Major Gift Metrics: Winning the Numbers Game

Strategies for Success

Action is fundamental to fundraising success, but it is managing the right actions that can turn a mediocre effort into a record-breaking performance. This is the factor driving the growth of planning for a major gift metrics program. More than just a buzzword, metrics has been pushed to the front of the line as a way to define expectations for fundraising professionals, a way to communicate those expectations, and a system to hold each member of the team accountable.

The theories and methods of metrics have been used in the development world for decades, most commonly as a way to measure and manage progress in a capital campaign. Today, we can take this same information — proven over time — and apply it to the specialized focus of annual major gifts fundraising. As more organizations have moved to add development staff, managers are focusing on these key elements by establishing a unique metrics program for their specific circumstances.

The success to using metrics lies in knowing what to measure and how to use those measurements to achieve the desired results. In order to do this, consider the following:

  • What outcomes will benefit the organization, the campaign, and those served?
  • What tasks can be measured to ensure these results?
  • How can we best manage our staff (and volunteers) to make sure the plan is followed to achieve the desired outcome?

Defining the Rules — What to measure depends largely on the unique characteristics of each institution, but among the more common measurements are the number of face-to-face visits a development officer makes annually to qualify and cultivate donors as well as the amount of money raised per officer through targeted gift requests. Expectations for these metrics generally go up as experience increases and relationships with donors mature. Other commonly measured tasks include the number of prospects identified, proposals submitted, and the number and amount of gifts received.

Creating the Game Plan — Once you know the rules for your organization, it’s time to come up with a plan of action. Clearly communicated expectations and rewards will help create top-notch performances from each gift officer. A written plan works best, and can be created individually or as a team. A well-built plan will not only direct current fundraising activities, but will facilitate evaluation and planning for the next year.

The probability of completing a task increases dramatically if we commit to do it, set a specific date to do it, make a plan for doing it, commit to someone else that we will do it, and then report whether we have done it.

Playing to Win — Checking the scoreboard on a regular basis will keep your team on track to win the metrics game. Monthly prospect review sessions between management and development officers will provide an opportunity to assess goals, develop strategies, and improve solicitations. Depending on the needs of the organization, these sessions can be held more or less often. Review sessions also allow opportunities to coach team members to enhanced performance.

Golfing great and Ohio native Jack Nicklaus once said, “Achievement is largely the product of steadily raising one’s levels of aspiration and expectation.” By using these strategies, organizations can begin to move their major gifts programs into higher levels of professionalism, accountability, and return on investment. And in that environment, the mission and accomplishments of your nonprofit organization will surely come out a winner.

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For more on Major Gifts, Developing Strategies for Success, access Goettler Series Volume 9