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A Team-Focused Approach for Major Gift Fundraiser Performance Metrics

A Team-Focused Approach for Major Gift Fundraiser Performance Metrics

jen laurette“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”  ~ William Bruce Cameron, Sociologist

Guest post by Jen Laurette, Associate Director, Development and Alumni Relations at  Queen’s University

Let’s start with the None at All.

For various reasons, some organizations avoid using performance metrics among their fundraisers and instead take an all-hands-on-deck approach to collectively reaching the organization’s overarching goals.  I have worked for organizations that employed this approach – whatever you raised was seen as a win. While this can feel great, the lack of direct accountability can lead to status quo becoming the norm.  While staff retention was strong and we functioned as a team, who’s to know how much we may have been leaving on the table.

Let’s move to the Good in Theory. 

Theoretically, setting ambitious goals and holding fundraisers accountable should lead to high performing teams that raise significant funds, right?  Well, as it turned out, we did raise a lot of money overall. We did NOT however function as a team.  The pressure to perform was high and this led to low morale and unfortunate behavior – falsifying contact reports to meet goals, pushing donors to give more, sooner, feeling what you did wouldn’t be good enough, jealousy toward colleagues who were toping the chart (yes, there were charts at our monthly meetings comparing our performance against each other), and on and on it went.  Ultimately, this resulted in many staff looking for other positions, which also likely turned more than a few donors off.  Not exactly ideal for the organization’s long-term goals.

This leads me to what I would call the Perfect Balance.

This approach lies in the middle, and is the approach we use among my current team.  We have ambitious, but realistic long-term and annual team goals.  And within these goals, each team member has their own performance metrics.  We measure everything, except the aggregate value of major gifts received by individual fundraiser.  We focus on the number of quality visits, meaningful contacts, number of proposals delivered (yet even here credit is given regardless of donor response), personalized experience, and stewardship.  This has led to a workplace where everyone works hard, not because we feel pressured to, but because we don’t want to let each of the other team members down.  Collectively, we seek to achieve our goal, and so we willingly collaborate on gifts, routinely seek advice from each other, utilizing each other’s connections and volunteers.  And this isn’t just within the major gift team, our leadership annual giving and alumni relations team members feed our pipeline, constantly looking for leads and happily passing off larger would be donors to ensure we maximize potential.

But it isn’t just this approach to metrics that has led to the high performance team; hands on leadership is key.  As a manager, I have one-on-one weekly check-ins with my staff followed by weekly check-ins with my director. Together, these meetings, coupled with monthly campaign progress meetings, ensure everyone in the office knows where we are collectively in relation to our goals.  If it seems we’re falling short in one area, we’ll strategize on how to improve, we encourage each other, we celebrate wins, and ultimately we reach and exceed our goals, individually but perhaps more important as a team.    We are counting what really counts – placing high value on the EXPERIENCE of our donors AND our team members.

Jen Laurette is an Associate Director, Development and Alumni Relations at Queen’s University.  When she’s not talking with her donors, she’s exploring the world with her husband or relaxing at home with family and friends.