Going Beyond Metrics—Measuring and Building Development Staff Competency

From a Bentz Whaley Flessner Client Advisory

In development when the discussion turns to staff performance, most people dwell on metrics: how they are applied and what they mean for the year’s fundraising goals. However, long-term performance is determined by much more than simply how many calls a fundraiser can make or how a program reaches its annual goals. One of the primary principles of talent management is investing in people themselves, not just the benchmarking of a program. Increasing results requires more than bumping up metrics. The strongest programs grow through their staff members and target continuing expansion in the overall capacity of the team. Metrics may help development shops from year to year, but overall performance is driven by long-term performance of staff in many areas beyond what is covered by metrics.

38% of frontline fundraisers think that metrics do not reflect real performance and job responsibilities.

Understanding the Competency Areas

Strong team members are more than effective solicitors; they are able to excel in many areas. When looking at what shapes performance five key areas of competency arise:


1. Donor Relations. The most frequently discussed competency area in development is donor relations for good reason. Being able to successfully build relationships with and fundraising strategies for donors is a critical competency area for obvious reasons. However, donor relations success is often impacted by the abilities of individuals in the other critical areas listed below.
2. Information Management. Being able to process data, understand research, and manage the flow of materials drives organization, informs strategy, and increases the efficiency in how development shops can create appeals, secure gifts, and target the right donors.
3. Leadership and Teamwork. Fundraising success with repeat donors to an institution is rooted in multiple points of contact and coordination between team members. Leadership and teamwork skills drive this level of long-term success and impact.
4. Industry Knowledge. As the world of philanthropy becomes more and more data-driven and integrated with systems and best practices, those who are able to track, understand, and contribute to thought leadership in the fundraising industry come out ahead. Competency in this area allows one to build more sophisticated strategies, increase efficiency, and encourage innovation.
5. Professionalism. Tying all competency areas together is the important trait of professionalism; building trust and camaraderie with coworkers and constituents alike, promoting confidence in oneself and one’s institution, and contributing to an office culture of achievement.

Many individuals are able to succeed in one or two competency areas and, therefore, are able to seek promotions early on. However, as these professionals progress in their careers, gaps in any of the competency areas become more apparent and more disruptive of a team’s potential and dynamic.

Metrics measure some of the successful behaviors in fundraising, but neglect to capture the capacity for success itself. This is why building a robust talent management approach and annual review process leads to greater yields in performance. Many best practice institutions target growing the skills and strengths of their team members in addition to setting standards for performance, seeing in return, the highest results in both fundraising income and talent development.

Growing the Competencies of Your Team

There are two simultaneous trends in the realm of development talent management: fundraising leaders want better performance from their teams, and staff members desire more meaningful professional development. These two trends should complement each other and lead to stronger strategies.

56% of frontline fundraisers want more professional development in management and leadership skills.

However, improving performance and developing staff professionally requires both investment and reinforcement from the top down. Leaders are built over time, through a combination of professional development events (workshops, training, etc.) and long-term career investment (professional development planning, mentorship, coaching, etc.). A competency model helps shape the investment of the institution towards maximizing and growing the skill sets of its team members. Competencies can be assessed and defined in clear terms for professional development, broadening how non-profits approach performance and deepening the impact of management and staff engagement initiatives.

Data and examples here are a result of BWF benchmarking and surveys.

Copyright © 2014 Bentz, Whaley, Flessner & Associates, Inc.


4 thoughts on “Going Beyond Metrics—Measuring and Building Development Staff Competency

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  4. Just out of curiosity, are you aware of any similar studies and/or reports related to the business process support areas in nonprofits? I would be very curious as to what might be considered industry standard, or even best practice, for the development of metrics in the development operations/advancement services areas of nonprofits. It seems to me that professional development for staff members in support roles is as critical to the success of a nonprofit as that for our fundraising colleagues, so I’m seeing where there are applicable concepts in this article. but my own focus is in the operational area rather than in fundraising and it would be great to have a parallel study in this arena. Thanks for your consideration!

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