Sixth in a Series: 6 Questions Your Major Gift Plan Must Answer

  • Getting better and better at measuring the wrong thing.“Did our gross revenue go up from year to year?”
  • “Did the Major Gift Officer get new money?”
  • “How many face-to-face encounters did the MGO have with donors?”
  • “How many hours did the MGO work? And how many of those were out of the office?”
  • “How many new donors did the MGO identify?”
  • “How many cold calls did the MGO make?”

All of these questions are good and may be a measurement that has some meaning. But all of them are wrong as key performance measures for major gift officer work.
Measuring gross revenue won’t tell you about donor value retention. Just getting new money will take the MGO off of retaining the “old” money and upgrading and retaining those donors. Face-to-face is a nice idea. But it doesn’t tell you about the quality of the encounter.
Tracking the hours of the MGO doesn’t tell you about the quality of their work. Being out of the office is just that – a measure of how many hours the MGO was out of the office – totally meaningless.
Tallying how many new donors the MGO identified pushes the MGO away from current donors where the best net revenue is. And cold calls might be good in the qualification period if they are made to current donors. But cold calls on their own are not any significant measure of MGO performance.
You can quickly see how often-used metrics can tell you something. But they won’t tell you what’s really important. And if you haven’t figured out the metrics – if you don’t have a conviction about what to use, then you aren’t ready to start, revitalize or expand your major gift program.
This is a key point, because properly evaluating the return on your major gift program will be the solid basis for your decision-making.
This is why Jeff and I are constantly talking about having the right metrics. These six are the ones we think you should use:

  1. The total dollars raised during the financial period – this gives overall context. But if you don’t add the next point then all you’re doing is measuring gross dollars. So, you must also measure…
  2. Donor value retention – what did the same donors from last year give this year? This is a critical measurement.
  3. Meaningful connections – any MGO can connect (this is the face-to-face thing). But was it meaningful? Did it move the donor in the direction of fulfilling her interests and passions through your organization? If not, it wasn’t meaningful. This is a critical metric.
  4. Number of stewardship calls – notice that this is a focus on reporting back – telling the donor her gift made a difference – retention, retention. This is an often-forgotten point. You need to measure it.
  5. Number of asks – this one is a given.
  6. Working the plan for every donor on the caseload – This assumes that every donor on the caseload is qualified, that there is a goal for every donor, that there is a personalized plan based on the donor’s interests and passions and communication preferences, and that the MGO is working the plan. If there isn’t a plan as I’ve described here, that’s a major problem. And if there is a plan but the MGO isn’t executing on it, that is a major problem. That’s why you need to measure this.

Do you have all of these metrics in place? If so, you have positively answered the question: “Do I have the right performance measurements?” If not, then push the pause button on executing your major gift plans, and get these in place. It’s really important to your success and your donor’s fulfillment.
Read the whole series on Questions Your Major Gift Plan Must Answer:

  1. Do I Have Enough Time? 
  2. Do I Have the Right Donors?
  3. Do I Have the Right Offers?
  4. Do I Have the Right Talent?
  5. Do I Have the Ability to Stay Focused and Structured?
  6. Do I Have the Right Performance Measurements? (this post)