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Finance & Fundraising Working Together | PART 4 - Build a Shared Terminology and Metrics Cheat Sheet

Shared MetricsAbila recently released their  Nonprofit Finance and Fundraising Collaboration Study - Opportunities for a More Collaborative Nonprofit ›. With more than half of fundraisers (55%), and close to half of finance staff (45%) indicating the relationship between these two groups is not collaborative, there is room to improve and strengthen the dynamic.  Abila's study outlined recommendations on areas where improvements can be made, and through our new blog series, " Finance and Fundraising Working Together", we will expand on each of the recommendations.

Recommendation Four | Build a Shared Terminology and Metrics Cheat Sheet 

Some of the biggest challenges are around terminology and metrics reporting. How do we really count a pledge? What are the most important metrics? Get an action group together to build a one-page cheat sheet for the terminology and metrics at your organization. Then use it! 

Anytime you have two departments that must work together to achieve shared goals, it is critical that both groups understand and agree upon the terminology and metrics that are being used.


If you are not using the same terminology, it will be like speaking two different languages and you will never be able to be sure that you are talking about the same thing. For example, when you say "campaign" do both the accounting and development offices have the same understanding of what a campaign entails? Is it clear from a shared understanding of the language, what the boundaries of the campaign are and how the results will be reported?

What are some examples of shared terminology that accounting and development might have?


Development and Accounting may already have the same definition for this one, but it will be important to use the same terminology as to how it is monitored and tracked. A Campaign is the highest level on the hierarchy in fundraising. An Annual Campaign, for example, is for a specific period of time. Within the campaign there may be multiple solicitation methods and fundraising vehicles such as direct mail, email, online giving, phone-a-thons and events.

There is a wide range regarding the extent of categorizing Campaign fundraising efforts within an accounting software. Where some nonprofits have a GL code for a Campaign, other nonprofits may simply have a GL for Contributions or a further breakdown with individual GLs for Individual Contributions, Corporate Contributions, Grant Revenue, etc.

Both offices will need to work together in developing a reconciliation methodology that is achievable for all and can be utilized to track campaigns.


The Development Office generally considers any individual, corporation or institution that contributes with money or in-kind as a donor. For some, an advocate or solicitor may also be considered a donor that made the ultimate gift possible. In Accounting, a donor is typically that individual or organization that received credit for the hard-money contribution. It will be important to come together and understand what each group defines as a donor.

Major Gift

The Development and Accounting offices are typically aligned with the definition of a Major Gift as usually this definition is made by the organization rather than the office. Be sure both departments understand the criteria that is used to identify a major gift.


The Development and Accounting office definition of a pledge is usually the same, however there may be some critical terminology pieces as to when the revenue is recognized. A pledge is a promise to contribute, typically according to a schedule in a future period. Some things that accounting may need to know is if the pledge is a firm commitment and if it is unconditional. Close attention to detail is required by both offices to record the fulfillment of the donor obligation and duly note that fulfillment in their software programs. The Greater Washington Society of CPAs Education Foundation, has a great article on pledges, "Pledges Receivable: Explaining the Basics to Your Development Department ›".

Restricted Gift

Development will think in terms of Donor Designated Funds, for example, to a specific Program or Project. Accounting typically thinks in terms of a hierarchy where the highest level is Unrestricted, Temporarily Restricted and Permanently Restricted. The secondary level will include the programmatic level. It is critical that both departments recognize how the other is using the terminology.


While metrics are an important aspect of evaluating the ultimate success of a fundraising initiative, again both departments must agree on which metrics will be used and how they will be calculated. It is vital to utilize the right metrics so a true assessment of success or failure can be made, and corrections put in place to continue to improve your efforts moving forward.

Would you like  kick-start at putting together a metrics cheat sheet? Here are some common metrics to get you started. Remember, these are just a starting point. Each metric may have multiple ways that it can be calculated. The key is that development and finance agree ahead of time how they will calculate and use the metrics at their organization. 

Cost Per Dollar Raised

Donor Retention Rates

1st time donors that give in the 2nd year

1st time donors that give in a subsequent year

major donors that give at the same level the next year

Average Gift Size

Online Gift Percentage

Long term value of donors

Engagement level

Percent Participation

fundraising vehicle response

event participation

Which terminology or metrics you choose to incorporate, will depend on your organization and should evolve from your joint goal setting › and will be important as you collaborate on a budget ›.

Soft Trac is a woman-owned business and accomplished team of nonprofit software consultants.  We believe in making nonprofits "do good" better.   For more information on any of the topics discussed in this blog or to learn more about the software products and services we offer, please visit our CONTACT  page. 

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