Measuring Fundraising Effectiveness: What BoardSource Overlooked

• improve fundraising results • donor retention • fundraising effectiveness • "BoardSource • "managing people"
Ellen Bristol

I'm always writing about fundraising effectiveness, and thought maybe it would be a good idea to  define the term itself. So I was happy to find a great article at BoardSource. BoardSource, the definitive resource for all things nonprofit-board-related, did some excellent research and came up with powerful messages insights about fundraising effectiveness. But they overlooked a critical component: how to manage the people who raise the money.

It's useful to analyze your income and its sources on a regular basis. Doubtful 3D man with a question mark - isolated on whiteIt's a terrific idea, as BoardSource suggests, to calculate the extent to which your nonprofit might be overly dependent on a small number of income sources, so you can acknowledge and address this vulnerability. It's mission-critical, as they describe to understand the relationship between costs and results. I support their concept in so many ways - except for one.

BoardSource's new and otherwise well-designed framework makes no reference to the human component, or what it takes to enable your staff and fundraising volunteers to use their time and energy in the wisest ways possible, or ensure they can be held accountable for desired results.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have we provided our solicitors, including volunteers, with the right guidelines and other resources so they know what's expected of them?
  • Have we explained what we want them to produce?
  • Do they understand our need to retain and upgrade current donors?
  • How well do they understand what the money pays for, and why it's so important in achieving our mission and supporting our programs?
  • How good a job have we done in showing them how their performance is being evaluated?
  • In what ways have we assisted, coached, and otherwise supported these important members of our team, to do their work well, or have we just hoped for the best (and punished the worst)?

In other words, have we empowered our people to identify, acquire, and maintain engaged relationships with these all-important funders?

Regrettably, our Leaky Bucket research suggests we have a long way to go, sector wide, to ensure that those who do the work of fundraising can do it well, effectively and efficiently. The nonprofit sector (worldwide) appears to ignore the question of human performance as a component of fundraising effectiveness. Hey, maybe that's one reason there's such high turnover in the development shop. Could it be?

It's my personal mission to address this oversight, because I think that if we do address it, we're going to see our organizations thrive. And in a world of chaos, global conflict, and climate change and its attendant natural disasters, we better start doing so soon.

Creative business team putting hands together at the officeA well-managed fundraising team has the critical tools and resources they need. These include qualifying benchmarks, so development officers and volunteers can  determine their prospects' potential for lifetime value quickly, and focus their efforts accordingly. Techniques for creating rapport to improve stewardship, as well as making it easier to get to know a new donor prospect. Key performance indicators, or KPI's, so gift officers, volunteers, and senior leaders can track progress and correct course if needed to reach desired results.

Broadly speaking, nonprofits exist to make life better for people, and measure their success by impact, not profit. Let's make life better for the people who raise the money, our sector can improve its impact in a predictable, consistent way. 

Here are some of our resources to add to those you can download from BoardSource.

SMART Practices Resource Library


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