The Importance of Metrics and Dashboards for Your Planning

By Carrie Dahlquist, Director of Strategic Information Services at Campbell & Company

Developing a set of metrics to drive and evaluate development work is challenging. Many of us struggle to find time to document work undertaken in the CRM, and sometimes, we are challenged to extract that data once it is entered.  There’s also the issue, for some organizations, that embracing metrics is a big culture shift.

Despite those challenges, Campbell & Company encourages organizations to work toward defining meaningful metrics as part of a measurement plan. When implemented well, measurement can have benefits for an individual, a team, and the organization as a whole.  It promotes transparency, provides a “shared language” for success, and drives decision-making.

The following seven steps will get you started on creating a measurement plan.

Step 1: Think about your end goal – what do you want to accomplish? Maybe your goal is to reach new donors. Or maybe you want to increase individual giving revenue.

Step 2: Get specific – what are the components of the goal? Following the example of trying to grow individual revenue, perhaps you want to double revenue within the coming fiscal year, from $1 million to $2 million. In addition to establishing the who (individuals), the what ($2M), and the when (next fiscal year) of your goal, you’ll also want to get specific about the gifts that will count toward the goal – is this major gifts only? Do pledges count? Realized bequests? As you develop your goals, keep in mind they should be SMARTIE: strategic, measurable, ambitious, realistic, time-bound, inclusive, and equitable.

Step 3: Then, you’ll want to think about the initiatives and activities that will make you successful. Initiatives are conceptual; for example, to support increased individual revenue, you may want to commit to more one-on-one relationship management. Activities are the tactical plans that map to those conceptual initiatives; for example, more face-to-face asks is an activity to support relationship management.

Step 4: With the activities defined, you can now move on to the desired outcomes. Outcomes are lagging indicators – the metrics that happen as a result of leading indicators, which are inputs. In this example, dollars raised is the lagging indicator and face-to-face asks is the leading indicator. Far too often, organizations pay insufficient attention to leading indicators; if you track only the lagging indicator, you may not realize you aren’t on track until it’s too late to make adjustments.

Step 5: Next, you’ll want to make sure you can efficiently pull the metrics you’ve identified from your system. Hopefully, this is straightforward; if not, you might consider revisiting the metrics you’ve selected. In this example, it is easy to pull a count of face-to-face meetings from most systems if your team is inputting this information; more often, the issue you’ll face is related to consistency of data definitions across the team. For example, what is the definition of a “face-to-face solicitation” – does Zoom count? (Hint: yes!)

Step 6: The penultimate step is to insert targets for our metrics. A thoughtful program will include metrics that don’t change much year-over-year, but the targets will be updated as part of your annual planning process. In this example, we might suggest that the team needs to make 10 face-to-face solicitations per month to achieve the outcome metric of $2 million raised.

Step 7: Finally, build out the mechanisms to report on your progress – and make sure they are not manually created! You may have different tracking tools based on your audience; the Board might require a high-level dashboard, whereas a director or VP’s report will include more detail. Leverage the reporting tools available to you within your CRM, and if that is insufficient, you might consider business intelligence tools (BI), which are more and more frequently being deployed across our client organizations to support automated reporting.

After you’ve created your plan, be consistent in how you report and communicate about it. It will be important to engage internal champions with diverse perspectives on your measurement program. You will almost certainly need to make updates and changes, but your effort will elevate the level of discussion about your program and the impact of your work.