Meaningful connectionsThere are a lot of opinions about metrics in major gift fundraising. We believe there are too many out there that are easily abused. Obviously, if you’ve created a revenue goal for each of your major gift officers and have cash-flowed those goals by month, that will tell you and your manager how effective you are at working your strategic plan.
But in addition to revenue, at Veritus one of the metrics we want to track is how many “meaningful connections” you’re making with your donors every month. Here’s a qualitative definition of a meaningful connection:
A meaningful connection must be where the donor takes an action, says something that reveals a deeper interest in the organization, uncovers new information about the donor, or fulfills the move the development officer has pre-planned for the donor. Meaningful connections are strategic and not coincidence.

    • You’ll know when you’ve experienced a meaningful connection with a donor. You’ll also know when you have not. If you’re uncertain if the connection was meaningful… it was not!

A meaningful connection can be face-to-face, in an email exchange, or over the phone.

    • To clarify, simply seeing a donor, emailing with a donor, talking on the phone with a donor, or being at an event with a donor does not constitute a meaningful connection.

A meaningful connection is an action where the development officer has moved the donor in the direction of fulfilling his/her passions and interests to help increase revenue to the organization.
Now that you know what we mean by a “meaningful connection,” let’s ask: what’s a reasonable metric per month? We believe 35 meaningful connections (cultivation, solicitation, stewardship or combined) for a full-time Major Gift Officer is reasonable. Some months might be more, others less. It looks like this:

35 per month means 2.8 meaningful connections per donor per year, when you have a full 150-donor portfolio.
35 x 12=420

Things to Consider
It’s rare that a development officer hits 35 meaningful contacts consistently every month, but this is a more effective standard than 15-18 face-to-face visits per month. The face-to-face visit metric encourages prospecting non-donors, visiting donors who don’t have the capacity or inclination to give larger gifts, or visiting the same donors over and over without strategic intent for each visit.
Please note, some development officers are too strict in their judgment of what a meaningful connection is. Other development officers are too lenient.
Counting Meaningful Connections: Basic Rules

  1. Count the number of two-way contacts (F2F, phone, email, text) the MGO (or natural partner if there is one in the mix) made that moved the donor into a deeper relationship with the organization.
  2. Your count should include the step resulting in qualification of a donor (hearing back from a donor you are qualifying).
  3. Your count does not include simply calling the donor to make an appointment, or seeing a donor at an event.

Quick Check

  • Meaningful = Gained new information
  • Meaningful = Moved the donor closer to a gift
  • Meaningful = Helped the donor get more involved in the organization
  • Meaningful = A connection that was part of the pre-planned strategy for the donor

At Veritus, we believe tracking “Meaningful Connections” is a much better approach to quantifying an MGO’s performance, because it’s more donor-centered and allows the major gift officer to deepen a relationship with a donor based on the donor’s communication preference, not the organization’s preferences.
The objective of using metrics in fundraising should be to help the MGO develop strong relationships with donors; the metric is not an end in itself. (Tweet it!) Using “meaningful connections” instead of number of face-to-face meetings or phone calls each month helps guide the MGO toward building those relationships.
We use this metric because that’s what major gift fundraising is all about: developing strong relationships with donors so we can know their passions and interests, then matching them to all the amazing programs and projects you have that are changing the world.