Fundraising Metrics

It’s been several weeks since the Development Director moved on to (perhaps) greener pastures. Her boss has been going through things, and yesterday stated that she was shocked at how much had been left undone. I was shocked because I had been telling the Executive Director—and the Development Director—about my concerns over the lack of follow through for months. “How,” I asked the ED, “could this be news to you? Not only had we talked about it, but your fundraising numbers have been telling you the same story for the past 4 years.”

I wish this was a unique tale. But the truth is that too many development directors do not do any serious, sustainable fund development—and too many of their bosses ignore that fact.

To begin with, if you want to be successful, you have to have a plan. And a plan needs to start with a goal.

At the very least, you must have clarity on how much money you need to raise in order to do your day-to-day business. Raising funds to fill the gap is not a great fundraising goal, but it is a start. And if you raise the money to fill that gap, at the very least, you won’t have to cut back on personnel or programs.

Then consider new initiatives. What will they cost? And enhancements to old ones. Are these interesting programs you can fundraise specifically for? Having an ongoing annual fund which supports your operations as well as some special campaigns can raise your fundraising bar.

As important as goals, metrics are arguably more important. These measurements help to keep your on track. As such, you shouldn’t be measuring money as much as activity. How many appeals must go out each year? When? How many new major donor prospects need to be identified? How many cultivation, solicitation, stewardship calls must be made each week?

If grants are part of your job, how many new foundations must be identified annually? How many LOI’s sent? How many full proposals?

Don’t neglect the development director’s role with the board. If you haven’t already figured this out—most of your board members will not do any fundraising unless their hands are being held. And you can’t hold hands if you don’t get close to each other.

So, how many one-on-one meetings with board members must the development director schedule? And how will the follow ups from those be assessed?

Knowing what needs to be done—and ensuring it is being done—is the most important job of management.

That’s true whether you are being managed, managing others, or mainly responsible (in fact or by default) in managing yourself.


Janet Levine works with nonprofits, helping them to increase fundraising capacity. Learn how she can help your organization at