Development Wayfinding

“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” This oft-cited but not-quite-accurate quote is from the Lewis Carroll’s classic children’s tale, Alice in Wonderland.

Throughout recorded time, man has searched for wayfinding aids that would ensure a safe arrival or a profitable outcome. If you ask Google, the Chinese, as early as the 12th Century, used magnetic compasses as navigational aids. In the 1990’s, the Global Position System, or GPS, became an indispensable part of society supporting everything from oil exploration to package delivery.

But the fundraising profession hasn’t been quite as quick to embrace the principles of measurement to make day-to-day decisions. To the CEO or the Director of Development, data should serve as a bedrock for corrective actions and in the formation of future strategies.

If your school or non-profit isn’t using metrics daily, especially to further your fundraising objectives, you are operating with self-imposed limitations. A discipline that tracks something that has already occurred may not sound like forward thinking. But if you monitor even simple data, you will be able to spot trends or shortfalls that may require future action.

You don’t need sophisticated (and often expensive) software or glitzy dashboards to help you navigate your fundraising year. The objective is to focus on the right things, the critical measurements that will reveal where you have succeeded and what next steps are appropriate.

There is no single set of right things that every organization should measure. For example, if you depend largely on annual campaign fundraising, you’ll want to monitor donor contacts and major gift close ratios. If your support base is more direct mail responsive, tracking average gift income and lapsed donors could be priority metrics. Regardless, you need to consider the effort and cost involved with gathering the data you track. And the outcomes you measure must be essential to the achievement of your mission.

It may be nice to know how many visits were made to your “About Us” website page, but a more important statistic may be how frequently visitors navigated to your donation page but left without making a gift.

If you are a small nonprofit, or new to data analysis, you might want to start with the basics – a simple weekly scorecard. I’ve attached a sample that uses key indicators like income dollars, donor activity and number of gifts received. These are values that should be easily and quickly retrieved from a CRM or financial tool. Review this data during your weekly one-on-one with leadership as well as with your development colleagues.

Statistics can be the scaffolding that supports your fundraising efforts. Use them to build strong practices and grow your income.

NEXT ISSUE: How to design, populate and share a Fundraising Scorecard built specifically for your organization.

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