There is probably only one measure of success for major gift fundraising that your board members and even your Executive Director discuss on a routine basis, and that is: How much money will major gift fundraising bring in?
(And the likely follow-up question…WHEN??)
“Dollars in the door” is certainly one way to measure major gifts success, but there are reasons you may not want to use it as your single KPI (Key Performance Indicator) for your major gifts program:
- It puts the emphasis on $ instead of on relationships
- It indicates short-term success only
- It can be deceptive. What if your fundraising goal was $100,000 and you secured that entire amount from a single donor this year? What are the chances that will happen again next year? Do you have any ability to MAKE it happen again—in other words, can you control the outcome?
- It doesn’t spotlight key elements that will make or break your major gift fundraising over the long term—the breadth of your donor base, the health of your pipeline, the systems you have in place for moves management, and more.
I’m not saying you should not track dollars raised.
But, consider these three additional metrics, too, for measuring the broader health and sustainability of your major gifts program:
1. Number of different people you asked to make a gift
Why it matters: a high number here means that despite all the other tasks on your plate, you are advancing donor relationships and ASKING FOR MONEY. It also might mean that, even if some prospects declined to donate this go around, they may decide to support your organization the next time you ask.
2. Number of stewardship actions completed with a donor before you ask again
3. Number of major gifts received
Why it matters: growth in this number may mean more money raised. But it can signal other good things too—donors making multiple gifts, donors new to your organization, more lower-level donors increasing their gifts into major gift territory.
Number of gifts received is also an indicator of the breadth of your major gifts program. For example, go back to the earlier mention of meeting your $100,000 goal with one gift from a single donor. If you met the same goal with 10 gifts of $10,000 each, one could argue this scenario has your organization better positioned for the future.
In other words, with more donors at lesser amounts, you would NOT have all of your eggs in one basket!
These 3 metrics put the emphasis on diversification, stewardship and retention. Do these three things well and dollars will follow.
You also have complete control over your achievement in the first two metrics—they don’t depend on magic or luck. Communicate with your donors, ask them for money, and stay organized so you can do it all again!
What are your favorite metrics for measuring major gift success? Does your organization track KPI year over year? Please share your thoughts or experience in the Comments box below!
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