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What’s Important When Evaluating the Performance of a Major Gifts Officer?

This is the second in a series of three blog posts on the importance of data in institutional advancement operations. Here, Diana covers what metrics are key in measuring the effectiveness of a Major Gifts Officer. Bookmark our thought leadership page today to stay up to date for the third and final post in this series.

When you evaluate the performance of a Major Gifts Officer (MGO), what do you measure? Is your evaluation focused on performance metrics or does it fit into the framework of meaningful engagement? Do you measure dollars raised and productivity, or do you measure more? Are your metrics focused on cultivating prospects and maximizing revenue?

Major Gifts Officers are frontline fundraisers for your organization, they are the relationship builders who are tasked with raising high figure gifts and, often times, do so without having an analytical approach in mind. When you measure their success, are you more interested in counting the number of face-to-face visits, or do you prefer to measure meaningful connections along with the amount raised? How can you tie together performance metrics and meaningful engagement into your advancement operation?

One idea is to have your frontline fundraiser(s) see more people and raise the number of gifts at the lower level. Have them work hard at building the relationships and securing the lower lift gifts as the Major Gifts Officer focuses more on the higher-level gifts. Depending upon other duties and responsibilities, many institutions have found success in limiting portfolio sizes to between 25 and 75, thereby building stronger relationships. Although this may seem counterintuitive, these institutions have seen better performance and increased revenues.

Here is a table of metrics to help you evaluate MGO performance:

As a consideration, think about the ways in which MGOs are rewarded or penalized for their success or failures. Is there accountability? Is there follow-up on plans and measurable results?

While evaluating performance using these types of metrics can be useful, it’s important to be mindful that some of them can also be gamified. For instance, the face-to-face metric is important, but beware that if an MGO wants that number to be high, he/she can meet with the same donor repeatedly, increasing the number. Or if an MGO meets a donor in the grocery store, he/she may consider that a low level of contact with the donor. It’s important to set standards and know that what really matters is connection, meaningful connection.

Does the MGO understand the donor’s interests and passions, and how they are connected to the projects and mission of your institution? Is the MGO listening to the donor’s needs and interests, and, further, are they thinking about how to cultivate an experience with that donor that will elicit a gift? Is the donor an athletic alumna who would like to be invited to return to campus to see a soccer game and have lunch in the new dining hall? Perhaps the experience will be enough to move this donor along in the process of making a major gift to the university. More donors are looking for experiences and access. Think outside of the box and discover creative ways in which MGOs can utilize your campus or foundation to build connection and provide meaningfully engaging experiences with donors. When a donor is engaged and managed by an MGO, giving goes up from that donor or is at least sustained in value from prior years. There is a correlation between MGO involvement and retained value.

Data drives inquiry and decision making. MGOs build connection, increase revenue and retained value for corporations, foundations, and nonprofit organizations. Although data may seem intimidating at times, the central point to remember is that metrics only have meaning when an organization’s culture fosters supportive conversation around them, and that poor data equals poor performance.

To learn more about Changing Our World and how we can assist your institution with data analytics, research and other advancement strategies, visit or contact Diana directly at [email protected].

About Diana Curran

As a Director at Changing Our World, Diana Curran brings ten years of experience as an administrative and development professional in the nonprofit and higher-education sectors to her to her position at Changing Our World.