The implications of performance management

December 10, 2015

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are an important aspect of modern fundraising practises. The KPIs you pick for your institution will depend on your current circumstances and where it is that you are trying to get to.

I find it is important to understand what it is that you’re trying to achieve with KPIs. Are you going to measure facts about your office’s day-to-day activities (e.g., the number of prospect meetings taking place per month), or measure progress towards new initiatives being implemented (e.g., your individual giving team has expanded, so you’re launching new direct mail initiatives and wish to measure their impact)? What all should have in common though is that KPIs should be critical to success.

The word “key” is important, as you shouldn’t overburden your office with too many KPIs. However, you may choose to utilise different KPIs for different areas within your office, as well as present a selection of KPIs for your overall office performance. So, you could have one set of overall development KPIs, one set of KPIs per fundraising team, another set for alumni relations, and yet another set for development services.

One often-overlooked aspect of KPIs is that of staff morale. Staff may see KPIs as a threat to their working practises, and most people don’t like being measured. I feel it is important for managers to be open with their staff and share what it is that the team is trying to achieve. Most importantly, you should bear in mind that performance won’t just increase because you now have KPIs. It is more accurate to say that KPIs should be able to guide you to make better decisions going forward.

Here are some other tips and benefits of introducing successful KPIs:

  • If you introduce targets with your KPIs, make them realistic and provide additional support to your team to ensure the team can meet those targets.
  • Make KPIs easy to calculate. Staff should be able to monitor their own KPIs and not have to wait until the monthly/quarterly/annual report has been produced, by which time it may be too late.
  • Use KPIs to monitor new initiatives to see if the initiatives are working and compare them against other possible methods.
  • Allow staff to add anecdotes to the stats to provide greater long-term understanding of why some figures went up as other figures went down.
  • KPIs are excellent for increasing awareness of key stats across the whole team (e.g., how much money is raised every month).
  • KPIs reaffirm the importance of recording activity onto a central fundraising database. This increases institutional knowledge in the long term, ensuring that prospects are approached with care and with understanding long after individual fundraisers have moved on to their next assignment.
  • Use KPIs to find out where current activity isn’t quite working. It could be that your case for support requires more work so that your fundraisers and prospects can better relate to the case. It may also be that training needs to be improved and become more targeted in order to address any concerns.
  • Raise the level of awareness of fundraising activities to your Board of Trustees. KPIs are an excellent tool to educate those who are on the fringes of fundraising to show all the activity that is related to obtaining donations.
  • Finally, don’t forget you can use KPIs to make a case for additional funding. If you can show that an increase in meetings has resulted in more major gifts being raised, use this to make the case for more fundraisers.

Overall, KPIs require some careful management at first. However, once people realise that KPIs allow you to report on more than a simple total raised figure, most appreciate that KPIs more accurately reflect the true activities of a Development Office.

-Chris Propper, Senior Consultant

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