Prospect Management Metrics: Showing our Value, Elevating our Work
Front-line fundraisers have a generally agreed-upon set of quantifiable measures of success — things like dollars raised, asks made and gifts secured. But establishing a set of standard metrics for prospect management is less definitive, and perhaps for good reason.
The work of the prospect management professional varies from organization to organization and role to role. We shift and adapt as the needs of the organization change. We use advancements in technology and the industry to elevate our work and the work of our colleagues. We have a unique vantage point that often pulls us in many directions. Staying flexible not only keeps our work interesting, but increases our ability to positively impact a variety of initiatives across the organization.
I knew creating a formal system of tracking, analyzing and sharing my team’s work would help us better understand where our time was being spent, pinpoint weak spots and opportunities and fast-track conversations with leadership about our current and future impact. But I was hesitant to commit to a small set of targets that might stifle our work, or worse, make it seem as though we were falling short if other important work needed our attention in the moment - I have been there before, and that does not feel good.
It was not until I shifted and really expanded my thinking on metrics that I found the path forward. The inspiration for this came from an October 2021 Harvard Business Review article entitled “Why You Should Build a “Career Portfolio,” (Not a “Career Path”).”
In this article, the author talks about defining one’s career not so much as a linear progression of jobs with increasing responsibilities, but instead as a collection of experiences and skills that make up your career portfolio. While this article has nothing to do with prospect management, it inspired me to stop thinking of metrics as a handful of targets we needed to increase year-over-year, and to instead define metrics much more broadly as ‘reviewing the work we have done to help make decisions about the future.’
In adopting this expanded view, which would include assessing key quantitative and qualitative data points, the path forward showed itself. This work now culminates in a two-page report I prepare each spring called “Prospect Management Highlighted Accomplishments and Key Impact Indicators.”
What follows is the path I took to create this report.
Start with Your Primary Areas of Focus
Documenting a short list of your primary areas of focus, or core services unique to you/your team, will provide a compass for your work. The core services you select should help to differentiate the work you do from that of other professionals or teams in the organization.
For reference, below are my team’s current primary areas of focus:
- Prospect management systems, procedures, training and tools
- Portfolio reviews and prospect strategy
- Prospect analysis and pipeline development
- Prospect management data tracking and reports
Pull Your Counts, or Key Impact Indicators (Quantitative Analysis)
While there are many prospect management activities that could be tracked and counted, the key impact indicators (KIIs) you choose should reflect where you feel you are, or could be, contributing the most. In selecting KIIs, I recommend not letting perfect be the enemy of good; you can adjust later, as needed.
Below are the KIIs I am currently tracking:
- New prospects identified by prospect management/research
- With principal gift capacity ($5 million+)
- CFR prospects
- Prospect management-identified or -surfaced prospects qualified this year
- Portfolio reviews conducted
- Contact reports reviewed (for content, additional coding)
- Prospect management system edits reviewed and processed
- Prospect management projects completed
These key impact indicators help us make workload, staffing and resource decisions, and set targets for the coming year, but not necessarily with the objective of pushing ever higher. For example, our KII related to new prospect identification helps determine targets, but in the coming year we may need to focus on identifying more principal gift level prospects or prospective corporate donors, even if this decreases the number of prospects identified overall.
These KIIs are also important because they inform our work in different ways. For instance, portfolio reviews conducted, contact reports reviewed, prospect management system edits processed and prospect management projects completed all provide insight on how the increase in work of our colleagues is impacting my team’s workload and available work time. In monitoring shifts in these counts year-over-year, I can determine where additional training, process automations, adjustments to our tasks or workload or the addition of prospect management staff might be needed.
Gather and Share Top Accomplishments (Qualitative Analysis)
Taking inventory and sharing top projects you completed is an excellent way to fully understand your impact and illustrate your reach across the organization. This can also help you evaluate how your work might be expanding and spot potential opportunities for greater growth in the coming years.
Each member of my team shares two to three of their highlighted accomplishments from the past year and I summarize that work into bullet points, matching each accomplishment to one of our primary areas of focus. Last year, our highlighted accomplishments included the following:
- Streamlining the quarterly portfolio review process, to ensure consistency in analysis and delivery of portfolios to DOs each evaluation quarter and offer the flexibility of consultation during meetings (Portfolio reviews and prospect strategy)
- Creating top prospect lists for nine new initiatives or programs across campus using a variety of prospect management techniques and tools (Prospect analysis and pipeline development)
Summarize Top Projects on the Horizon
Sharing a high-level list of major projects you plan to complete helps get future priorities out of your own head and into a space where collaboration, discussion and planning can occur. This will also provide a good opportunity to ask questions like:
- Are your anticipated top projects the work that is most needed right now?
- Are your timelines for project completion reasonable, or will these need to be adjusted?
- To complete this work, will you need to add additional staff and, if so, what roles?
Concluding our report with a handful of big projects on the horizon provides a good foundation for discussion with leadership to ensure the work we plan to do best meets current and future organizational needs.
Where Freedom and Progress Intersect
When I allowed myself the freedom to expand my definition of what metrics reporting could be — working primarily to provide a good platform for creating dialogue with my team, colleagues and leadership — I started to make real progress in moving this project forward. Thinking beyond things we could count and instead providing a focused summary of key quantitative and qualitative data has been helpful in better evaluating and showcasing our work.
I hope in sharing my experiences and insights, I might inspire others who may be stuck, like I was, to embark on this highly beneficial (and I daresay, fun) process of creative exploration that will inform better future work.