Lies, lies, and damn metrics

I’ve been working on next year’s strategy recently and I’m coming across many a blog post on the subject of measuring things. Specifically, how to keep track of how well your appeals are performing.

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In nice friendly letters on the front of your annual review.

Now, there’s lots of ways to gauge success; revenue and donor numbers being the most obvious ones. I’ve seen countless arguments both for and against measuring your
participation rate (personally, I don’t like tracking this one – I think it’s meaningless outside the walls of the Development Office). Retention rate, that’s another key one – how many donors are we losing?!

First time donor conversion, average gift, median gift, lifetime value (I had loads of fun trying to calculate that one), break-even point, net income per donor, net cost per donor, return rate, number of undelivereds…

And those are just the ones that come to mind off the top of my head.

I’ll admit to being something of a data geek. I’m guilty of losing myself in chasing after a particularly interesting metric. I like getting stuck into the database, running queries and exports which will hopefully tell me interesting things about the data sets I’m working with.

But there’s just so many ways to measure things! And so many hours spent wrestling with Excel or Access! It all gets a bit overwhelming, and worse, it means you’re so worried about the tiny details that you might lose sight of the overall painting.

My point is, measure what is relevant to you and your programme, measure it consistently (ie exactly the same way) year on year, and don’t be afraid if it shows you something you weren’t expecting. It’s all a learning opportunity, right?

And above all, don’t let yourself stop seeing the whole canvas in all its glory.

-FL

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