Counting on Boards: Measuring True Success

You may have heard the phrase ‘What gets measured, gets done.’

For trivia buffs it’s often attributed to Peter Drucker, or Lord Kelvin, but most probably the Renaissance astronomer Rhaticus originated it, translated as ‘If you can measure it, you can manage it.’

There are many metrics in fundraising today:

  • Annual giving folks track renewals, upgrades, lybunts, sybunts, new donors and the efficacy of snail mail, email, social media and online giving.
  • Major gift officers are measured by visits, contacts, proposals and dollars raised.
  • Planned giving staff members monitor fulfillment rates for expectancies while being asked to achieve goals for the number of new commitments and the dollars they represent.
  • And, of course, development programs have an overall goal. For many that is an aggregate of goals for annual, major and planned giving.

However, one of the most important resources – volunteer leadership – is rarely assessed except in the crudest terms: How much do they give?

Let’s start with the assumption that most volunteers are involved because they care about your organization, want to see it succeed and are committed to helping. What does their commitment involve?

Ideally it’s their time, their talent and their treasure. Setting clear expectations in each area at the outset and tracking performance is essential to success.

How do you measure success in each area?

Time – The best boards are precise about the amount of time needed because that is the most precious asset a busy person is giving you. It could be 60 hours per year when you include:

  • 32 hours preparing for, traveling to and attending board and committee meetings.
  • 8 hours learning about the organization (or the organization being served in the case of an institutionally-related foundation).
  • 12 hours in donor identification, cultivation or solicitation calls.
  • 8 hours attending special events or training outside of board meetings.

Talent – Be specific about what skills you want them to use to support you such as program expertise, financial acumen, fundraising, governance or trusteeship. Make it clear how you want to focus their time on the board.

Treasure — Be precise about what you expect Board members to give at a minimum for annual support, major gift initiatives and as a part of an estate.

Develop an individualized plan with each Board member at the start of the year and review them at the end as you are developing the plan for the next year.

Yes, this will take time, but it’s time that reaps you the reward of a high-performing board. And, if you are smart, you will engage your Board members to do much of this for you.