Something that has been irritating me lately is that I’m hearing how non-profits, worried that 2023 was not as good financially, are going back to using old metrics to “manage” frontline fundraisers.

It seems that we cannot learn from the past, so we have to continue repeating mistakes over and over. I don’t know, it feels like whenever our sector feels crunched financially, we go back to tightening the screws on fundraisers with ridiculous metrics.

If you’ve followed us for a while, you know that Richard and I have repeatedly written about how useless metrics are hurting fundraisers and focusing on the wrong things.

Many organizations use metrics that are focused on actions. Things like face-to-face visits, the number of calls, emails, percentage of booked gifts to proposal ratio, etc. These actions supposedly are tied mysteriously to revenue. “Studies show that if you have 30 face-to-face visits every month, the likelihood of making your revenue goals is 75% higher.”

Stuff like that.

What we have found, however, is that metrics based on actions like the ones I described above create a focus on the money, not building a relationship. And, just as important, they replace actually managing frontline fundraisers.

Somehow non-profit leaders have gotten it into their heads that the best way to manage a frontline fundraiser is to give them a bunch of metrics to hit, rather than sitting down with the fundraiser consistently and keeping them focused and accountable to their strategic plan.

I urge you, if you are a non-profit leader or manager, do not go back to evaluating and managing your fundraiser with action-oriented metrics that don’t involve building a relationship with your donors. If you do, what you’ll find is your fundraiser will now focus on the metrics, not the donors.

Trust me, in every conversation I’ve had with fundraisers that are evaluated with these types of metrics, they are ALL focused on checking off the box to meet a metric. Instead, they need to be figuring out how to build authentic relationships with donors, understanding their passions and interests, and creating inspiring offers that will bring the donor joy.

Contrary to what we’re hearing in the non-profit press and from some non-profit leaders, our clients are experiencing great success. They’ve seen increases in revenue and donor retention, and they ended 2023 with solid gains.

Why? Because frontline fundraisers are being managed properly.

We meet with them every week to help them stay focused and accountable to their strategic plan for every donor in their portfolio. We guide them in making meaningful contacts with donors that move the relationship forward. Together we focus on their cash-flowed revenue goals, and we have strategic discussions about creating offers that donors want to fund.

Then, at the end of the year, when we evaluate the performance of the fundraisers we coach, we know exactly if the fundraiser has worked their plan. And, if the fundraiser worked their plan, most often, they make or exceed their revenue goals. But, just as important, they have deepened their relationships with donors, and they feel joy in their work.

Those are the metrics that matter!