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Fundraising Fundamentals, Section 8.5


Staff Performance Management

Performance management is not just about setting targets. It is a systematic process that includes the following components:

  • Planning work and setting expectations. Staff members need clear instructions about what they should be doing and what they are expected to achieve in their roles, as well as some planning time to chart out how they will actualise those expectations. The planning  in turn helps their understanding and buy-in of these expectations.
  • Developing a person’s capacity to perform. In a start-up situation, staff members may not have all the resources, skills and information they need to perform at their best. Developing their capacity to perform is about providing them with the training, resources and experiences they need to do their jobs properly, and some autonomy to innovate as appropriate.
  • Continually monitoring performance. It is important to talk to staff on a regular basis about the progress they are making toward their assigned goals and to troubleshoot issues that may be affecting their performance. For example, if a fundraiser is struggling to establish a positive relationship with a significant prospect, the prospect should be reassigned to a second fundraiser to revitalise the relationship and allow the first fundraiser to focus on those relationships that are most likely to yield a return.
  • Regularly rating performance. Staff members need feedback on how they are doing. It is useful to periodically rate performance through appraisals and other staff management systems.
  • Rewarding good performance and addressing poor performance. Credit should be given for good performance; poor performance should trigger further scrutiny and useful interventions.

Performance should always relate to the overall goals for development at the institution. Key performance indicators (KPIs) should be identified by their ability to pinpoint progress toward the overall goals. It would be misleading to just have financial indicators, such as ‘amount raised’, as this would not be a true reflection of activity. A fundraiser might meet his financial target with one big gift and then be tempted to sit back and ‘coast’ for the rest of the year, as his KPI has been met.

There are also issues around the perceived potential of prospects. A fundraiser targeting well-paid professions, such as medicine or law, may have a higher chance of raising substantial funds than a fundraiser working with traditionally less well-paid professions, such as teaching and the arts.

Whilst financial targets have a place, truer indicators of staff performance are those that measure activity levels, such as:

  • Number of contacts with prospects,
  • Number of new prospects identified,
  • Number of asks made and
  • Number of gifts received.
Don’t Take a ‘One Model Fits All’ Approach

Every institution is different, and the performance management criteria you choose should reflect the individual circumstances of your institution. A well-established, large-scale development office with a substantial prospect pool might expect a major gift fundraiser to see up to 15 prospects a month and to raise between £1 million and £1.5 million a year. A small, start-up operation with a previously unengaged prospect pool must tailor its expectations accordingly.

Action Items
  • Learn from the human resources office what staff performance management processes are institutional standards. Ask for HR’s advice on tailoring these standards to the development office.
  • Create a regular schedule for each stage of the staff performance process that you decide upon. For example: setting expectations will be reviewed when staff are hired and then annually; building capacity will be met through two training or professional development opportunities a year per staff; monitoring, rating and responding to performance will be assessed quarterly through one-on-one conversations, with formal ratings twice a year.
  • Outline the expectations and KPIs for each development staff member. Finalise these with staff members to make sure they fully understand what they are expected to achieve. Make sure they also understand the performance review process after expectations are determined.

You Might Also Want to Read:

Setting achievable targets
What to measure and what to report


Most institutions already have rating systems and mechanisms for rewarding good performance and managing poor performance. Your human resources office should be able to assist you in adapting these for the development team.


CASE provides information on performance management and evaluation.

Eric Thomas gives ways to assess how well a development office is doing.
Wood talks about why development professionals should use KPIs.
Leisl Elder talks about the importance of bringing back information after a potential donor visit, and the best ways of doing so.
Leisl Elder talks about key performance indicators.