In a recent blog post, I wrote about the renewed interest non-profits had to revert to old, action-based metrics in times of financial uncertainty. It’s like watching a poorly scripted re-run where the characters never learn their lesson.

And boy did this spur a ton of conversation on LinkedIn!

So much so, that I wanted to shift gears from metrics and talk about something foundational, something critical to the success of major gifts: solid management.

Let’s be clear: the right metrics are IMPORTANT. They can offer insights, but they are mere signposts, not the destination. They should inform strategy, not define it. And here’s the crux:

Metrics are a crutch when you don’t want to invest in proper management.

Good management is the art and science of guiding people to achieve their goals. It’s about investing time in your team, understanding their strengths, and helping them navigate challenges. It’s about leadership that inspires and drives performance through engagement, not enforcement.

In mid-level, major gifts, and planned gift fundraising, solid management means understanding that your fundraisers are more than just numbers on a spreadsheet. They are the bridge between your organization’s mission and the donor’s desire to make a difference in the world. When you reduce your fundraisers to hitting a series of metrics, you’re missing the point.

Frontline fundraisers thrive when they have a clear strategic plan, coupled with a revenue goal tailored to each donor in their portfolio. This requires regular, meaningful interactions with you as their manager – not to check if they’ve met their visit quota, but to ensure they’re moving each relationship forward in a way that aligns with the donor’s passions and interests.

Weekly meetings with your fundraisers are not about micromanagement; they’re about maintaining focus and accountability. It’s during these times that you can delve into the nuances of donor interactions, offer guidance on crafting compelling offers, and ensure alignment with the overarching goals of the organization.

At Veritus, when we evaluate the performance of the fundraisers we coach, it’s not just about whether they hit their revenue targets for every donor. It’s about the depth of the donor relationships they’ve fostered and their satisfaction with their work. Have they brought joy to their donors? Have they brought joy to themselves? Are they retaining the donor in their relationship to the organization? Are they retaining the donor’s economic contribution to the organization? These are the questions that matter and they answer the deeper question about the quality of the relationship.

Our clients who ended 2023 with solid gains did so because their management teams understood this. They invested in their people, not just in tracking their activities. They recognized that a well-managed fundraiser with a strong strategic plan is more effective than any action-oriented metric.

So, as a leader and manager in the non-profit sector, I urge you to reflect on how you’re guiding your teams.

Are you leaning on metrics as a crutch, or are you investing in the kind of management that leads to true success in major gifts fundraising?

Remember, it’s the quality of the interactions, the strength of the relationships, and the alignment with strategic goals that will ultimately determine your success.

Can you commit to being a manager who empowers your fundraisers to build genuine, lasting connections with their donors? Can you focus on nurturing a culture that values relationship building over ticking boxes? That’s how you’ll achieve not just your financial goals, but the greater goals of your mission.