Do Dollars Matter?

Recently at a CASE conference, I heard a presentation in which the following statement about performance metrics for MGOs was made:

If you create and track MGO metrics for visits, moves, and proposals (asks), you don’t need a metric for dollars raised.  The gift income will be a natural consequence of the activity of the MGO.

Not so fast my friend.

It’s not that I don’t buy the philosophy of activity leading to results.  In fact, I completely buy into that philosophy.  If you look the metrics programs I have helped establish over the years, the “activity metrics” (i.e., visits, moves, proposals, proposal success rate) account for more than half of the MGOs evaluation score.  Total gift commitments account for 25% at most!

But, that’s not the point.  The point is that tracking money matters.  It matters to the institution, to bosses (and Boards) and, I have found, it matters to quality development professionals.  Tracking total dollars raised also matters because an MGO can be fantastic at visits, moves, and submitting proposals.  However, depending on the process of proposal creation, he or she may consistently under-ask prospects.  Instead of stretching a prospect for a $100,000 gift, he may ask for only $50,000 because that amount is perceived as a safer amount.  And, if money really isn’t that important, then the $50,000 gift is just fine.

We should not evaluate and reward MGOs based solely – or even primarily – on dollars raised.  This is a wrong-headed and unethical approach.  However, it is just as wrong-headed to completely remove dollars raised from the goals of development professionals.   The best development professionals want a dollar goal, they want to make an impact for their institutions, and they want to stretch themselves and their donors.  If you have development officers who don’t want any part of their evaluation to be based on dollars raised, they probably have not yet found their true calling.

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