer enabling people effectively, planning well, etc.?
  • Bad economy, or even a recession: Did your organization budget more charitable income during this time? Did your chief development officer recommend not doing so? What are your loyalty rates? Are you retaining lots of your donors, even though they aren’t giving more?
  • Corporate donor goes out of business, or relocates, or changes its giving focus: Did your chief development officer stay in touch with the corporation—and then warn you that the corporation was changing its focus? Do you have a sufficiently diverse donor base that you are not overly reliant on any single source or solicitation strategy?
  • Do you pay attention to your fundraiser when she says that the current database doesn’t provide sufficient information to make good decisions? Do you listen when your fundraiser recommends a lower charitable contributions goal during budgeting, explaining why?
  • As the boss and board, do you support your fundraising team when they tell you what the body of knowledge says, what the research means? Do you make sure that the entire organizational system supports charitable giving?

The key is: What can you hold the fundraiser accountable for—and what can’t you hold the fundraising accountable for?

Just look back at my theatre stories in Part 1 of this three-part column. Read CompassPoint’s UnderDeveloped report and my commentary on it, located in the Free Download Library on my website.

Now you tell me…what are you going to measure?

Because money isn’t the only measure. Money is not even the best measure.