Metrics: whether donors want ’em or not

A recent article in The Nonprofit Quarterly asks What Do Donors Want?

The question mainly being “How much do donors want performance metrics about the charities they support?”

The article says they don’t want a lot:

… human beings make philanthropic decisions, not mathematical models or formulae. These human beings bring to the philanthropic process values and feelings and historical experiences that no data set or analytical technique can replace. Perhaps our greatest challenge, then, is less about finding ways to measure and codify philanthropy and more about determining where that practice fits within the larger goal of encouraging more philanthropy among a more diverse group of donors.

I agree. If you’re into metrics because you think there’s a new kind of all-rational, non-emotional donor out there, you’re going to be badly disappointed.

Donors of all ages and all generations want stories and heart-connections. In fact, if you over-rely on metrics, assuming that an iron-clad case is your best case, you’re likely to drive donors away. (Note that I’m talking about individual donors. For institutional donors, the situation is usually different.)

Even so, I’m all in favor of rigorous, quantifiable metrics. Not because they’ll make your fundraising better, but for these two reasons:


  1. You’ll be more effective. If you’re measuring what you do, I guarantee you’re doing a better job than if you’re not measuring. I’ve worked with organizations that are metrics obsessed and others that run by intuition and/or consensus. The metrics organizations are incredibly more effective. We owe effectiveness to donors (and everyone else).
  2. You’ll get better stories. A system of gathering metrics will put you in contact of what donors really want: stories. And that leads to better fundraising.


Comments

4 responses to “Metrics: whether donors want ’em or not”

  1. Settuba Charles Avatar
    Settuba Charles

    looking forward for your service.

  2. Settuba Charles Avatar
    Settuba Charles

    looking forward for your service.

  3. Jeff, I agree that metrics are important, especially to major donors that are interested in improving human conditions in some niche of particular interest to them. Persuing outcome measures also generates the success stories that can result in great PR (www.managingnonprofits.org/an-at-risk/).

  4. Jeff, I agree that metrics are important, especially to major donors that are interested in improving human conditions in some niche of particular interest to them. Persuing outcome measures also generates the success stories that can result in great PR (www.managingnonprofits.org/an-at-risk/).

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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