Ben Hunt-Davis MBE is a big believer in focusing on the metrics that matter.
He was part of an underachieving British rowing team who came in last place at the 1996 Olympics. But his team went on to achieve a remarkable turnaround, winning Gold in Sydney four years later.
How did they do it? By organising themselves around one simple question: ‘will it make the boat go faster?’
Hard work, determination and training were all still required, of course, but all those efforts were directed towards one clear purpose.
Focusing on the most important things
Ben’s story beautifully illustrates the power of being laser-focused. But with the charity sector in the midst of an unprecedented period of change, it can be tricky for fundraisers to identify such a simple route to success.
We know that ambitious fundraisers are exploring new recruitment channels and products, and new ways to deepen engagement and value from supporters.
Making that shift can be risky however, without a clear view of the right metrics at the right time. And the reality for many charities is that it can take months to analyse their results and make recommendations for future activity.
Going for Gold
However the same basic principle applies to charities as much as it does an Olympic rowing team - decisions are made much easier when you have access to the right metrics to steer the ship.
When we talk about the ‘metrics that matter’ it’s not about saying some of your KPIs are unimportant. It’s about being clear which metrics are most important of all. And giving internal teams a way to easily communicate (and understand) how you’re tracking against them.
Too little information, too late?
Getting the timing right is also crucial. I’ve heard too many stories of charity teams getting a shock when unexpected results are unveiled to them months down the line. Not only that, but the time it’s taken to produce the results means a lot of missed opportunities.
For example, one Head of Individual Giving recently told me that they almost fell off their chair when the charity’s data agency presented the ‘latest’ view of their Weekly Lottery retention performance (which was actually 6 months old).
The expansion of recruitment channels had dramatically increased attrition, but their teams were operating for months without this knowledge and repeating costly mistakes over and over again.
Putting a stronger performance culture in place
Thankfully, charities that cultivate a strong performance culture can avoid this situation. By establishing a shared view of your charity’s most important metrics, all in one place, at a glance, fundraisers will benefit from:
- Improved accountability across internal teams, with a common language and a genuine reason to collaborate
- The ability to make better, quicker decisions, enabling meaningful progress against big strategic challenges.
- The insight to turn off, or reshape failures as soon as they become apparent, and build on successes as soon as they show a significant uplift.
All hands on deck - collaboration is critical
As my colleague Sam points out, well-designed visual dashboards can provide these benefits, but tools alone don’t guarantee success, especially if bought ‘off the shelf’ and left to gather dust.
The most important part of cultivating a performance culture is making sure all the key end users/stakeholders (IG, Data, Digital teams) are together from the start, to discuss, challenge and agree on the common insight view that will drive performance forward.
This co-creation means that internal charity teams have the reassurance of a common, agreed-upon results view (via a tailored dashboard) that they can use to minimise risks. This facilitates leaner working practices, and continual testing and learning.
This on-going lens into the latest results can be liberating. It strips dangerous delays and a reliance on outside agencies (and their reporting routines) out of the process.
A shared mission
In a sector where every pound spent on fundraising is (rightly) scrutinised, placing bets should be as informed as possible. And with a little bit of effort upfront, it is possible for charities to track the most important metrics and therefore make better decisions.
Just as Ben Hunt-Davis’s ‘big question’ kept the whole British rowing team on track for Olympic success, charities that prioritise performance measurement in this way will be able to make quicker progress against big goals.
It should also help fuel appetites amongst internal teams to work together for further positive change, and make the job of fundraising much less frustrating and more interesting for everyone involved.
Do you want to improve your fundraising results?
We help charities create a powerful shared focus around the metrics that matter.