Why You Can't Afford to Ignore KPIs for Major Gift Officers

May 02, 2024

The success of your major gift officers can make or break your ability to deliver your mission.  The gifts they bring in are large and infuse needed cash into the operation so the organization can make an impact in the world. Today, we'll talk through my five favorite key performance indicators (KPIs) that help drive the right work, help major gift officers better understand their performance and their portfolio's behavior, and stay focused on major gifts.

What are KPIs?

KPIs are the measurements of success for your major gift officers. That's why choosing the right KPIs is critical. Peter Drucker wisely said, "what gets measured, matters." And he's right! Whatever metrics you put into place for your major gift officers will become their focus. If they are vanity metrics that don't help drive the right work, you might be hurting their chances of success. By choosing the right KPIs and monitoring them, major gift officers are better equipped to meet their goals.

Setting up realistic and achievable KPIs can motivate officers to strive towards achieving them while providing an accurate reflection of performance against established standards. KPIs can also inform adjustments needed in tactics or processes if desired outcomes aren’t being met. Additionally, having quantitative data can provide insights into how best to allocate resources by identifying patterns or trends in performance. As such, having reliable data and meaningful KPIs in place helps ensure major gift officer performance expectations are clear and actionable.

Why are KPIs important?

  1. They drive the right work. If you are measuring the wrong things, your major gift officers will begin focusing on the wrong activities. Make sure your KPIs are donor-facing, include solicitations, and that most of the portfolio is being cultivated. They should be easy to measure and not tie your major gift officers to their desks. Major gift officers should spend minimal time on data entry but just enough to measure the KPIs.
  2. KPIs make sure the major gift officer is pursuing the right prospects. Metrics can help you understand who should stay in a portfolio and who should be released. Additionally, the right metrics will tell you if prospects are moving through the moves management cycle or if the relationship has stalled. They also showcase if your portfolio is too big or too small.

How to track the KPIs

By design, the KPIs we're talking about today are easy to measure, take minimal gift entry, and do not eat into major gift officers' time to fundraise. To measure these KPIs, there are three items that major gift officers need to track in the database:

  1. They need to code themselves as a solicitor for their current portfolio.
  2. Major Gift Officers need to record their quality contacts with prospects.
  3. They need to track their solicitations, including the ask amount, when the gift is expected, if the ask has taken place, etc.)

By doing these simple data entry tasks, all the five KPIs can be easily tracked.

The key is having the right systems and processes in place to make sure these tasks are being completed and tracked correctly. Training staff on the importance of coding correctly, following up on asks, and updating the database on a regular basis will ensure that your major gift officers' KPIs are accurately measured and that you can get the most out of your fundraising efforts.

What are the best KPIs for major gift officers?

  1. Coverage - 80% of your portfolio should have at least one quality contact every six months. This strategy keeps the portfolio current and ensures that people are being communicated with. It also endorses a smaller, more focused portfolio. If you can only get to 40% of your portfolio, it's too big.
  2. Face-to-Face Meetings - Your major gift officers should strive for 10 or more meetings per month. We're going for quality here because when you focus on quantity, or the goal is too high, major gift officers might sprinkle in a few "easy" lunches with prospects outside their portfolio.
  3. Asks of $10,000 or more - Your major gift officers should have 5 or more solicitations each quarter. This makes sure that they are asking year-round and infusing cash into the organization throughout the year.
  4. The Percentage of a Portfolio That Makes a Major Gift - We recommend that at least 25% of a major gift officer's portfolio makes a major gift within the fiscal year. Here's the logic: We want to make sure that every major gift officer is pursuing the right pool of prospects. If they can't drum up 25% of their portfolio at the major gift level, some serious reworking of that portfolio is needed.
  5. Dollars Raised - This is tailored for each major gift officer, and it is the quickest and easiest way to measure success. The major gift officer's goal should be challenging, but attainable.

How often should you review your KPIs?

Timely, holistic reporting on the metrics is important because, at any given time, your major gift officers should know where they are with the five metrics. Oftentimes, we see organizations measure one metric annually -- if the major gift officer met their fundraising goal. The challenge with that is it's too easy to fall behind because there's a misconception that there's plenty of time to catch up. All of the sudden, it's October and your major gift officer is at 30% of their goal. The metrics we've laid out should be measured monthly, quarterly, and annually.

If you work in a development shop where there are multiple major gift officers, you might consider a shared dashboard so that everyone can see where everyone is. A little public pressure helps keep everyone focused on the right work, but you don't want to create too much competition as that may get counterproductive.

Major gift officers need to check in with their team regularly about performance and compare their metrics with others in the organization. By evaluating KPIs among colleagues, gift officers have an opportunity to share best practices, learn from each other’s successes, and even motivate each other when results aren’t meeting expectations. Overall, having measurable goals gives major gift officers and clarity about what success looks like for an organization. With clear KPIs set up properly, everyone involved knows exactly what they need to do to move the needle forward.