Are You Tracking? The Real Power of Metrics

Are you tracking? The real power of Metrics…

By Andrew Robison and Jamie Cappetta, President of Our Savior Parish and Caruso Catholic Center at the University of Southern California 

In the business world, setting goals, creating metrics and tracking progress is the name of the game if you want to succeed. Imagine if a Fortune 500 CEO was asked to discuss his or her goals for the upcoming fiscal year. What would the response be if they answered,

“We’ll probably sell more than we did last year. But I don’t really know how many we sold last year, so I can’t tell you how many we need to sell this year. And I don’t really know what we did that worked well this year, so I can’t tell you what we’re going to do better this year to sell more. And to be honest, why we did those things that I think worked well is a bit of a mystery to me, so I can’t tell you why we’re going to do those activities that I think helped us sell more.”

It sounds a bit ridiculous, and maybe I’m speaking in hyperbole, but hopefully you get my point. Successful companies know how, what and why they do the things that they do and, in most cases, every leader in the organization can provide an answer if asked to explain what made them successful and how they’ll continue that level of success.

But how many nonprofit directors and priests can say the same about their ministry? The truth is that not many spend the time to study what they do well, how they can improve next year and why they’ll be better off in the future. Nonprofit leaders are just not often wired that way. The question, however, is whether anyone in ministry doing it?

Recently, I sat down with Jamie Cappetta, President of Our Savior Parish and USC Caruso Catholic Center to discuss his work at USC. One topic that we covered was the tracking system that they have implemented at the Catholic Center and how being a metrics mission-driven organization has transformed their ability to grow their ministry and convey that growth to their benefactors.

A lightly edited version of our conversation follows. You can get the full episode at


I know that you’re a big believer in setting goals and tracking metrics across all of ministry. Tell me about your process for setting goals and how do you track them throughout the year.


We have a team of directors who oversee the different departments. Each year, these directors share with me and Fr. Richard what their goals are for the year. These goals are based on prior year numbers – what worked and what didn’t – and where they dream of going in the year ahead. So we start from a place that energizes the person because I believe that if they are energized by their goals, they’ll be more successful.

Metrics are not just counting. Counting is a piece of everything that we do, but so are surveys, one-on-one conversations, small group assessments and the intangibles: conversations with students and “off the cuff” discussions. By putting together these metrics and the conversations, you can begin to put together a framework of “Are we on the right track or not?” If we are not on the right track, we want to know it. It’s important for us to hear the negative, and we are nimble enough that we can try something different.


Let’s dive into those metrics and goals. What is one area that you are setting goals and can you share what some actual goals are?


For our marketing efforts, goals are all about online engagement and in person engagement. How many folks are watching our Livestream? How many folks are following us? How many have given us 4- and 5-star ratings? Basically, all of the areas that our marketing team decides are important for gauging success. That’s the online component. Then they have the physical piece. This year, we had a tent on campus. They’ve noticed an uptick in participation in students being willing to visit the tent to ask questions.

Advancement metrics are a little easier because they are based on numbers. How many dollars raised? Number of donors? Number of repeat donors? Number of monthly donors? Number of visits? Number of proposals presented. We have two development people – Brian is overseeing the campaign and Kathleen is overseeing the annual fund. They each have their own set of metrics based on their job requirements.

For campus ministry, which is the heart of what we do, we have a number of goals. First we have liturgy goals. What is our Mass attendance, and if we were to see a 10 percent increase, what would that look like? Then we have goals within each category. For social justice, how many trips did we do last year? How many students participated last year?

One thing that Rosie, our campus minister is doing is tracking data and our follow through. We now have a swipe card system that uses their USC student ID. We are able to use that number to get their name and follow up with them after every event. For example, after every event that someone has swiped their card, the students receive an email from someone on staff. We can now see how many “repeat customers” do we have? Last year at this time, we had about a 24 percent repeat rate and this year we are up to 52 percent. For us, these kind of data points allow us to share with our donors concrete ways in which we are engaging students. We can show donors how many students we are following up with and show that these students are important to us. They are not just a number or a name, but we want them to come back for more than simply worship.

Additional tracking for campus ministry include Bible studies. We have 5 FOCUS missionaries who have their own metric driven components: how many student leaders, how many athletes, how many Greek students, how many new groups. How many people are being discipled? We can track that year over year. We also have a new Director of Worship and he will be tracking our choir statistics and engaging our musical end of things.

We have also have Deacon Paul who oversees sacraments. Last year we had over 30 weddings, 12 students enter the Church and 25 confirmations. The year before that it was about 8 and 20. We can follow the path of those folks entering the Church.

At every level, we are trying to find ways to substantively track things, without going crazy.


In addition to tracking metrics, do you also set goals for each area? For example, do you have a goal for increasing the number of weddings by 10 percent next year?


Not so much for weddings, but for RCIA and confirmations, yes we do.

Our main goal across the board is 10 percent growth year to year. We have seen a pattern that certain things are easier to reach 10 percent but its good to know whether the growth is 2 percent or 20 percent. For Mass attendance, I am okay with 5-10 percent but for something like Alternative Spring Breaks, its fairly easy to increase from 5 to 6 trips in one year. For each department, I have to have conversations with each director to set realistic “jump goals” for this year.

Every department does have a growth goal but we can assess at year end to determine if we were way off in setting the goal.


What is the planning process like for setting these annual goals?


The planning process begins in the spring to look at the coming academic year. It is a process of looking back as well because it is in conjunction with budgeting for the coming year. We look at the past year to evaluate how things went programmatically and how they spent against that plan. This projects next year’s budget and next year’s plan. These plans are then presented to the teams in the summer along with the first draft of the budget.

The directors then present to the Board on how they did last year and what their plans look like for the following year. They then do a mid-year check-in and an annual review.

The expectation for all new staff, before they are hired, is to have a lot of conversation about how we are a metric mission-driven organization. Mission is at the heart of who we are but it has to be backed up by our metrics.


This is great! Do you find that people who learn about your approach to goal setting and metrics appreciate it and say, “More churches should do this” or “Wow…you guys are crazy.”


More churches should do this. I give credit to my team. We are always thinking of new ways of doing things. Last year we visited Saddleback Church with Rick Warren. Our team is not afraid to go out there and see what other churches, especially non-Catholic churches, are doing well so that we can steal their best practices in a positive way.


I would just like say that you’re level of excitement when talking about metrics went through the roof!




What have you noticed is better today thanks to tracking those metrics throughout your time here? Is the ministry in a better position today?


Yes. For me its about confidence in what we are producing. Look, we are in sales, we are “selling” Jesus. Over time, I have seen the product get better. Fr. Richard uses an excellent analogy. We wants us to be the In-N-Out Burger of campus ministry. When I first arrived, we had a beautiful new building but the programming was not mature. We started with an attitude of, “Let’s try all these different things. Let’s throw spaghetti against the wall and see what sticks.”

What I have noticed after four years is that our mission and vision have become much more simple…like In-N-Out Burger, but it is also more aligned with what our students need. Their relationship with Christ. This central focus on small group Bible studies and discipleship is at the core of what we are and we have made that decision to say that is the core. Worship is truly the center of what we do, but I believe that our focus on discipleship is what has allowed us to grow and expand in new ways. We have a great campus ministry team with a laser focus on one thing. Like In-N-Out Burger, let’s focus on making a really great burger over and over again, and not get distracted on french fries and drinks. Let’s just make a really great burger.


I love this visual and I love that you can focus your efforts on getting to be the best at making those burgers that people love. And in this case, let’s become the best at evangelizing, welcoming, converting and transforming the students of USC to the Faith.

If your organization isn’t tracking your activity and setting goals and metrics to help you get better, I would suggest that you get started on that immediately. If you have questions, or need help, contact us at Petrus Development. We would be happy to discuss ideas with you and help you move your ministry forward.

You can get the full episode at

Jamie Cappetta is President of Our Savior Parish and USC Caruso Catholic Center and a Consultant for Petrus Development. Jamie’s roles in campus ministry have included president, director of development and campus minister. 

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