At a meeting last week, a marketing committee for a non-profit was discussing one of the organization’s most critical performance indicators. If it hit the same number as last year, the organization would likely make its budget and it would strengthen – or at least uphold – the organization’s strong reputation in the community.
Comes the question: “When will you know if you’ve made your numbers?”
In so many words, the answer was, “After the campaign is over.”
Not surprisingly, eyebrows went up. Wouldn’t it be good to have a sense of whether things were above or below expectations before running out of time to try to influence the outcome?
As non-profits enter the all-important holiday giving season, they should have in place week-by-week comparison statistics for last year’s season — not only for actual donations received, but anything else which would offer an advance indication of interest.
Strategic planners would call these leading indicators.
While lagging indicators, like revenue or market share, are reported after the dust has settled a bit, leading indicators are closer to real-time measures that tell you if the numbers are going in the right direction. In a traditional business, for example, leads are a good early indicator. If your leads are falling short, chances are your sales and your revenue will, too.
Get the leading indicators right and you may have time to adjust with last minute interventions if donations could fall short of plan (e.g. phone calls, another email, another snail mail appeal letter).
Here are some leading indicators that non-profits may wish to track more carefully through the holiday season:
1. E-newsletter open rates and click throughs.
2. Number of groups participating in holiday volunteer drives.
3. Website unique visitors, by week. (If you don’t have a tracking program like the free Google Analytics, you should have.)
4. Event registration (again, by week).
5. Event attendance.
Embrace leading indicators so that you can act before it’s too late to influence the outcome of your holiday charitable campaign. Ignore them at your peril.
What leading indicators do you find most useful?