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Leveraging Data in Performance Conversations: 4 Essentials

By Dennis Meyer posted 08-19-2022 15:00


It’s no secret many nonprofits struggle with performance management and talent retention. In fact, roughly four out of five nonprofit executives say they lack a dedicated talent retention strategy.

This is what makes it so important for nonprofit professionals to act as their own advocates and decisively lead performance conversations. After all, in a sector where many organizations struggle to create a solid infrastructure for rewarding and retaining talent, you may be called upon to help drive the performance management process.

In particular, strategically leveraging data can have a big impact on your ability to lead these conversations, demonstrate your impact, and nurture your fundraising career.

Set the Stage

As you begin your performance conversations, paint a picture of what your department’s performance looked like before you joined. Create a solid foundation to discuss your unique value to the organization, why you are an important and irreplaceable asset, and why you deserve the rewards you’re asking for. 

This is where donor data, channel ROI, and other metrics can establish a baseline of how the organization was operating without your support. 

For instance, let’s consider what you could do if you’re part of a team directly involved with the planning and management of year-end giving strategies. To concretely demonstrate how these projects were going before you arrived, share data based on funds raised, new prospects gained, and per-channel ROI in years past.

Demonstrate Your Impact

Now comes the time to make a case for your personal impact on the organization. Rather than making broad statements about your work, pull specific analytics from your organization’s database to illustrate the quantitative performance of projects you had a hand in.

Rather than saying “I successfully completed X campaign,” you might say “X campaign exceeded our fundraising goals by 10 percent, which was a 20 percent increase in the funds raised for that campaign the previous year.”

Remember that the rewards you receive following performance conversations are directly aligned with your work contributions. While anecdotal evidence can be weak and is often easily argued against, data is empirical evidence to counter any doubts about your value as a staff member. 

This provides you far better leverage to ask for a raise, move into a new position, and otherwise climb up the nonprofit ladder.

Go Beyond Fundraising Revenue

More incoming donations mean more funds to forward your mission and keep the lights running. However, nonprofits also have a host of other goals and responsibilities that shouldn’t be glossed over.

Collect data that fully captures your impact and shows how you generate value on multiple fronts, such as: 

  • Rates of donor acquisition
  • New prospects identified
  • Successful conversations with high-value prospects
  • Per-channel marketing ROI and conversion rates


Be sure to keep things relevant to your position and how you are expected to uniquely drive the organization’s success. If you’re unsure about what specific metrics will make the biggest impact on your employer, meet with your manager to identify the most valuable KPIs aligned with your specific job.

Show Your Future Trajectory

Performance conversations aren’t just talking about your past and present performance, but also your future impact. Whether you’re fighting for a promotion or jockeying for better pay, you’re making the ask for long-term gains. Therefore, you need to argue that you will generate long-term value.

Think about this in the same way you would analyze the lifetime value (LTV) of a donor. The most effective donor stewardship strategies ask you to consider which donors bring the most value to your organization and how you should cater to them. The greater the donor’s LTV, the more steps will be taken to steward them, make them feel appreciated and recognized, and retain them. 

Similarly, you can show your own lifetime value in the form of goal-setting. Set ambitious but achievable metrics using your role’s KPIs based on data from your past performance to demonstrate how you will continue to drive value.

This will help to solidify your value and motivate employers to steward you with resources and incentives that keep you on board and acknowledge your impact.