Wish List #6: Covet your Codes

When I first began writing blog entries, I promised to work through a list of the top ten things I wished I would have known when I was working as a development officer and using fundraising software. I must confess that I’ve been remiss in keeping this promise - so far I’ve covered only five of them:

  • Taken advantage of the built-in reports
  • Understood the importance of a backup strategy and how to use it
  • Utilized the calendar as a contact planning and organizing tool
  • Used contact records to keep track of every touch point with each donor
  • Created a procedures manual

Well, it’s time for another bullet in the top-ten list and here it is:

I wish I would have understood the value of using performance codes to evaluate the activities of the development office.  Perhaps this seems a little simplistic, but I was very new to development and I thought the main purpose of gift coding was to keep the accountant happy. And while adopting an accounting coding strategy did manage to keep them happy (relatively speaking), it completely undermined the main benefit of performance codes for my own use – for evaluating the effectiveness of our development efforts.

ResultsPlus users know these performance codes as campaign, appeal, and fund codes and they are used to characterize gifts that are entered into the database.  If your coding strategy is effective, they will help you easily report on the results of any particular effort you undertake, plus provide accurate information to your accounting office for their reporting needs as well. And if you use all three codes for each gift you enter, you can expand your evaluation capabilities exponentially.

Here’s a brief guide to the three types of ResultsPlus performance codes:

  • Campaign code – refers to the period of time or series of events during which appeals are made. For example, if you are conducting a capital campaign, this code can be a helpful way to isolate campaign gifts from regular and ongoing annual gifts, making reporting on campaign progress easier.
  • Appeal code – identifies the specific mailing or event that prompted a donation. This code is intended to identify in what form ‘the ask’ was delivered. Was it a particular mail appeal? Or a phonathon? Or a personal visit? Regardless, you can easily report on the effectiveness of the appeal by marking all the resulting gifts accordingly.
  • Fund code – identifies how a donation will be spent. This is the only code that comes into play after the gift has arrived and can play an important role in documenting your donors’ intent. And with your happy (wink) accountant in mind, these codes can be tied directly to your accounting codes.

Whether you use the term metrics, or Return on Investment (ROI), Cost-per-dollar ratio, or Cost-to-raise-a-dollar, the idea is the same: do more of the stuff that works and less of the stuff that doesn’t. Performance codes can help you figure out what works.