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  • Writer's pictureLaurel McCombs

How Will You Measure 2019?

Updated: Feb 14, 2020

Year-end is a time of reflection. While this can include frustrations over goals unmet or regrets of things left undone, I hope that even more of your focus is on celebration and analysis. We may never hit every goal that we set, but we can appreciate our wins and figure out how to make 2020 even better.

Regardless of whether you take a glass half full or half empty approach to your assessment of the year, make sure you are digging a little deeper with your metrics to help you get to the root causes of your successes and near misses. It can be easy to focus on the big numbers like total dollars raised or revenue by source, but it's also critical that we look at the metrics that contribute to those bottom line numbers. It's often these metrics that are more directly tied to our day-to-day activities and are, thus, the ones that we can use more concretely to make decisions on new directions, tweaks in our strategies, or reallocate of resources.

Finding the right set of metrics is different for everyone. While there are a handful of metrics that are pretty universally helpful and simple to measure, like donor retention and new donors, the metrics you utilize will depend greatly on your situation and your systems.

As you consider which metrics to focus on to assess 2019, keep the following in mind:

  1. Focus on your priorities. Using your fund development plan as a guide, think about what you hoped to achieve in 2019 and what was most important to implementing that plan successfully. You can't measure everything, so drill down into the priority areas that have the greatest impact and start there.

  2. Identify your burning questions. As you consider your goals, identify any unanswered questions you might have around why you did or did not achieve them. Despite your best efforts did giving from mid-level donors go down this year? Did you have an unexpected influx of new donors to your gala? Did your end-of-year direct mail miss its target goal? Whatever the outcome, determine if you truly understand the underlying causes and, if not, figure out which metrics you can dig into to get a better understanding. And, remember, this is just as true for your successes as for your failures. When we hit or exceed our goals it is tempting to just take the win and move on, but it's as important to understand why we excel as it is to understand why we fail so we can apply those lessons to future endeavors.

  3. Determine what you can measure. There are an infinite number of ways we can slice and dice data, but if we can't gather the data accurately and consistently, it's of no use. Look at your systems and processes, including your donor database. What metrics can you pull reliably based on the data you have? Look at your team's capacity. Don't make the process of compiling data so cumbersome that you have no time left to actually implement your new and revised strategies. And, make sure that if you want to be able to compare data over time that it will be possible to replicate your data gathering and reporting processes.

  4. Diversify your metrics. To get a holistic view of your program, it is important to deploy a diverse set of metrics. As I mentioned before, just looking at outcome data doesn't always tell the whole story. To understand why we got the outcomes we did, we must also dig into process metrics (what strategies did we implement to achieve our outcomes) and quality metrics (how well did those strategies work). Additionally, it can be helpful to look at metrics at varying levels whether it be across the entire organization, by team, or by individual contributor. And some metrics can become more meaningful when looked at by different lengths of time.

As you can see there are many different ways to utilize metrics to evaluate our strategies, understand our results, and make improvements moving forward. With this information you have some basic elements to start building your own metrics plan and get the data you need to make 2020 even more successful and productive.

Do you need some extra help with your metrics planning or fund development planning in general? The Osborne Group is here to help. Email for more information on how we can partner in creating your roadmap to success. Or, are you just super into data, metrics, and systems and feel like you have no one to talk to about it? Email me at and we can nerd out!

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