Setting Fundraising Goals: The Top Five Metrics
By Rhen Hoehn, Director of Marketing
Setting appropriate goals for a fundraiser can be overwhelming. Fundraisers have many different responsibilities, but they all lead to the same end goal - dollars raised.
Should we boil a fundraiser’s goals down to just the dollars raised for the year?
When evaluating fundraising performance, know that there will be a lag between taking action and seeing results.
It takes time to cultivate donors. Even when donors are asked for a gift, it may take them some time to consider the request, and then even more time to make the gift.
For this reason, when evaluating the performance of a development professional, we recommend putting a strong emphasis on lead measures.
- Lead measures are metrics that are known to produce the end results that we seek. These are metrics that we have control over.
The end results are called lag measures. We can’t control whether a prospect makes a donation, how much they give, or when they make the gift. But, we CAN control the actions that tend to lead to a prospect making a gift.
With that in mind, be sure to set goals each year for these measures:
- Donor Visits
Nothing in fundraising is more important than this metric.
If you were to fast forward 5 or 10 years and then look at your organization's fundraising results, you would see the fundraising success correlate with the number of face-to-face meetings made.
The more prospects and donors you meet in person, the more money you will raise.
Full time development officers should have a goal of 15 to 20 face-to-face meetings every month.
Some of your donor meetings need to be solicitations. The more specific each solicitation is, the more likely it is to be successful. Set goals to encourage yourself to make solicitations, especially at higher giving levels.
How many asks will you make at the $100,000+level this year? What about $50k? $25k? Set goals for $10k, $5k, $2.5k, and $1k asks as well.
As the ask amount decreases, the number of solicitations that you make at that level every year should increase.
- Dollars Raised
The dollars raised by a fundraiser are obviously the lifeblood of your organization, but there are multiple considerations with this measure. Dollars raised should not be the sole measure of a fundraiser’s efforts. This is especially true in a fundraiser’s early years.
For one thing, it is unethical to pay a fundraiser a “commission” on dollars raised, like you might pay a salesman on sales made. Commission-based arrangements can lead to bad situations for donors. For this reason, don’t make dollars raised the only metric in goal settings, especially if the goals will influence the fundraiser’s bonus.
Second, dollars raised truly is a lag measure. It can take 12 or 18 months to build a relationship with a major donor before making an ask. Once an ask is made, it can take even more time to see the resulting dollars come in.
While dollars raised should be one component of a fundraiser’s goals, it can unfairly penalize the fundraiser to have this number weighted too heavily in their evaluation.
For these reasons, we prefer to emphasize lead measures, the activities that we know will eventually lead to dollars raised, such as number of visits and number of solicitations.
- Pledges Made
Many of the larger solicitations you make will result in a multi-year pledge. Set a goal for dollars pledged for future years.
Since this number combines pledged dollars for the next several years, often three to five years, the goal amount should be larger than your goal for dollars raised in this coming year.
- New Monthly Donors
As monthly giving programs grow, they remove a lot of stress for the organization by leveling out cash flow.
Each monthly donation by itself may seem small and inconsequential, but as they grow in numbers, monthly donations are powerful. Over time, with effort, your monthly giving program may grow to cover your current annual fund costs. When that happens, any other donations from appeals, solicitations, and other activities really open up the possibilities for your organization.
Set a goal of at least three new monthly donors every month.
These five metrics are the best place to start when setting fundraising goals for the next year, but they are by no means the only metrics. Others that you might consider include:
- Growth in the number of households in your database
- Number of appeal letters and newsletters produced each year
- Number of donor events held
- Number of grant applications submitted
You may be setting goals for the coming year, but don’t just track your metrics yearly. Keep track of your numbers at least monthly, and be willing to adjust your goals as circumstances dictate.
Metrics in Fundraising Incentive Plans
In some organizations, these metrics are used as part of an incentive plan to determine the fundraiser’s annual bonus. To access a sample fundraising incentive plan spreadsheet, complete with examples of metrics, goals, and incentive points, click below and enter your email address to receive the resource.
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