“Reach the goal, no matter what!!”

That is the philosophy of many authority figures in many non-profits. And they maintain that philosophy because they really don’t know how to do it any other way. So “get the money at all costs” becomes the norm. And it chases donors and frontline fundraisers away every time.

I titled this blog post “The Negative Impact of Performance Measurement” not because I am against performance measurement. Quite the contrary. Jeff and I, and our entire team of professionals, LOVE performance measurement IF it’s done right.

And doing it right means getting rid of the mindset of getting the money at all costs.

I shared this concept with someone recently and they said: “Well, if you get rid of those approaches or management philosophies, then how do you assure that you DO get the money?”

Good question. Here’s how.

  1. First, understand that money comes from donors, and those donors are not obligated to give. This seems so basic, I know. But the problem with a “just get the money” philosophy or strategy is that it assumes you can do something that you don’t have control over. A donor will not give you the money just because you want them to. They have a voice and choice in the matter.
  2. Get it firmly in your mind that this whole thing with donors is not about money. Again, it doesn’t seem like this is a true statement because if you don’t get the money, then it IS about the money, right? No, that’s not right. The money flows in your direction because the frontline fundraiser has matched the ask to the donor’s passions and interests. And that is not about the money. It’s about helping the donor do what THEY want to do.
  3. Since both points above are true, then the focus of performance management and measurement is primarily on how the frontline fundraiser is doing at matching the ask to the donor’s passions and interests. Except for a difficult financial situation or the donor changing their minds about you, not getting the money is symptomatic of something else not being done right, which is why we measure the money against the goal. We want to be alerted to what is not right. We want to know if the frontline fundraiser is NOT doing the right things.
  4. Keep in mind that doing the “right things” boils down to two major categories of outreach to the donor:

If you fail at these two things, you will lose the donor.

So, why is that most donor caseloads managed by frontline fundraisers are experiencing annual losses of thousands or even millions of dollars?

Because the focus of the fundraising managers is on getting the money at all costs, which is why the performance measurement of those frontline fundraisers has turned into a negative and destructive force.

I agree that those managers and leaders mean well. But they don’t understand their approach is causing failure. And so, they keep the whole thing going, but the failure to meet goals leads to discouraged staff and fleeing frontline fundraisers, and it comes full circle to the very failure they were trying to avoid.

Here are some guidelines to help you make performance measurement a positive, constructive, and contributory program:

  1. Make sure any donor that is being managed is qualified. Remember, only 1 out of every 3 donors who meet your major gift criteria want to talk to you. So, find that one. This is key and it forms the basis of a healthy major and planned gift strategy and program.
  2. Make sure you identify the passions, interests, and communication preferences of every managed donor and develop a strategy to service those passions and interests, including asking in a way that honors the donor. Measure whether the frontline fundraiser has done that.
  3. Set financial goals for every donor on your caseload.

Don’t even think about measuring anything if these three items are not in place for every caseload your frontline fundraisers are managing. This is basic! But there’s more.

  1. Measure progress against the financial goals you set for every donor. But do NOT make this the main thing. Instead, treat missing goals as symptoms of other things going wrong. Remember that the lack of progress on the money is because something else is not right in the relationship or there is a factor outside of the fundraiser’s control. Find and correct that. There is one important nuance here. The key is that that frontline fundraiser KNOWS what it is even though they can’t do anything about it.
  2. Measure the right metrics. This includes ensuring every major donor has a plan, the fundraiser is working that plan, and the number of meaningful contacts. When we work with clients, we create reports and use our Donor Engagement Plan, which help the leader see what activity is happening and where donors are in the process.

Here’s the main point I am making here. While a monthly report will have a lot more detail on what is measured, the two macro categories of measurement are:

  • Revenue by donor as compared to previous giving and current goals.
  • Caseload activity that shows what is happening RELATIONALLY with every caseload donor.

As I said earlier, while #1 above tells you about the money, the only purpose of that telling is to figure out what is off and help you gauge how the frontline fundraiser is managing the relationship – that’s what the focus of #2 is. If you focus on that, your conversations with and attitude towards your frontline fundraiser will be positive, constructive, and helpful because you will become a partner with your frontline fundraiser in (a) building those donor relationships, and (b) walking with the donor in understanding why some donors are not giving what you expected.

This approach changes the relationship you have with your frontline fundraiser to one of cooperation, empathy, and alignment versus the aggressive and negative “where’s the money” approach.

Try it. And get rid of those negative vibes that reside in your current performance measurement program.