A Report on Reports

Bruce Cameron is credited with the quote, “Not everything that can be counted counts.  And not everything that counts can be counted.”  In the world of  measuring and evaluating development officer performance, we have many variables which we could employ to judge effectiveness.  But just because we can track something and report it, doesn’t mean that we should waste time tracking and reporting it.

As an example, I have witnessed higher education institutions track and report development officer emails and phone calls with prospects and donors.  To which I always reply, “Do we want our development officers to sit in the office and send emails and make phone calls?  Are emails and telephone calls the activities that represent the best work with our donors and prospects?”  The answer, of course, is “not really.”  In fact, most every development leader will say that face-to-face visits are the gold standard of our work and most leaders wish their development officers would make more visits.  The trailing question then becomes, “why are you, then, tracking and reporting on emails and telephone calls if they don’t represent the work you want to encourage your development officers to perform?”  Again, we can track a whole bushel of stuff, but is it the right stuff to be tracking?

So, today I’m listening to a fundraising leader from a prestigious Northeast U.S. university say that they have a weekly report that, in part, tracks the number of queries and reports that development officers are requesting from the database.

Yes, you read that correctly, they have a report that reports on the number of reports that are requested.

She was good-natured about revealing this embarrassing fact and laughed at the absurdity of such a report.  A characteristic of high-functioning leadership is the capacity to separate the important from the trivial, the toys from the tools.  After people, time is our most valuable asset.  Tracking and reporting data that doesn’t help us do our work better wastes both.


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