4 fundraising KPIs you didn’t know you should be measuring

We tend to be goal-oriented folks, us fundraisers. 

But too often, our focus (and let’s face it, the focus of our boards and bosses) is exclusively on the bottom line – hitting our annual target for dollars raised.

That kind of short-term thinking can ruin our chances of future success. 

How can our organizations thrive and grow if we’re single-mindedly pursuing one goal – sometimes even burning through our donor relationships to achieve it? 

Here are four key performance indicators (KPIs) we need to start measuring to ensure the long-term health of our organizations – and raise more money while we’re doing it!

              1.    Number of donors moving from annual giving to major gifts… 

When I work with clients to help them build a healthy and successful major gift program, this can be one of the biggest sticking points for the team. 

Let’s face it – we’ve all been trained to have a laser focus on meeting our fundraising target, so when someone suggests “taking away” even one donor that helps me hit that goal, that feels pretty scary!

We need to measure and reward team members for healthy behaviours like seeing the donor relationship in a more holistic light, and moving potential major donors from your annual/direct marketing file in order to try out a more personalized major gift approach.  

Even if you’re a small shop, you should be aiming to qualify your intermediate or mid-level gifts donors to see if they would like more of a one-on-one, personal relationship with your organization. 

                  2.    …and the number of donors moving back again

I’ll always remember talking to a colleague about a donor’s annual six-figure gift.

They mailed in a huge cheque at the end of every year in response to the organization’s holiday appeal letter – and that was exactly the way they liked it. 

At one point, the donor was moved to a Senior Development Officer, who did a great job qualifying the donor – respectfully and persistently connecting with them to see if they would like to have a more personal, one-on-one relationship with the organization.  

But this particular donor wasn’t interested in a deeper or different relationship with the organization – they were perfectly happy with things the way they were. 

And that’s okay!

Not all donors giving large gifts want a more personal relationship with your organization (although you should always try!). 

That’s why monitoring and rewarding staff for a healthy flow of donors between annual and major gifts is so important.  

Let’s bust those silos down and do what’s right for the donor!

              3.   Dollars invested in donor retention and fundraising growth

Wouldn’t it be great if we could shift the narrative away from the damaging idea that chipping away at our budget to get to a sufficiently low percentage of overhead is a goal actually worth achieving?

We need to start measuring our success by tracking dollars invested in donor retention and fundraising growth, instead of rewarding organizations who starve their fundraising program.

Can you imagine if we totally flipped the script, and began scrutinizing organizations who were dangerously under-resourcing crucial infrastructure! 

When I win the lottery, I’m going to do two things: 

First, I’m going to set up a foundation that ONLY gives out grants for fundraising, staff and other “overhead” costs (you’re welcome – I’ll look forward to your application, which will be very short and easy to complete). 

And second, I’m going to start a new charity watchdog organization that gives out the best grades to organizations of all sizes who are investing in growing their fundraising and retaining their donors and fundraising staff. 

Hey, a girl can dream, right?

               4.    Fundraising staff retention  

Speaking of retaining fundraising staff…

Whether you’re leading a full fundraising team, or a single staff person with fundraising in their portfolio, it’s time to start measuring your fundraising staff retention rate.  

Fundraising staff retention has been a challenge for years, and it’s continuing to get worse: according to Gartner, the pace of employee turnover is forecast to be 50–75% higher than companies have experienced previously, and the issue is compounded by it taking 18% longer to fill roles than pre-pandemic. 

While retention is an issue across industries, too often, I’ve seen boards and leaders ignore serious symptoms of a toxic workplace environment, brushing off high fundraiser turnover as an unchangeable reality of our industry. 

If you have a revolving door on the development office, it’s time to have a closer look at the root causes.

In a perfect world, what are some of the other KPIs you’d like to measure for your organization? How can we shift away from short-term, bottom line thinking, and start measuring the things that really move the needle on our donor experience and fundraising results?  

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