The Development and Use of Leading Performance Indicators as a
Leading Performance Indicators as a Metrics Tool to Shape Behavior
See Jane Run...................................... 1
Acknowledging the Fear of
Take Care in What you Count............. 2
Metrics Will Fail Without Tight Business
The Development and Use of Leading
Performance Indicators as a Metrics
Tool to Measure, Evaluate, and Shape
Jay Maloney, CFRE, Founder of the MEGA/Waypoint Process
A Development Executive, Must Be
Today, it’s easy to find a number of seminars with programs on metrics. Sometimes the
More Than a Development Officer...... 5
seminars are about the metrics of “benchmarking;” other times they are about the metrics of
Get Everyone to Own the Metrics....... 6
“dashboards.” But one thing remains constant — they are always about counting something
Allow Metrics to Displace Undesired
and comparing it to a standard.
Work and Sacred Cows....................... 7
Implement Management Systems That
We should ask ourselves in our rush to find things to count: “Why have I chosen to measure
Will Actually Use the Metrics............... 8
this or that, and what does the information really mean to me? How should these metrics be
calculated?” And perhaps more importantly, we need to ask: “Am I counting the right things?”
This often overlooked question is important because if we count the wrong things, we will
stimulate wrong behavior.
She has five development executives who
report to her. Three of her direct reports
oversee “legacy development programs”
that have been around for many years and
have developed a number of signature
programs. The remaining two are in
charge of newer programs installed since
Jane’s health system came into existence
ten years ago, but prior to Jane’s arrival.
Jane was recently hired to align the
programs so that common standards of
performance could be developed among
them, to establish best practices, and to
ensure that each development program
could begin to grow into its optimal
state. In other words, the board and
management want to raise more money,
and they want to know more about the
money they are spending.
Jane’s development programs had been
generally ignored during the past decade
while the “system” focused on other
things. But now the board and the chief
executive officer want to bring order to
their development system and make it
Metrics are often — and sometimes far too often — used as tools to quantify performance only in
retrospect. This is like trying to steer a car forward while looking into the rear view mirror — the
driver sees where he has been, but looking backward does not help him see where he is going.
Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with using metrics to review work. But metrics can
also be used to give us projective information that we can we use to actually improve our work.
The most meaningful metrics in any business are those that instruct us on how to reach our goals,
not just whether we have arrived at our goals. Metrics are most powerful when they instruct us on
what to do next, as well as on what not to do. Let’s examine how process metrics can be used to
shape, monitor, and change the behavior of your organization for the better.
See Jane Run
We’ll use a fictitious senior-level development executive, Jane, to illustrate how metrics can be
used to predict events and as a tool that can actually shape organizational behavior.
Jane fully understands that she was hired to step to the next level…to increase fundraising
revenue. She also knows that the raising of more money is a lagging performance indicator and
that she first needs to identify and manage the leading indicators that will yield greater revenue.
Jane knows too that she needs to realign the vision of her board chair, her CEO, and a number of
people so that everyone will keep their eyes looking upstream towards the leading performance
Acknowledging the Fear of Accountability
Many people fear metrics because metrics imply accountability, and accountability scares people.
Jane knows that in her zeal to build
Sadly, many people associate accountability with punishment. Jane’s first order of business is to quell
useful metrics, she needs to be careful
the fear of accountability.
not to build the perception that she will
use metrics to hound and harm people.
Jane’s conduct in this phase of the process is consistently reassuring and even-handed. She makes a
She knows it is easy at this stage of the
point to say the same thing to each person, and she is careful not to challenge any of the previous
process for misapprehensions to form.
“performance numbers” that had been used in the past. She also meets frequently and regularly
Such misapprehensions could lead to staff
with her executive team as a group. Her management style at this phase is more anecdotal than
insurrections, board members might get
data-driven. In these meetings, Jane evangelizes the principles of standardized metric thinking,
up in arms to protect their favorite staff
and in one she recounts a favorite childhood television show, a science program for children called
members, and the CEO and board of
“Watch Mr. Wizard.”
directors could feel they are in the dark or
out of the loop. To combat this:
“Every Saturday when I was a little girl,” said Jane, “I would turn the channel to Mr. Wizard. He was
played by a man named Don Herbert, a real science teacher kind of man who always wore a white
Jane makes frequent personal
shirt and a tie. Each episode was set in Mr. Wizard’s house, mostly the kitchen, and each week one
visitations with her subordinate
of the neighborhood kids would just stop by. Mr. Wizard and the neighborhood kid would then do
executives, her CEO, the chief financial
interesting science experiments right there in the kitchen.
officer, and key governance leaders
in order to communicate with them
“One episode that I will always remember was when Mr. Wizard put three or four BBs into a girl’s
about her goals and motives.
hand and a blown-up balloon into the other. He asked her which weighed more, the BBs or the
She assures them that the metrics
balloon. The girl said that the BBs obviously weighed more. But when Mr. Wizard put that balloon
will be used only to measure the
and those BBs on a scale, it was the balloon that weighed much more than the BBs! There were
performance of the process and never
other demonstrations, and each time the truth in what was measured was different than what was
to measure the merits of an individual.
She assures her staff that the metrics
will be developed together as a group,
Jane then gives the development executives a few of her own examples (see Exhibit 1). (Note: The
and that the purpose and function of
lines in exhibit 1 are perfectly horizontal even though they appear to be quite crooked. And the
each metric will be clear to everyone.
inner circles in that exhibit are exactly the same size. Measure them yourself!)
She assures them that all metrics will
be uniform and standardized.
The reason Jane goes through all this effort is to demonstrate that metrics and measurement are a
She assures them that while all metrics
form of truth telling. After she shows that fact and perception are often at odds, she tells everyone
will be standardized, the goals for
that in their next meeting, they’ll discuss exactly what their programs should measure and why.
each development officer will be
appropriate to his or her situation.
Over the years of her career, Jane has developed the belief that organizations spend too much
Larger development programs will
energy reviewing their own financial reports and too little energy reviewing their business processes.
have larger goals, but the metric
She is quite clear in her thinking that end-of-period financial reports are actually the by-product of
categories will be uniform.
the work that is done — right or wrong — during each and every precious today.
She assures them that all goals will be
challenging, yet no goals will be set
Take Care in What You Count
without shared ownership.
Jane believes strongly in the quantification of predictive, leading performance indicators. Yet she
knows that metrics offer some great risks, too. The advantages — and the risks — are opposite sides
of the same coin:
People tend to do whatever it is that you count. So be careful in what you count and how you
Back in the old USSR and its centrally-run economy, or so the story goes, an important metric was
the number of tons of nails produced each year. That was the metric: tons of nails per year. Nice
and simple. So the factories started producing completely useless 10-pound and 20-pound nails.
The planners changed the metric from numbers of tons to simply numbers of nails. You guessed it!
The factories started to produce billions of equally useless slivers that passed as “nails.”
Therefore, it’s easy to see that equally important to the metrics chosen is the need for meticulous
definition of terms and ideas. Vocabulary matters.
On her drive home, Jane thinks about the upcoming “vocabulary meeting.” She knows it is a fact
that much or most of good development work is pure and simple sales. Therefore, “making calls” is
an obviously important leading indicator.
But, just as the Soviets discovered when they failed to define what constitutes a “nail,” Jane knows
that different people define a “call” in different ways. Different interpretations make for interesting
discussion at a seminar, but there is no room for different interpretations within a metrics-managed
The next day at the vocabulary meeting, Jane establishes a process by which she and her staff will
jointly define their working vocabulary.
Together they resolve many questions of vocabulary, including these:
Are calls on just anyone acceptable? (The answer is no; calls should be made only on qualified
Jane is beginning to move her
organization into a different
anyone in the qualified prospect’s world, including the prospect, the prospect’s lawyers,
financial advisors, adult children, spouse, and so on. And a qualified call must be meaningfully
way of seeing the world. It is
vital to her strategy that her
staff fully understands where
What criteria should a qualified call meet? (The answer is that qualified calls should include
significant in duration and substance, rather than a casual contact at a sporting event.)
Should all “qualified calls” that are made on “qualified prospects” also be sequentially
elemental to an inevitable “ask”? (Yes again. There should always be a purpose to making the
she is going with this and why.
Regarding “asks” or solicitations, how should the ask be prepared before it is made?
Tedious though it seems, Jane and her staff have built a clear, jointly negotiated, written glossary of
what each metric means and how it will be calculated.
Metrics Will Fail Without Tight Business Controls
Jane is beginning to move her organization into a different way of seeing the world. It is vital to
her strategy that her staff fully understands where she is going with this and why. And it is equally
important — perhaps more important — that her CEO and her board chair understood what she is
doing, so she now focuses her communications on those two key leaders. During a business lunch
with her chair and CEO, Jane uses the following image to deliver her point:
“Imagine that someone wants to get into shape and vows on New Year’s Day to have a perfectly flat
stomach by the end of the year. Think of ‘flat stomach by December 31st’ as the lagging indicator
in the same way that fundraising goals are lagging indicators. In order to get that flat stomach, the
person decides to do 10,000 sit-ups by December 31st. The ten-thousandth sit-up is a goal, but it
too is a lagging indicator…a downstream indicator.
“So let’s look upstream to the leading indicators. First, a flat stomach and that ten-thousandth sit up
are easily achievable goals, but only if we think about it this way:
10,000 sit-ups divided by 12 months equals 833 sit-ups each month. Ouch.
833 sit-ups divided by 4 weeks per month is around 210 per week. Not too bad
210 sit-ups per week divided by 7 days is 30 per day. Very workable
30 sit-ups per day divided by 3 sets of 10 sit-ups per set. A snap!
But imagine that this person skips a month of doing 10 sit-ups three times a day. Or maybe he does
only two sets of sit-ups each day for the first six months. If his discipline fails, there will come a time
somewhere in the year when no matter how hard he works from that point on, he will fail to hit his
goal of 10,000 sit-ups in one year.
“That is why we are going to develop metrics that quantify what we are doing each day — today,
right now — rather than just watch us hit or miss those end-of-year goals. And we are going to
do what too many organizations fail to do: We are going to put the business controls in place to
maintain our discipline.
“The leading indicators will notify us early on each time we start to drift away from the things
that will make us successful at the end of the year. And I guarantee that we will drift on occasion
because every organization does. But we will have the controls to correct our trajectory as soon as
They were not fully comfortable
with Jane’s position that the
year-end bottom line was not at
the center of the universe.
that drift starts.”
Jane is also carefully explicit with this final point:
“I want you to understand what I am going to say next because it may not be what you expect to
“Even if the year-end financial numbers are not on budget, the leading performance indicators
will tell us whether or not revenues are developing properly. It will be the information that we find
inside the leading indicators that we need to pay attention to. It will be those leading indicators that
will tell us about the revenue we are creating, even if it does not arrive on the schedule we desire.”
Jane knew there would be skepticism here. She was dealing with bright, successful men whose
professional experience was also driven by metrics, especially the mother of all metrics, the Bottom
Line. There was no resistance from her leaders, but there was studied hesitance on their part. They
were not fully comfortable with Jane’s position that the year-end bottom line was not at the center
of the universe.
But she doesn’t wilt or interpret their skepticism as an attack. She accepts it for what it is: sincere
and proper skepticism. Jane continues to speak with the confidence and bearing of a senior
executive, a woman who has carefully thought through her position.
“Here is why this is such an important thing. The whole basis of the development profession is that
every a single penny in contributions we receive is given to us not because we need the money, but
because the donor has an emotional connection to what we do and wants to be part of it
“Sometimes deadlines can help us give a donor a sense of urgency. They can help him make up his
mind. When it is valuable to create a sense of urgency, you have my word that we will do that.
“But put yourself into the position of a donor who is just not ready to decide. Imagine your reactions
to a development officer who is pressing you to make a major donation merely because he is under
pressure to hit a financial goal and a deadline.
“Year-End Dollars-Raised is the ultimate metric for us all! But if that one single metric will cause years
of goodwill to go down the tubes — and along with it a major gift — we need to have additional
metrics that will not drive us into making bad business decisions. I hope you see why we shouldn’t
allow such things to happen.”
This conversation continues over the next few days. But Jane’s sincere and well-considered position is
accepted and agreed upon, and when the issue is put to bed, Jane says to them both, “Bringing this
new process into reality is not going to be a piece of cake, and I need the commitment from each of
you that you will help me change our philanthropic development programs into a clear-minded and
After Jane’s meeting with her
CEO and board chair, her next
order of business is to seriously
contemplate and isolate the
key day-to-day behaviors that
would produce more and new
Each leader gives his word to make that commitment, and they all shake hands in agreement.
A Development Executive Must Be More Than a
After Jane’s meeting with her CEO and board chair, her next order of business is to seriously
contemplate and isolate the key day-to-day behaviors that would produce more and new revenue.
This need to think is no small matter. The misidentification of true leading indicators can easily
detract the development program’s work away from success. Go ask the Soviets about producing
quotas on nail production.
Jane’s predecessor was a skilled and well-respected development officer who had been promoted
to a management position because of his fundraising skills. He was a real doer, a go-getter, but he
did not enjoy taking time to think about things, nor was he was really interested in the rigors of
management and executive leadership. After he got the job that Jane currently holds, some of the
fundraising goals were missed, and that’s when the problems started.
He did not look at the management issues his organization was dealing with because he did not
know how to and because he was not oriented to do so. As the goals were missed, the staff
worked harder. Then they worked harder still. He held the opinion that hard work is the solution to
everything, so he dove right in and did what he was best at. He became one of the development
Things got worse no matter how hard he tried to fix them. Some of his staff moved on to other
opportunities, and he ended up retiring. That’s when Jane was brought in. Whenever Jane thinks of
her predecessor, she remembers the story of Jack the Meatcutter.
Jack was a meat-slicer at a very successful delicatessen in the heart of Manhattan. He was the best
at slicing meats and cheeses. He was quick, accurate, and honest. There was never a long line of
customers when he was on duty, and every sandwich was filled with meats and cheeses cut so
perfectly thin that you could read the newspaper through them. Thanks to Jack’s artistry behind the
slicer, the customer base grew and grew, and one day the owner promoted Jack to manager. Some
weeks later the owner stopped in the store at lunchtime to discover total bedlam. Upset customers!
Crying waitresse! Un-bussed tables everywhere, and a kitchen full of unwashed plates and utensils!
“Where’s Jack?” bellowed the owner. “I’m back here, sir, cutting the meats…that new meat cutter
wasn’t as good as I was, and he just got further and further behind. So I had to let him go last week,
and I’ve been back here cutting meat since then.”
As part of that work shaping,
she is going to use leading
indicators as metrics to not only
evaluate what is done, but to
actually drive out the behaviors
that have been displacing
The moral of the story is that many people in higher positions got there because they were truly
exemplary at something other than executive leadership. And, like Jane’s predecessor, highperformance individuals will sometimes return to the activities where they were once most personally
productive. This is simple human nature, and for Jane’s predecessor, his comfort zone was dealing
with people very well one-on-one, not in the realm of leading, managing, and monitoring the work
of others. Not only did he pay for his lack of interest in management, but so did his staff, and so did
Jane also earned her way to the top by having been a superior development officer. But unlike her
hapless predecessor, she also knew that her job now was to organize and shape the work process of
her development officers, not to simply join them in their vital labors. As part of that work-shaping,
she is going to use leading indicators as metrics to not only evaluate what is done, but to actually
drive out the behaviors that have been displacing critical work.
Recall now the “having a flat stomach by the end of December” example of a lagging indicator.
Think of the 10,000 sit-ups in the form of 10 sit-ups done three times daily as the leading indicator.
Think about how important it is to monitor the day-to-day accumulation of sit-ups, and how
important it is to catch shortfalls sooner rather than later. Imagine lagging indicators as the tail of
a dog; and imagine leading indicators as that dog’s nose. Do you want to manage where the tail
goes? Then control the where the nose goes.
Get Everyone to Own the Metrics
Jane brings a list of leading indicators to her next staff meeting. (She does not want to build a list
through brainstorming with her staff during this phase. She wants to lead and direct at this point
in the process, and to negotiate ideas from this point forward. By putting the right ideas on the
table, Jane can reduce the chances of tangents and “group think.” And by allowing consensus to
come out of her starting points, Jane assures that everyone — including Jane — is committed to the
metrics that they will all live by.) Here is the list of leading indicators she presents:
The entire donor and prospect base will be screened, rated, and re-qualified at least annually,
and never later than 30 days before the new fiscal year starts. This yields our call list.
(Expected deadlines are quantifiable, and thus a “metric.”)
Within 10 working days of the rating deadline described above, every rated and qualified
prospective donor will be assigned to the portfolio of a development officer. (Again, the
deadline structure is another metric.)
Each development officer will be expected to make a minimum of two qualified personal calls
per working day to achieve “standard” performance, and four or more per day to achieve
“excellence.” This will amount to 10-20 qualified calls per development officer per week, and
500-1,000 qualified calls per officer per year. (The volume of defined activity is another metric.)
Each development officer will ask for a certain number of commitments per quarter in the
“leadership/major/MEGA” gift range. (The volume of qualified solicitations is yet another
Fundraising goals will be included in the metric mix, but they will be just a part of the overall
Jane’s staff is positive and eager to get into this new way of seeing and doing things. She gets
complete acceptance and even warm appreciation regarding the critical need to manage their
When Jane presses them as to
business “as far upstream as possible.”
why they are so anxious about
call-making, she discovers it is
because the workdays of her
development executives are
But the development staff pushed back at the idea of making two to four personal calls per day.
Until now, one or two per week was typical, and even that was challenging.
When Jane presses them as to why they are so anxious about call-making, she discovers it is because
filled with other activities that
the workdays of her development executives are filled with other activities that always edge out call-
always edge out call-making.
making. The staff cite things like “all those meetings around the hospital that have to be attended,
all those reports that have to be read and corrected because the data system is so ‘screwed up,’ and
all those little crises and phone calls that required immediate attention.” Workdays are fractured into
an exhausting, frustrating world of management-by-interruption.
And then the “sacred cows” are quietly led into the room: the quarterly mailings and newsletters
that no one seems to read, but which have been around forever, and that great mother of all sacred
cows — the annual gala dinner. Then there’s the tennis classic, as well as the golf event — two
projects that eat up time like candy and cost about as much as they bring in.
Each of these sacred cows has its own constituency that loves their particular cow nearly as much as
they love their own children. The Gala Committee meets monthly throughout the year in order to
pick the theme, entertainment, and seating lists; the tennis classic has a committee roster composed
of doctors’ spouses who play tennis every other night all year long; and the senior executives from
around the hospitals love the golf tournament for the opportunity to rub elbows with corporate
leaders and one another.
Allow Metrics to Displace Undesired Work and Sacred Cows
Jane patiently listens to their frustrations. Then she says, “What would happen if you all accepted
the challenging metrics that we just agreed are central to making more money for this organization?
And what would happen if I was to report to the CEO and the board chair that you have not only
accepted the challenge, but that it was you who laid it down?”
There was stunned silence.
“Well, let me tell you what I think would happen. The CEO and the board chair would swoon with
joy. They would love you. They would love me. They know how these metrics work and why they are
so important to taking this program to the next level.
“Then, I will allow them to see that this new work requires us to increase the size of this staff, or else
we need to start displacing old work with new work. I will allow them to realize that we will need to
shut down some things that until now have been untouchable.
“To bring these issues into full view, I will need a cost-to-revenue report for each of those events,
and I will also need the staff time each event has traditionally required. Most importantly, I want
solid numbers that are based on fact, not the kind of numbers that are designed to make things
about the author
Jay Maloney has been a development
professional since 1975. He is currently
developing his own advisory company,
Joseph V. Maloney, Inc. His most recent
position was as president and founder
of Catholic Health Initiatives Colorado
Foundation, an affiliate of Centura Health,
where he served since 1996.
Jay was selected as “Fundraising Professional
of the Year” in 2004 by the 23,000-member
Association of Fundraising Professionals. He
was selected as “Fundraising Professional of
the Year” in 2003 by the Southern Colorado
Chapter of AFP. Jay’s seminal 1998 AHP
Journal article, “Integrating Multi-Hospital
Development Programs,” was selected by the
JAHP as best for 1998.
His consultations and educational
presentations most often involve issues
surrounding organizational design,
governance, and operational issues found
in complex development programs. Jay is
a frequent and popular presenter at major
AHP, and AFP conferences.
He is widely regarded as an expert in a
number of areas, especially:
Benchmark design and performance
measurements for development
programs, emphasizing the identification
and management of Leading
Designing coherent governance and
operational structures for complex
Designing effective fundraising and
development processes and sensible
monitoring systems for those processes
Coaching executives in the art of building
healthy, productive workplace cultures
Jay is a 1975 graduate of The Colorado
College with a B.A. in Liberal Arts. He
resides in Colorado Springs with his wife.
“It is my guess they will go for the changed behavior. If they do — and I am confident they will — I
will then ask them to help us replace the sacred cows with metrics-driven performance.”
On her way home that night, Jane even considers asking her CEO to put some special metrics on his
and Jane’s shoulders, metrics that are based on the date-specific retirement of certain special events.
Implement Management Systems That Will Actually
Use the Metrics
Now that Jane has established the set of metrics and the underlying glossary that defines them, her
second key goal is to implement reliable and meaningful tracking mechanisms for the new metrics.
(Author’s note: This subject will be discussed in great detail in the upcoming white paper
on MEGA/Waypoint management.)
Jane insists upon a management process in which each of her executives is ritually bound to actions
that monitor all the key metrics at the end of each week. Facts are collected consistently, uniformly,
and on schedule. They are recorded in the same manner, and the reports are also produced
Jane understands human nature well. She knows that we are all creatures of habit, and that it is
as difficult to break old habits as it is to create new ones. To ensure that the monitoring of leading
indicators is consistently done, Jane adds a special metric to the performance goals of each of her
executives: 52 weekly monitoring events per year, minus vacation weeks. The rigorous review-andmonitor process is fundamental to the breaking of certain habits and the creation of certain others.
This new rigor absorbs a great deal of time, and it is given high priority each week. Jane also frowns
upon a regular pattern of long workdays because she wants to allow time pressures to help force
out old work. Soon, old work begins to be abandoned and the new priorities start to eke out the old
priorities. Habits are beginning to change.
Jane has now shaped the work of her development executives so they will have regular
conversations with their staff members regarding their progress. And by adding the “52 weekly
monitoring events per year” metric, Jane is obliged to monitor that particular metric. This in turn
builds the habit among her executives to include her in the process. Jane then sees to it that these
reports are summarized regularly with her CEO, as well as with a development operations oversight
committee of the board. Everyone is now in the metrics loop.
The metrics process created a well-shaped organizational culture in which “busy work” is eschewed,
and where attention is structurally paid to patterns in their early stages. Meaningful communication
became a habit. Within a few months, the number of calls and asks skyrocketed. Week after week,
month after month, the calls and asks piled up a little at a time. Just like the 10,000 sit-ups, the
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lagging indicators of Gifts and Dollars began to climb and to this day continue going up.
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© March 2006, Blackbaud, Inc.
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