For many fundraisers, the phrase “hit your metrics” can invoke a range of emotions—from dread to indifference to incentive to achieve. Similar to those grades one received in high school or college, metrics can be a positive influencer when properly applied. Yet, when fundraising metrics don’t measure what truly needs to be evaluated, they can have an adverse effect—on the individual fundraiser, the development team, and the success of the organization.

Our team recently had the opportunity to interview a senior vice president of development about his use of metrics to encourage frontline fundraisers to develop and grow—and by extension, bolster the sustainability of his organization.

1. Be Selective

Measure only the actions that add value to your organization—and apply these measures to everyone. Uniformly applying such metrics focuses the team on those actions deemed necessary for success and aligns departments and divisions within the development office. Choosing measures that encourage and reinforce steady and consistent management of the fundraiser’s portfolio helps the fundraiser focus on tasks and behaviors that are vital to their success in securing contributions.

It’s not about filling up a bucket and then saying, “I’m good—I raised my money. I got this big gift in October.” You have to manage your portfolio. Everything we do is about continuing to be a holistic, sustainable fundraising enterprise.

2. One size does not fit all

While everyone in the organization is measured according to the same set of metrics, success looks different for each position. Tailor the application of each measurement to the position and incentivize the actions that are most important for the success of the person in that position. A fundraiser that is new to the profession has different needs than an experienced one. Tailoring measurements also raises the expectation that the fundraiser can hit all of his or her metrics and provides that fundraiser the job satisfaction of achieving those goals.

There are five different metrics that we evaluate on every year, but these metrics are placed on a sliding scale based on your role. Are you a pure fundraiser or do you supervise anybody else? What’s most important for a new development officer differs from what’s meaningful for a senior director of development. They have the same five meaningful measures, but they vary in terms of what’s our expectation and in terms of what we incentivize.

3. Make metrics a team sport

Tying the performance evaluations of the entire team to the metrics of the frontline fundraiser encourages a common goal. All the actions taken by the team help point the organization toward success. Having a common goal provides clarity around all the tasks of the team members.

We’ve aligned every department to say, “Your success gives me my success. I’m here to help you be more effective. I’m here to ensure that you’re getting the visits and achieving your metrics.” When we get them out of their silos and working together, we can get where we’re going a lot faster. Everything we do is about continuing this holistic, sustainable fundraising enterprise.

4. No surprises

Conducting regular performance evaluations throughout the year shines a spotlight on areas where frontline fundraisers and their teams are falling short of their goals. Course corrections can be made by the team, ensuring they can all meet their metrics at the end of the year and achieve fundraising success.

Metrics that are carefully selected can act as a powerful compass that points the way to your organization’s success. Tailoring metrics to the position and individual can encourage that individual’s professional growth. Aligning the success of departments to these metrics empowers all individuals working within the organization to have a direct impact in achieving the organization’s fundraising goals.

We’re not talking about having one good year, or one good month, or getting one good gift. We’re talking about creating sustainable fundraising organizations that can continually add philanthropic investment back to our institutions that so desperately need it.

Gain tools and techniques to help your team attain greater performance by attending our public offering of Elevate: Coaching Essentials for Managers.

Elevate: Coaching Essentials for Managers