Measure Progress Against Goal Versus Activity
Have you ever been around someone that is a blur of activity, but never gets anything done? I’m sure you have. And if you stop and think about it, usually this person is more interested in the process versus the result. They love the process. Just “doing the process” makes them feel good.
Early in my career, I used to be that kind of person. I love efficiency, sequence and process. It made me feel good to know everything was in order, and everyone was doing the right things.
Then, I went to a week-long training seminar, “Managing by Objectives.” And it changed my life and the focus of my work. There is a great deal of detail to the managing by objectives philosophy and approach, but, in essence, it boils down to two major points:
1. Do You Have an Objective?
In the case of major gifts, the objective is to secure funds. Now, hang on. I know that the minute you read that you may have said: “Richard, you said this major gifts thing was not about the money. What gives?” Yep. Still saying that. What I am saying here is that securing the funds is proof you have honored the donor and properly serviced their interests and passions.
So this point is consistent with the philosophy Jeff and I are propagating. I am assuming you are operating in a relational donor-centered way. Believe me, if you aren’t and you are going for the money, you will not get it to the level you need to. So securing the donation is proof you have done things right.
2. Can You Measure Progress Toward Achieving It?
That is, can you measure performance and achievements against those objectives? This is why the question, “How are you doing in causing a mutually satisfying transaction with your donor?” is a relevant question. If the answer is, “They won’t talk to me” or “I don’t know how to approach them,” it is symptomatic of a major gift officer (MGO) who has either not qualified the donor in the first place or not done the work to identify and service their interests and passions.
Which brings me to the practice of measuring MGO performance. I am beginning to wonder if we are making the whole MGO performance evaluation thing too complicated. It goes back to what I said at the top of this post—are we too focused on measuring activity versus actual progress against an objective? We might be. Hear me out on this.
I have seen way too many cases of MGOs doing all the right things but getting nowhere with their caseload. They do the right amount of phone calls, emails, touch-points, even face-to-face visits, but get nowhere on achieving any revenue generation goals. In this situation the real question is not how much are you doing, but what are you doing. What is the nature of your contact with the donor? Is it having an impact? Is it donor-centered? Is it focused on servicing the donor’s passions and interests?
“What! You don’t know the donor’s passions and interests?” Hmm…
This is kind of like the person who has a ton of college degrees, but can’t seem to make it in real life. Living life is not about acquiring all the knowledge you can acquire and that’s it. It is about doing the right things with that knowledge. Or it’s like a MGO thinking that if they just get that CFRE certification, they will suddenly be successful. Nope. Not going to happen.
Now, to be clear, I am not against degrees and certifications. I am simply saying that if you can’t reach an agreed upon objective, more than likely, there is something wrong with your approach. That is what you should be curious about. You can’t just blindly do the “right” activity or follow a formula. It will not work.
To Jeff and me, the core question when looking at a caseload and how a MGO is performing with the donors on the caseload is: “What progress are you making in achieving the financial goal you set for that donor?” And then it’s about looking at the answer to that question and making a judgment about approach, focus and style. And, it is at this point where you make corrections and adjustments like:
“You know, [MGO Name], you are too focused on getting the money. You need to, instead, figure out what this donor wants to achieve through their giving. What is that? Get that information and when we get together next week, tell me how are you going to service that need?”
This is a more profitable discussion than: “How come you’ve only had three face-to-face visits last week?” The money is a result of successfully serving the passions and interests of a donor. If a MGO does not have the money, then there is something else wrong, which is what you should be looking at. Just counting activity will not do it. Measure progress against the goal.
If you’re hanging with Richard it won’t be long before you’ll be laughing.
He always finds something funny in everything. But when the conversation is about people, their money and giving, you’ll find a deeply caring counselor who helps donors fulfill their passions and interests. Richard believes that successful major-gift fundraising is not fundamentally about securing revenue for good causes. Instead it is about helping donors express who they are through their giving. The Connections blog will provide practical information on how to do this successfully. Richard has more than 30 years of nonprofit leadership and fundraising experience, and is founding partner of the Veritus Group.