Diocesan and parish-wide capital campaigns create a diverse range of volunteer opportunities for devoted parishioners, including the chance for meaningful and thoughtful engagement with fellow parishioners. Your campaign’s success ultimately depends on the commitment of these volunteers who are asked to champion your case for support.

With this in mind, your first task in selecting volunteer leadership is identifying a chairperson or co-chairs. As a crucial leadership position, the campaign chair should be open to maximizing relationships to assist with major gift prospect visits. It is important for parish staff and lay leadership to identify a core group of individuals who will be able to assist the pastor and lead the parish campaign in three ways: give, inspire, and advocate.


It is no surprise that parishioners who are generous in their church giving are also active and faithful stewards in the church. When launching a campaign, it is this flock that a pastor often looks to for initial feedback and support. With a personal invitation from the pastor, these committed parishioners may be willing to take on the task of joining your campaign’s volunteer committee. As a first step, prior to recruiting your volunteers, the pastor should be prepared to ask potential lay leaders for their gift. A financial commitment from the chair is a precursor to the campaign’s launch. Additionally, a parishioner’s commitment of their time, talent, and financial support will infuse early momentum into your campaign’s success.


Capital campaigns present a unique opportunity for parishioners to get involved in parish ministry. This is great for your campaign, as the Corporation for National and Community Service reports that the second responsibility that volunteers take on is fundraising. An effective chairperson will be able to motivate and inspire fellow parishioners to make a personal gift, as well as to devote their own time to the project.


When launching a capital campaign, it is critical to have strong leadership and support of both the campaign plan and the parish’s needs. While it is always important for pastors to serve as the lead in this role, campaign chairpersons are also helpful in this endeavor. The chairperson is able to talk about the campaign from the perspective of a parishioner. Additionally, they can also serve as a partner to the pastor, joining him on visits and hosting small groups to present and champion the fundraising effort.

Preparing the Chairperson for their New Role

Coaching a parishioner to take on a chairperson role requires hands-on guidance and support. There are three critical steps that church leaders can take to ensure the chairperson’s success:

  1. Provide them with the proper support and resources.

Participation in a capital campaign can require a substantial amount of time from volunteers, especially the chairperson, in the early phases of the campaign. Ensure that your organization is prepared to provide training, feedback, and materials to support your campaign chair in their role.

  1. Be clear about expectations and responsibilities.

The chairperson must understand the needs of the campaign and how their involvement is fundamental to its success. Be clear in responsibilities, expectations, and deadlines. Developing a job description can also be helpful in communicating the framework of the position.

  1. Set them up for success.

Before sending your chairperson out on major gift visits, make sure you have carefully identified your prospects. Using Wealth Engine screening or other tools can be helpful, but also assessing anecdotal evidence and the parish’s history with the parishioner can help narrow down capacity, interests, and motivations for supporting the parish.

A capital campaign can be a transformative experience for your parish. Engaging strong leadership can inspire active stewardship for many years to come.

CCS Fundraising is a strategic fundraising consulting firm that partners with nonprofits for transformational change. Members of the CCS team are highly experienced and knowledgeable across sectors, disciplines, and regions. With offices throughout the United States and the world, our unique, customized approach provides each client with an embedded team member for the duration of the engagement. To access our full suite of perspectives, publications, and reports, visit our insights page. To learn more about CCS Fundraising’s suite of services, click here.

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Perspectives on Philanthropy: Giving USA 2022 Release Webinar

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Perspectives on Philanthropy: Giving USA 2022 Release Webinar

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For more than 100 years, the traditional fundraising campaign has been the vehicle of choice for institutions to galvanize the community and secure significant gift commitments. Especially in the healthcare space, traditional campaigns are bigger and more popular than ever. Million-dollar campaigns gave way to $100 million dollar campaigns and now, multi-billion dollar fundraising campaigns are the norm. Campaigning raises more money, creates community excitement, provides a rationale to support giving, and demonstrates what donations will accomplish.

Sounds like a slam dunk, right? Not so fast. Traditional campaigns undoubtedly provide tremendous benefits to those institutions that run them well. Yet healthcare organizations may focus too much on the five- to seven year horizon of the campaign and forget to consider what happens when the campaign is over. You’ve surpassed your goal and celebrated your success. Now what? If you have not planned ahead, it is likely that your post-campaign fundraising revenue will drop to pre-campaign levels. While you funded the greatest needs of your institution, you neglected the overall health of the organization by failing to create sustainable growth.

Consider an Alternative Campaign Approach

To mitigate the traditional post-campaign lull, alternative fundraising campaign designs are becoming more common. Some organizations never stop campaigning, taking a perpetual approach with decade-long funding initiatives and back-to-back traditional campaigns. Others employ smaller and shorter mini-campaigns to continually target specific funding priorities, or to simply bridge between traditional efforts. Some organizations are scrapping the traditional campaign altogether, instituting a “never” campaigning approach where targeted transformational gift solicitations are built into “business-as-usual” fundraising.

While these campaign designs have separate benefits and risks, they all share one common element – the flexibility to pivot strategy to accommodate shifting donor desires, community needs, and institutional priorities. Economic volatility, new legislation, evolving trends, societal interests, and institutional leadership changes are just a few of the challenges that you could face during a multiyear campaign. Don’t get stuck in a campaign that restricts funding to a singular and rigid initiative. Consider a single project as one of your campaign funding priorities, not the only one.

Don’t Forget the Annual Fund

Regardless of campaign design, make sure you pay attention to your annual fund at the start. Consider growing your annual fund as one of your campaign goals or as a parallel strategic initiative. Focus on bringing in new donors and new dollars. Cultivate and upgrade your smaller gifts. Prioritize stewardship. These gifts may take years to cultivate, but by the end of your campaign you should see an increased fundraising baseline, a softened post-campaign revenue dip, and a secure fundraising future for your organization.

Embrace Flexibility

Campaigning is not a one-size-fits-all proposition, and traditional campaigning may remain the best fit for your organization. However, campaign timing and design should be grounded in the financial needs, strategic initiatives, and specific culture of each organization. The key is to remain flexible to changing priorities and community needs while addressing the traditional post-campaign revenue decline. Appropriate campaign design alongside a deliberate approach to building and sustaining relationships will ensure that your organization is in the best position to raise more money while growing sustainably.

CCS Fundraising is a strategic fundraising consulting firm that partners with nonprofits for transformational change. Members of the CCS team are highly experienced and knowledgeable across sectors, disciplines, and regions. With offices throughout the United States and the world, our unique, customized approach provides each client with an embedded team member for the duration of the engagement. To access our full suite of perspectives, publications, and reports, visit our insights page. To learn more about CCS Fundraising’s suite of services, click here.

This article is an update from a previous post published in November, 2016.

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Giving days—24-hour digital fundraising challenges—are worth the investment. Executing a giving day strategy can be a useful tool to raise awareness and funds, as long as you make the right preparations and have reasonable and achievable goals. The organizations that are succeeding in their outreach have robust strategies that align closely with their wider institutional goals and include investments in time and staff resources.

Why Participate?

The purpose of participating in a giving day is to offer new and established donors a special reason to engage with your cause. Getting involved is essential, as they are increasing in popularity year after year. #GivingTuesday, the best-known giving day that takes place annually on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, is growing exponentially. According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, in 2017 it raised more than $270 million — over $100 million more than the previous year. In 2018, overall performance exceeded expectations with $380 million being raised with an average gift of $105.

There are opportunities in every nonprofit sector on #GivingTuesday. For example, #iGiveCatholic, which was deemed “the most successful Catholic crowdfunding event to date” by the National Catholic Register, has taken online Catholic stewardship practices to the next level. #iGiveCatholic is a bishop-led initiative in partnership with lay leaders in Catholic philanthropy that offers assistance to Catholic organizations as they build their outreach strategies for the online giving event. Through this service, organizations gain access to training, toolkits, and materials to execute a successful plan. In 2018, the #iGiveCatholic campaign raised more than $5.6 million for 2,500+ participating parishes, schools, and nonprofit ministries representing 29 dioceses across the country.

There are also regional giving days to investigate in your own area. Whichever days you choose, follow our three steps to maximizing your giving day strategy.

The Three Keys

1. Preparation

Making the most out of a giving day takes planning. Many organizations stumble by jumping into the giving day conversation without proper outreach strategies, branding, or realistic goals. It is a best practice to create an outreach plan over six months in advance. You should have a calendar filled with strategies for:

  • Content creation (i.e. branded templates, videos, images, testimonials, podcasts etc.)
  • Email marketing to your database to build momentum
  • Social media posts across channels that tell a consistent story of impact
  • Website enhancements to serve as a “home base” for giving day promotion
  • Public relations/media outreach

The preparation stage also gives you an opportunity to survey the people who gave the previous year. Tap into your network to ask them what compelled them to give, what content they found most effective, and what they would want to see improved. This will help you create a new strategy that resonates with your core audience.

2. Standing Out Above the Crowd

As the popularity of giving days grows, the chances are good that your audience will be inundated by pitches from many like-minded organizations. Therefore, the way you present your mission can make all the difference. The first question to ask here is, Why should people give to our cause? Consider the elements of your case that stand out, and boil those differentiators into a ten second elevator pitch to grab attention and clearly present your case.

Once you have narrowed your focus, create professional-looking content that support your case. Think about using campaign-specific graphics and colors in emails and on social media. Remember that you will be attempting to attract new people who may not be familiar with your cause. Your messaging should aim to clearly underline who you are and why this day is special.

3. Promotion

While it is important to communicate your strategies well in advance, outreach should be ramped up a month before the giving day. This includes communications through all of your social media channels, your email database, as well as through events in your communities. It is also important to activate your strongest supporters to raise awareness. Pull a short list of your most active volunteers and major financial supporters and make personal calls to ask them for help in spreading the word.

When promoting your giving day, it is also essential to strike a balance between underwhelming and overwhelming your audience. Be purposeful with your outreach and avoid redundancies in your content to keep your audience engaged. For example, sending the same emails several times without adding something new to the conversation could slow momentum as you get closer to the day.

Following Your Giving Day Campaign

The first thing to do after your giving day is to track and publicize your results to celebrate your success. It is also useful to do an immediate internal evaluation to determine which parts of your plan worked and which parts didn’t. This audit will allow you to identify the outreach channels that were the most effective which will help greatly the next year. It is valuable to thank all donors who participated in elevating your cause through all channels.

If you’re just getting started, here are some reminders:

  • As you think about your strategic plan for this year and beyond, it may be tempting to participate in as many giving days as you can find, but you could risk spreading yourself thin. Take a look at your calendar, identify all the giving days you might want to participate in, and then see which ones fit your organization best. Try a few the first year and then assess which one(s) worked best for you.
  • It’s okay to start small. Consider a reasonable goal to create an early win.
  • No matter how far out your next giving day is, it is worthwhile to assemble your team to begin strategizing today. Take a look at the organizations who are doing it well, and brainstorm what it will take for your organization to exceed their success.

CCS Fundraising is a strategic fundraising consulting firm that partners with nonprofits for transformational change. Members of the CCS team are highly experienced and knowledgeable across sectors, disciplines, and regions. With offices throughout the United States and the world, our unique, customized approach provides each client with an embedded team member for the duration of the engagement. To access our full suite of perspectives, publications, and reports, visit our insights page. To learn more about CCS Fundraising’s suite of services, click here.

One of the fastest growing trends in the philanthropic world is impact investing. But while you may see the term appearing more and more often, it may not always be clear what it can do for your nonprofit organization.

To offer you more clarity around this subject and provide you expertise from the field, CCS Fundraising has published a brief report that explains impact investing as it applies to your work. Written by CCS Fundraising Fellow Julia Seigel, this piece details what it means to be involved with impact investing from both sides of the transaction. It also features the most recent study data as well as case studies of nonprofit organizations currently applying this strategy to their programs.

We hope you find this report helpful and informative.

The ability to access and understand the signals within our data has reached peak importance within both the nonprofit sector at large, and across healthcare organizations in particular. In fact, the future of healthcare philanthropy will be built on a foundation of data-driven insights.

Organizations with the ability to aggregate and analyze their information will emerge as thought leaders, able to assess their fundraising to date and identify opportunities for growth.

Those with sufficient confidence in their data to act on the outcomes of that analysis will be able to capitalize on found opportunities, and secure the funding required to bring their visions to life.

In recognition of this potential, many healthcare organizations are seeking to modernize the way they manage information, taking a critical look at how data is gathered, entered, analyzed, and valued, as well as the tools and protocols utilized throughout the process. Hospitals and medical centers are investing in improvements to their IT infrastructure, from new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems to record donor interactions and planned asks, to Software as a Service (SaaS) tools to centralize e-mail communications and create dynamic reports. Additionally, as healthcare consolidation/merger and acquisition activity continues to increase, health systems are streamlining IT operations in order to gain visibility into donor and grateful patient activities across an expanded network. Accompanying these structural changes are revised business processes and guidelines, requiring teams to learn new ways of working.

The Case for Change Management

Change management, an organization’s systematic approach to engaging with and supporting teams through times of transition, is vital for helping ensure changes are understood, controlled, and embraced by staff, and ultimately successful.

Investments in new technologies, systems, and data quality, and the insights they generate have promise, but only if they are:

  • Understood: do all staff know the purpose of these tools, and how each will be used to monitor and drive fundraising strategy?
  • Focused: is it evident what information matters to hospital and development leadership, and to each member of the team? Is it clear where this information is sourced?
  • Relevant: are the metrics used to track and evaluate progress aligned with the organization’s strategic objectives? Do they reflect the institution’s values?
  • Trusted: is leadership confident in the accuracy of the data to act when appropriate?
  • Actionable: does the data presented make it clear what needs to happen next?

It doesn’t matter how advanced an organization’s tools are if the rationale behind their selection, design, and desired use isn’t clear to the people who rely on them. Building a culture of awareness is key to increasing the receptivity to using data to drive decisions. It is not enough to gather feedback at the outset of a systems project and reveal a solution at the end. All stakeholders must be engaged throughout the process, and invited to co-create a narrative that captures the logic behind choices made at every stage.

This is especially important for healthcare institutions, where coordination between fundraising staff, physicians, patients, development, and hospital leadership is required, and effective philanthropy is reliant on insights and information from all parties. Coupling any information systems project plan with a parallel plan focused on change management will help ensure that all staff see the logic behind the implementation of new systems, processes, and protocols, feel empowered to make educated decisions in line with an institution’s data strategy, and that the practice of healthcare fundraising remains truly patient-centric.

Navigating Change in a Complex Operating Environment

Leveraging healthcare data for fundraising purposes means addressing the complexity inherent in serving a patient population. Solutions for the aggregation of data for analysis must be HIPAA-compliant, preserving the security of protected health information (PHI) across all platforms. Fundraisers must be able to develop prospect strategies in partnership with clinicians and communicate progress to both development and hospital leadership. Above all else, the collection and use of data for development activities must not interfere with the quality of patient care.

Navigating these intricacies and aligning the development team around the information that matters most is as much a change management exercise as it is a technical one. A good data strategy makes it clear what information leadership is choosing to use to oversee progress, and why. Well-designed systems and processes make it possible for the right stakeholders to access that information in a secure and efficient way. Ongoing socialization of the logic behind the insights is what makes it part of an organization’s culture. Understanding how one’s day-to-day work contributes to an institution’s big-picture objectives is what makes that work meaningful.

Three Guiding Principles of Change Management

  1. Change takes longer than you think
    • Don’t be afraid to dedicate time and resources to systems design projects. It’s worth putting in the time to achieve your target results as well as widespread utilization of new tools and processes
    • It’s better to overcommunicate than to risk leaving stakeholders out of the conversation
  1. The process works when everyone steps up
    • Visible leadership commitment makes a difference – showing up to meetings and using new systems, reports, and data in managing the team adds credibility and reinforces the importance of the work
    • Encourage and create a safe space for suggestions, criticism, agreement, and dissent as the process moves forward; allow everyone to bring their full spectrum of thoughts and emotions to the table
  1. Keep the momentum going
    • Having a central driver is key for keeping stakeholders organized and the project on track
    • If there are areas where your project team is getting stuck, don’t be afraid of imperfect solutions – keep pushing forward, and revisit at a later date
    • Design for the rule, not the exception. There will always be scenarios that you haven’t accounted for at each turn. If what you aim to accomplish with your data is well-understood, trust your team to make the right decisions given the circumstances
    • Celebrate milestones throughout a lengthy project to keep morale high

Implementing an Effective Change Management Strategy

  1. Invite Everyone to Help Design the Future
    • Intentionally and proactively engage all stakeholders in assessing the institution’s current state and envisioning the desired end result. Everyone has something to bring to the table, regardless of level or role
    • Conduct one-on-one or small group meetings to understand how data is currently generated, gathered, entered, referenced, and valued, what tools and systems are used, challenges from each person’s perspective, high-level needs, and specific functional requests
  1. Develop a Data Narrative
    • With leadership, define the values that drive your work, the questions that support those values, and the key performance indicators/metrics required to answer those questions
      1. From these conversations, develop a logical and approachable data narrative to contextualize systems and process changes
      2. Help all staff see the importance of their work in helping the institution achieve its top objectives
    • Use storytelling techniques to communicate the rationale behind process changes so they are easily understood, explainable, and remembered by others
  1. Socialize Your Solutions
    • Devote time and resources to training the team on your new way of working
      1. Crowdsource examples of real-life tasks and challenges and show how they work within the context of your new tools and processes
    • Provide an opportunity for staff to share feedback on what works and what doesn’t, and whether proposed solutions are meeting their needs
      1. Create an environment where staff members feel comfortable vocalizing their challenges. A staff assistant may not be eager to speak up about something they don’t understand while their manager is in the room
      2. Consider using tools like Poll Everywhere that allow participants to ask questions and share feedback anonymously

Case Study: A Plan in Action

A focus on change management was central to the success a leading academic medical center found in optimizing its approach to information management. Following a successful campaign, the institution partnered with CCS to evaluate its IT infrastructure, systems, and processes in preparation for ambitious future growth.

The project began with a deep dive into the structure of the medical center’s CRM and associated systems, coupled with an analysis of the processes by which data was entered, managed, and used. All 100+ members of the team were invited to share their perspectives, either in person or via an e-survey. Following over 30 hours of conversation with leadership and staff representing all facets of development, CCS Fundraising delivered a set of high-level and tactical recommendations to support the creation of a set of core reports to achieve consistency and visibility around key institutional metrics.

To operationalize these recommendations, medical center leadership convened a cross-functional working group tasked with documenting the structure, definition, and use of each key performance indicator comprising the reports. Meeting on a weekly basis to start, the working group engaged in healthy dialogue about the intended purpose of each metric, and how to maintain the integrity of data across systems. The group’s diversity made it possible to understand how each department would be impacted by changes made, and with decision makers present for every discussion, the group had the authority to act.

As each new definition, process, and report was formalized, the institution invested time socializing these changes in multiple formats across each unit, including in-person training, hands-on workshops, and small group meetings with opportunities for direct feedback. Medical center leadership elevated this work to a place of importance by providing updates at all-hands meetings, and kept staff informed as the project progressed. Additionally, given the consistency of messaging around intent and objectives, the institution strengthened working relationships with colleagues across the University through the course of the project. With clarity of purpose, everyone worked towards the same goal.

Today, the academic medical center is preparing to roll out a set of dashboards tailored to, and reflective of, the staff’s extraordinary work, an achievement built from the efforts and insights of every person on the team.

From Theory to Practice

For a healthcare institution, embarking on a systems optimization project means contending with complexity, balancing the priorities of multiple stakeholders, and wrangling data from disparate sources, all while preserving the integrity of the patient experience.

Before your project begins, spend time reflecting on the culture of your organization: how your staff communicates, shares feedback, and how each member of the team prefers to receive information. Be thoughtful about how you convene your project team: select a diverse group of stakeholders representing all user groups and levels. Anticipate pain points and devote time and resources to socializing solutions within and across teams. Help everyone see the importance of their work in the context of the organization’s goals. When done well, the process of bringing data together brings teams together, too.

CCS Fundraising is a strategic fundraising consulting firm that partners with nonprofits for transformational change. Members of the CCS team are highly experienced and knowledgeable across sectors, disciplines, and regions. With offices throughout the United States and the world, our unique, customized approach provides each client with an embedded team member for the duration of the engagement. To access our full suite of perspectives, publications, and reports, visit our insights page. To learn more about CCS Fundraising’s suite of services, including Systems projects, click here.

Taking on a parish campaign of any size requires careful planning. Campaigns rarely fail in the middle or at the end. Success typically hinges on proper preparation prior to launching a major fundraising initiative. With increased competition for the philanthropic dollar, it is important that a parish undergoes necessary planning steps before proceeding. Consider the following five things before moving forward.

1) Assessing the Accuracy of Parishioner Information

Knowing how to communicate with your parishioners is essential to a successful campaign. Before taking any steps forward with your campaign plan or case for support, it is absolutely essential to know the accuracy of your parishioner records. Having a reliable database can be the difference maker in ensuring your campaign hits its target, and can help ensure certainty that you are prioritizing your outreach.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How many parishioner email addresses and phone numbers do we currently have?
  • Do we have reliable and consistent parishioner giving information?
  • When was the last time our parish conducted a census?

It doesn’t take very long for a donor database to need refreshing. Consider allocating staff time and resources to obtaining the latest contact information. Once you have ensured that your database is dependable, you can move into the next phase of campaign planning with confidence.

2) Activating Your Advocates: Volunteers

Your existing parish leaders will most likely champion your cause at every turn. However, it is important to look at volunteers at all levels. Volunteers can be your strongest supporters on the ground level, and the proper organization of their roles can make or break a campaign. One common denominator of successful parish campaigns is that there is a strong volunteer infrastructure in place that includes every aspect of an existing ministry. This includes lectors, CCD teachers, members of the finance and parish councils, Eucharistic ministers, and choir members. Existing ministry members are usually some of the most active, supportive, and passionate members of your parish community.

Prior to your campaign, create a list of all ministry groups and their members, including contact information, and categorize them into groups, each of which have specific action items and plans. It is also important to make sure to consider all volunteers—even those on the periphery— into this plan. Convene volunteers early and often through gatherings, such as a ministry breakfast, to communicate next steps and maintain momentum before the campaign begins. During this process, it will become clear who your biggest volunteer leaders are as they will be the ones who step up and take ownership of their responsibilities.

3) Honing Your Case for Support

Having clear and well-thought out messaging is paramount to any successful parish campaign. While overarching aspirations and grand visions are essential for inspiring support of your campaign, it is also important to focus on specifics. The campaign plan, which includes all internal steps as well as external goals, should be carefully thought through before embarking on the creation of your case for support. During successful campaigns, every detail has been considered. For example:

  • How much will every aspect of your case cost?
  • Is the parish set up to acknowledge and process a large volume of gifts over a multi-year period?
  • If your case calls for mostly capital needs, what is the precise construction timeline?

The best case for support is air-tight and thorough. It allows you to have answers to any questions that parishioners may throw your way, and shows that you have carefully thought through every corner of the campaign.

Begin with the tangible goals you hope to accomplish through your campaign. What are the areas that need financial support? If you can produce a detailed list of items, costs, and projected timelines, you are one step closer to creating a robust case.

4) Solidifying Approvals

Involving your arch/diocese before you begin work on your campaign is essential. Every arch/diocese has a different campaign approval process. It is worthwhile to consider all steps needed to gain approval—including paperwork and a cost breakdown—so you can formally enter into a campaign with full support from your church hierarchy. This is also a great opportunity to test how your newly-created case for support resonates with audiences. If your arch/diocese has questions or is uncertain about any aspect of your case, the chances are your parishioners may have similar concerns. Carefully consider all feedback and incorporate it into your final case for support.

5) Improving Your Online Communications

Your digital communications strategy shouldn’t be an afterthought. It should be something that closely mirrors your mission before your campaign begins. Your online presence includes your website, social media, and digital branding. Everything should be consistent and backed by a comprehensive output strategy. Successful digital communications strategies also include emails and your e-giving provider. Having steady outreach to your parishioners is essential, and so is making the process of donor giving simple. Before embarking on a campaign, consider how you want to communicate and who will execute this plan. The importance of having proper staff time and resources allocated to these endeavors can’t be understated.

What to Do Today

If you are considering a campaign, meet with your leadership to begin discussions about what the pressing needs of your parish are, and how you hope to accomplish these goals. Build a consensus around priorities so you can start your campaign planning on the right foot.

CCS Fundraising is a strategic fundraising consulting firm that partners with nonprofits for transformational change. Members of the CCS team are highly experienced and knowledgeable across sectors, disciplines, and regions. With offices throughout the United States and the world, our unique, customized approach provides each client with an embedded team member for the duration of the engagement. To access our full suite of perspectives, publications, and reports, visit our insights page. To learn more about CCS Fundraising’s suite of services, click here.

Growing your fundraising program is not just about feeding your prospect pipeline or hiring more front-line fundraisers.  In today’s evolving market with a desire for greater accountability, the need for ever-growing levels of support, and an increased competition for donor attention, a hospital foundation’s use of metrics is the key to increasing success.

The famous quote attributed to the educator and author Peter Drucker, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it,” is both a fundraiser’s best dream and a worst nightmare.

It is common knowledge that to effectively manage donor relationships and see the greatest success in your fundraising program, you must build strong ties between your prospects and your organization’s mission. Relationships will always be the foundation of a fruitful fundraising program. But, you can’t build a relationship on metrics.

Healthcare institutions are facing a growing need to increase fundraising in support of more expensive programming and life-saving medical interventions. While relationships have and will continue to be the foundation on which a successful fundraising program is built, the most effective way to increase a fundraising team’s capacity is through the development, implementation, and analysis of fundraising metrics. Relationships will never go away, but metrics must be measured and analyzed to see continued growth.

What are Fundraising Metrics and Why Should We Use them?

Metrics are individual data points about your program that serve as tools to measure fundraising activity. Often a catch-all term, the measurement of metrics requires deep thought, strategy, testing, and right-sizing to effectively support each fundraising program.

Although the initial implementation of tracking and analyzing metrics requires an investment in time and human resources, and although the benefits of doing so may not be seen immediately, the process is implemented by the most successful fundraising shops to enable success.

And why should you measure metrics? Back to Mr. Drucker’s quote. The measurement of fundraising metrics has management benefits for individual fundraisers (leading to benefits for prospects and donors), the development team, and for leadership.

Measuring individual gift officer fundraising metrics will not only help a gift officer focus their work and empower them to reach their own goals through relationships built with prospects, but it also serves  to manage prospect strategies through a better understanding of those prospects and donors. When a gift officer tracks the right activity it gives them the data and capacity to develop better donor partnerships, seek the right investment opportunities for those donors, and challenge them to stretch in their support of the organization’s mission.

Team fundraising metrics encourage collaboration between team members as they share responsibility for more clearly defined goals, help build accountability and ownership amongst the team, and empower the group to celebrate in the collective success of the team.

Organizational leadership benefits from the measurement of metrics as the data provides fodder to inform budgeting and asset allocation. It also helps in future planning and action through testing and measurement of past activity. Additionally, and arguably most importantly for leadership, the measurement of metrics can become a basis for individual performance evaluation, as the data can clearly show where gift officers get stuck in their work. Analysis can help management provide guidance, training, and motivation to shift gift officer behavior before it is too late.

Case Study: Arkansas Children’s Foundation

With two hospitals, regional clinics, mobile health facilities and a state-wide network of programming and research, Arkansas Children’s has expanded its reach from Little Rock to all four corners of Arkansas. Due to this expansion and with a transition in leadership for the Arkansas Children’s Foundation, the hospital saw a need to transform operations and focus on continued growth in fundraising success.

With talented leadership and staff, strong donor relationships, a committed board, and a track record of success, the Arkansas Children’s Foundation saw that in order to continue growth, a formalization of its system of tracking and analyzing metrics was essential.

When Arkansas Children’s began the process of developing its metrics, gift officers and leadership tracked many key performance indicators that have since been fine-tuned or reconsidered.[1]  Once a metrics-tracking habit was built among staff and with a set of data to analyze, they looked at the effects of metrics on fundraising, the efficacy of the tracking systems and the efficiency of the process and applications. They also did the work needed to refine definitions. The philosophy of leadership at the time was to first focus on activity, then zero in on the right activity. With this deep work, they narrowed in on five key individual metrics and three key team metrics related to fundraising activity which are tracked today.[2]

When Arkansas Children’s Foundation embarked upon a revamp of its metrics tracking, all involved understood that this work would be a key driver for increased philanthropic revenue. And they were right. Taking six-year averages into account, the Foundation saw a 53% increase in revenue during one period, and another 51% increase during the next period, bringing them to the success they see today.

Metrics are ingrained into the culture of the organization to the point where staff at all levels are versed in departmental goals and participate in metrics conversations. The board expects continued success and stays up to date on the Foundation’s progress through the story told by metrics. Arkansas Children’s is poised to maintain its growth and is committed to metrics tracking as a tool to help them achieve continued success.

Getting Started

So, how do you kick off your own metrics measurement process? Whether you are a leader of the organization or working closely with them, ask yourselves some key questions before moving ahead:

  • Is what we’re measuring designed to produce outcomes? Are you considering measuring the right things? For example, do the activities we choose to track lead to funds raised?
  • Do we have a way to track consistently? Do gift officers have the tools they need, in terms of training and software, to consistently track the chosen metrics? Is your donor database able to track metrics easily?
  • Do we have a way to extract data? You’ve put the data in, but can you get it out in a format that will be useful to the team?
  • What will we do with the information? You’ve extracted the data, but how will it be analyzed and used?
  • How do we stay up to date? How and how often should we review our use and tracking of metrics? How and how often should we update our reports?
  • Are we prepared to live with this system for 3+ years? Ascertaining the true success or opportunity in your metrics program will take time and commitment from the team. Do you have the resources and professional stamina to continue the program for several years in order to visualize the full impact of tracking metrics?
  • Do we have the ability to interpret data? Do you have the talent on your team to effectively use the metrics you’ve diligently tracked and pulled?
  • To whom do we report progress and how? Who will use this data? How will it be presented? Depending on the audience, the data may need to be interpreted differently or more/less deeply explained.

A Step-By-Step Approach

Now, you’re ready to put your metrics to work. What steps should you take? By using a hypothetical example, here is what the process could look like.

  1. Select metric(s) to evaluate. Which metrics will provide insight into your organizational goals? For example, let’s measure a gift officer’s number of cultivation visits.
  2. Identify performance targets. What does success look like? In our example, let’s test whether the measurement of cultivation visits leads to an increase in dollars raised.
  3. Develop a “testing theory.” What do you expect the results will be when tracked? Our theory for this example will be that increased cultivation visits lead to an increase in dollars raised.
  4. Collect performance data. Do the measurement! For our example, we will have gift officers track the number of cultivation visits as well as revenue by entering their actions and gifts secured into the database.
  5. Analyze the information. This is done to determine whether the metrics you’re measuring are effective. In our example, we analyze the data points around the number of cultivation visits and revenue, but we don’t see the correlation we were expecting. While cultivation visits have increased, revenue has not.
  6. Develop and implement solutions, if needed. If the measured metrics don’t lead to the intended outcome, shift the metrics. In our example, since we learned that an increased number of cultivation visits does not necessarily equate to an increase in revenue, let’s shift our metrics. Instead, we decide to measure solicitation meetings alongside revenue.
  7. Continue tracking. Keep tracking metrics that provide the most helpful data to increase fundraising success. As skilled fundraisers, we know that solicitations are more effective in producing increased income than cultivation visits. Keep measuring what works for continued success!

Avoiding Common Obstacles

Consistently analyzing your data and testing the efficacy of the measurement process is essential. If you measure the wrong metrics or place too much focus on measurement, you run the risk of encountering the following threats:

  • Inadvertently encouraging inefficiencies and non-strategic actions: If you measure the wrong metrics, you may be asking your gift officers to do the wrong work. For example, if you measure the number of prospect visits a gift officer makes but not solicitations or dollars raised, you run the risk of that gift officer never asking for a gift. Test and measure the right mix of metrics for your team to get the right work done.
  • Creating a disconnect between activity and strategic goals: If metrics tracking becomes the primary focus and the outcome of those metrics is lost, a gift officer runs the risk of doing the work to get the metrics booked, but not achieving the most strategic outcome. For example, if your organization’s focus is fully on tracking metrics and not the development of strategy, a gift officer could potentially ask for a preemptive gift. A well-planned strategy may have resulted in a greater investment from the prospect, and greater support of the organization’s mission. Ensure that the metrics are measured alongside the development of the best strategy for each prospect.
  • Focusing on the data and letting the relationships slip: Along the same line, with too strong a focus on metrics, a gift officer risks letting relationships with donors slip. For example, a gift officer may choose not to respond to a donor request because that type of interaction isn’t measured. Ensure that donor relationships are valued as much as the tracking and measurement of metrics.
  • Measuring too much: If the organization tries to measure too many metrics, they run the risk of overwhelming gift officers in the tracking process, taking time away from the cultivation and solicitation of prospects, and reducing the efficiency of the fundraising program. Too many metrics can bog a gift officer and a team down, while the right metrics can make a tremendous impact.

If you can measure it, you can manage it. And if the right metrics are measured, the threats are minimized or eliminated, and success is likely to follow. With the ever-increasing need for preventative care and healthcare interventions, the process of measuring and analyzing metrics will help create a culture of process and accountability that is essential for a hospital foundation’s continued success.

Thanks to the following Arkansas Children’s staff who were interviewed for this article:

  • Enid Olvey, Vice President, Philanthropy, Arkansas Children’s Foundation
  • Jill McIlroy, Executive Director, Philanthropy, Arkansas Children’s Foundation
  • Sam Coker, Director, Strategy & Campaigns, Arkansas Children’s Foundation
  • Sarah Holt, Lead Research Analyst, Arkansas Children’s Foundation

[1] Arkansas Children’s gift officer metrics have not changed since the implementation of the program; they take pride in the mantra of tracking consistent data consistently at the gift officer level.

[2] Individual metrics measured include prospects added to the pipeline, contacts, face-to-face visits, solicitations submitted, and revenue. Team metrics measured include $1 million+ solicitations submitted, total revenue from $1 million+ gifts, and cost per dollar raised as a Foundation.

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