How do you measure the performance of your fundraiser?


The challenge of how to measure and evaluate the performance of a fundraiser is one I’ve struggled with in nearly every role I’ve had in the nonprofit sector. Whether I was the executive director, development officer, VP of Advancement, board member, consultant or campaign volunteer, there was always pressure to conduct a performance appraisal (on me or one of my staff members) strictly on how much money was raised.

And while that’s a common practice, especially in larger organizations, it’s hardly appropriate for all fundraisers or all organizations.

I’ve ended up believing that there isn’t an easy either/or answer. It depends on the size of the fundraising operation and what role the fundraiser has in the fundraising program. If it’s a larger and mature organization that has incorporated the values of philanthropy and stewardship into management and operations, you’ll probably have a fundraiser or two whose performance can be measured more by how much money they raise. If it’s a fledgling development effort and/or a small organization with a one-person development office, there are lots of other things that determine whether someone is doing a good job or not.

It’s also the case that in all of my fundraising campaigns, projects, and jobs, it’s taken the effort of a team of people to succeed. I’ll even go so far as to say that no gift (in any size organization) is the result of just one person. There’s just too much that goes into the process to hold one person wholly and fully accountable. From marketing and public relations to brand management and cultivation activities, multiple people and departments impact the culture of philanthropy.

A performance appraisal tool that I’ve used since I worked for The Village Family Service Center in Fargo in the mid-90’s has a “weighting” component that let’s you adjust how a person’s performance is spread among a variety of key results areas (KRAs). It allows the ability to hold people accountable for a variety of things in a very flexible, realistic, and unique way. It can also change over time so that there is more or less emphasis on specific KRA’s as needed. If I have a position that should be held accountable to hard dollars raised, I can weight that KRA as high as I want.

But of course, I’ve never thought that the amount of money raised should be the only performance evaluation criterion.

(Note: I’d be happy to share the assessment tools I mention. Just send me a message.)

How do you measure your fundraising staff? How are you evaluated? Does it feel right? Fair? Accurate?