The Essential Development Dashboard: Tracking your fundraising effectiveness beyond the dollars raised

The Essential Development Dashboard: Tracking your fundraising effectiveness beyond the dollars raised
Winter 2018 by Heidi Thomson-Daly

Essential Development Dashboard

Throughout my time as a fundraising consultant, I’ve found that many nonprofit organizations only use the bottom line to measure their fundraising success. Whether you’re using a development revenue report, or simply the monthly financial statements, relying solely on year-to-date dollars raised as the measure of fundraising progress can be risky. It’s also an unreliable way of evaluating the degree to which your organization’s development strategies are working.

Now, of course you need to keep an eye on the money that’s coming in the door (or not coming in the door!). But the reality is, what gets tracked is what gets done. This is why it’s far more meaningful to track progress toward a core set of key fundraising activities and non-revenue goals. There are two specific reasons to do so. First, tracking these metrics illuminates the story of what the organization is doing to actually raise money. Second, it creates a culture of accountability and a disciplined use of time, which is critical to raising money, especially more money.

The best practice for this, and one of the top recommendations I give to my clients, is to design and implement a monthly Development Dashboard. Not only is a Development Dashboard an outstanding strategy for creating a culture of accountability and discipline among staff, it is a fabulous way to do the same among your volunteers and Board Members, a group who often need support and structure to be successful with follow through. It is also an effective way to capture the range of activities the development team has been working on, no matter how much has been raised.

Dashboard
Click the image above for a downloadable version.

Here are my top picks for the essential benchmarks to include, which you can customize to match the unique structure of your development program. For each of these I recommend comparing this year’s actuals to your goal, as well as the actuals from the past two years.

Non-Revenue Fundraising Success Benchmarks:

  • Donor Retention Rate: the percent of individual donors who gave last fiscal year and gave again / renewed their support to the organization this year vs. goal (Note: Also track the retention rates of your foundation and corporate supporters)
     
  • Gift Upgrade Rate: the percent of retained donors who renewed their gift from last year, and increased their gift this year vs. goal (Note: Also track the gift upgrade rates of your foundation and corporate supporters)
     
  • New Donor Acquisition: the number of all new donors your organization acquired this month, regardless of gift size, vs. goal
     
  • New Major Donor Acquisition: the number of all new major donors (however you define that) your organization acquired this month vs. goal
     
  • New Foundation Acquisition: the number of new grants / foundation gifts your organization acquired this month vs. goal
     
  • New Corporate Partner Acquisition: the number of all new donors your organization acquired this month, regardless of gift size vs. goal
     
  • Multi-Year Pledges: the number of current multi-year pledges vs. goal
     
  • Monthly Gifts: the number of current monthly donors vs. goal


Face-to-Face Relationship Building With Donors

  • Cultivation / Stewardship Individual Donor Visits: the number of face-to-face visits you had with donors this month vs. goal by:
    • Board members
    • CEO / Executive Director
    • CDO / Director of Development
    • Major Gifts Officer / other development staff
       
  • Cultivation / Stewardship Corporate Donor Visits: the number of face-to-face visits you had with corporate donors this month vs. goal by:
    • Board members
    • CEO / Executive Director
    • CDO / Director of Development
    • Major Gifts Officer / other development staff
       
  • On-site Tours: the number of people who attended an on-site tour or other type of engagement event at your organization this month vs. goal
     
  • Other events: the number of people who attended an on-site tour or other type of engagement event at your organization this month vs. goal


Stewardship

  • Stewardship Phone Calls: the number of thank you phone calls placed to individual donors, corporate supports and other funders by staff and Board members
     
  • Thank You Timeliness: the average number of days it took to mail acknowledgment letters to donors this month vs. goal


Solicitations

  • Face-To-Face Major Gift Solicitations: the number of face-to-face major gift solicitations made this month by both staff and Board members vs. goal
     
  • Corporate Gift Solicitations: the number of face-to-face major corporate gift solicitations made this month by both staff and Board members vs. goal
     
  • Major Gift Proposals: the number of major gift proposals submitted, awarded and declined this month vs. goal
     
  • Grant Proposals: the number of grant proposals submitted, awarded and declined this month vs. goal
     
  • Direct Mail Appeals: the number of direct mail solicitations that went out this month, and the return rate, vs. goal

This may look like a long list, but preparing a monthly Development Dashboard shouldn’t take a lot of work, even for the smallest of teams. Once you set up the queries in your database, you should be able to run them at the same time each month, making your dashboard fairly turn-key. Either way, the return-on-investment of the time it will take to set it up at first is absolutely worth it.

Another perk is that your Board of Directors and Development Committee will be thrilled! A common complaint that I hear from board members is the poor quality of reporting they receive on fundraising. Providing them with a monthly Development Dashboard will instill confidence in them that you are focused on the right things and ease their fiduciary concerns, while keeping everyone focused on the priorities.

The bottom line is this: a monthly Development Dashboard is the best way to ensure time is spent on the strategies and actions that matter most for fundraising. And, if the dashboard illuminates problems, you have time to address what’s getting in the way so you can course correct before it’s too late in the fiscal year to do so. It enables you to be proactive and preventative, which results in money for the mission and makes you a fundraising rock star!

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