Terry McManus

Fundraising Metrics: Don’t Just Count the Dollars

posted by
Terry McManus
Vice President of
Strategic Initiatives,

TGen Foundation

We all know the old adage “what gets measured gets done,” but knowing what to measure is easier said than done.  In most professions certain tasks are closely correlated to success, and resource development is no different.  Many frontline fundraisers – especially those more junior – often find themselves defaulting to the easier “busy work” tasks that can make one feel as though they are being productive, when in fact they ignoring their most vital responsibilities.  Frankly, we all fall victim to this from time to time.

Fundraising outcomes (i.e. dollars raised) are the most commonly used metric for evaluating fundraising staff, but they are not the only metrics that we as managers should track.  While the amount of money coming in the door is obviously an important measure, there are several inputs that should also be considered, which I would argue are as essential.  First and foremost, fundraising is about one thing – relationships.  Donors give to organizations they feel connected to.  Yes, people occasionally give to organizations after a one-time catastrophic event, because a friend asked them to, or they received a particularly compelling card in the mail, and so on.  But when it comes to recurring gifts that grow in size over time – and into very large major gifts – those donors have been carefully engaged and cultivated.  This level of relationship building does not happen by sitting in an office filling out reports, or by dutifully answering the deluge of internal email we all receive.  Meaningful sustained giving is the product of evocative communications, out of office visits with prospective donors, and from making strategic well-planned solicitations.  These must be tracked and evaluated.