Measuring what Matters

The topic of metrics comes across my desk regularly. It may also be one of the more challenging topics in fundraising, as metrics is both an essential tool and one that is often misused, thus causing damage to morale.

In a conversation I had last week, we discussed my approach to metrics: Advancement leaders should create a system that incentivizes and celebrates performance, rather than a system that is punitive.

Think about the traits that support long-term, generous relationships: collaboration. engagement, and perseverance. Metrics can incentivize and reward each one of these. For example:

  • Some teams allow only one team member to take “credit” for a gift, which is counterproductive. Shared credit, when used correctly, incentivizes our teams to be more collaborative, to think about the institution first (versus the unit), and to elevate the role of donors in their giving. Not doing this creates silos and competition.
  • Building the donor pipeline is both essential and often neglected. Give credit for outreach activity and for qualifying (or disqualifying) prospects, and team members will more clearly see this work as a non-negotiable part of their role. As a result, they’ll be better positioned to remain persistent in the face of “no,” or resist silence when reaching out to new prospects.
  • Engagement leads to generosity, so measure and reward activities like donor visits and phone calls. By giving credit for this work, you’ll help motivate the team to stay focused rather than getting caught up in less important activities.

When we only focus on the financial goal, and not the activity that leads to the greatest generosity, we become more transactional in our approach. By creating a system that celebrates the hard work of building an authentic relationship that leads to generosity, we remove barriers that can stand in the way of team members collaboratively building authentic, sustainable relationships that reflect an institutional approach.

Metrics do matter. I believe in them and I used them when I led a team. But what I know from experience is they can be as effective in creating fear and poor behavior as they can be in motivating excellent work. And the only difference is leadership: what we choose to measure, what we choose to reward, and how transparent we are about those choices.

What metrics do you use that incentivize strong fundraising? And what might you change?

For a deeper dive into how data and metrics can support your leadership style, check out our recorded webinar Beyond Metrics: How Data Can Strengthen Your Management Style.