The Metrics of Perfection

How do you measure success?  More importantly, how do you view success?

By this, I mean, how do you think about what success looks like for your advancement team?  For many institutions, an answer might be, “if we raise $(fill in the blank) million next year we will be successful.”  Or, “if we grow our endowment to $(fill in the blank) million we will be successful.”  Or, maybe, “if we achieve our giving participation goals for alumni we will be successful.”

While each of these goals might be appropriate and good for your institution to achieve, they (or other similar goals) shouldn’t be the primary measures of success for your advancement program.  Here’s why:  Each of the above goals is an outcome goal that encourages you to think of achieving perfection, instead of strengthening relationships.

Outcome goals in advancement (i.e., amount of money raised or alumni giving participation, etc.) are oftentimes synonymous with achieving perfection.  You may even catch yourself saying, “if we can just reach our gift income goal, everything will be perfect!”  When we view our goals as achieving perfection, we miss the fundamental calling of our work – namely to strengthen relationships with donors and constituents of our institutions.  Therefore, instead of trying to achieve perfection, we should employ metrics which measure the activities and behaviors that best strengthen relationships.

It is much better, I think, to measure activities that bring more donors along with us on our institutional journey – metrics such as number of visits made, number of moves with donors through the gift cycle, and number and efficacy of gift proposals – than to attempt to measure advancement perfection.

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