Getting Started With Advancement
Staff Metrics

July 28, 2011. As advancement shops in higher education struggle with a slow economic recovery, it is increasingly important to build staff metrics that encourage effective work. Tracking meaningful metrics beyond dollars raised can empower you to:

  • Reward high performers, making it easier to retain your best officers
  • Identify training needs
  • Incentivize cross-boundary work toward shared goals

For advice on taking fundraising metrics beyond dollars raised, we turned this week to Rick Dupree, assistant dean of development and alumni relations for the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, and D. Scott Peters, director of annual giving at the University of Richmond.

A Culture of Incentives

"A good metrics system means that development officers know what's expected, they know what will happen if they meet and exceed goals. It takes away the guessing game. Development officers are entrepreneurs at heart -- they have egos, they're creative, they want to do excellent work and be recognized for it."
Rick Dupree, Indiana U

Dupree adds that the 100-point metrics program he put in place a decade ago at Indiana University allowed him to do "two atypical things" -- offer bonuses and terminate low performers. He assigned points for achieving specific goals. "If a staff member achieved 75 points, I shook their hand and said, 'Great job, great year.' 80 or more and they are put into a bonus pool, whereby they have the possibility of upping their pay by 10 percent of their base salary."

The flip side: if the officer comes in below 75 points, you look for training needs. Can you do mock interviews? Can you travel with the officer? How can you help them perform better in the following year? Offer a six-month grace period and look for results. Dupree adds, "If they haven't achieved 50 percent of their goal six months later, we let them go. They know what the expectations are. It's never a surprise at the end of the six-month period. Make sure that at each step of the way, they can measure and quantify their progress. This protects the institution from wrongful termination suits, and it incentivizes high performance, allowing you to take good officers and make them excellent officers."

Key Considerations

Peters suggest these guidelines for arriving at effective performance metrics:

  • Set specific goals that reinforce the behavior you need to see
  • Tailor goals to specific job functions
  • Set realistic goals
  • Develop goals in partnership with your direct reports, and make sure the goals are realistic and achievable

"Metrics need to be specific, and they need to accurately reflect the actual outcomes you want to see," Peters advises. "Your caller might book a million pledges, but if no one pays them, what's the point? You need a separate pledge fulfillment goal."

You can also use metrics to incentivize cross-boundary work toward shared goals.

For example, if you oversee both development and alumni relations, you can cultivate an environment in which alumni relations officers will ask for a gift if they see the opportunity, and where development officers accepting a gift will ask if the donor is a member of your alumni lifetime program. Dupree notes, "Alumni relations can open doors with high-profile alums that aren't available to development officers. Make sure your metrics incentivize them to make those connections. And vice versa: incentivize development officers to connect donors with your alumni office."

Develop the Metrics in Dialogue with Your Staff

Dupree emphasizes the importance of not just dictating goals but of developing metrics in partnership with your staff. "Chat with them about what they're sensing about the economy, about donor perceptions. Find out what challenges they're facing. Let your officers play a role in determining what the metrics will be. Then, when you roll out the next year's goals, everyone is already sold on what they will be."

Soliciting input and testing ideas will help you keep the measures realistic. Peters cites the example of one class giving officer who has a different portfolio than the others. This officer is involved in the senior gift, and will not be able to make the same number of visits as the other officers. "Had I simply rolled out one-size-fits-all metrics without a dialogue with the head of the class giving program," Peters cautions, "I wouldn't have known about this potential issue."

Rolling it Out

"Don't make your metrics system look like a micromanaging tool. It has to be seen and treated as an opportunity to showcase and reward really high-quality work. To offer bonuses and incentives, you need metrics. Convey your commitment to rewarding high performance and let high performers know that they can really make a name here."
Rick Dupree, Indiana U

"Even if you don't have analytics software in place," Peters advises, "you can ease into more sophisticated performance metrics. Start with a spreadsheet."

Here is an example.

Years ago, Peters wanted to hold his gift officers accountable for -- and reward them for -- not just the number of visits or the dollars raised, but also for the number of upgrades. "I wanted to ensure that we were asking for enough upgrades, not just renewals. We're fundraisers, not fund maintainers," Peters remarks. He developed a spreadsheet that gift officers would email to him each month. Each report listed who the officer visited, the purpose of the visit, what the officer asked for, how much was given, and how that amount related to last year's gift.