Advancement Investment and Performance Initiative


Advancement Investment and Performance Initiative

Delivering an Annual Evaluation of Return on Investment, Resource Allocation, Staffing, and Structure

Welcome to the Advancement Forum’s ROI benchmarking home page.

Data collection will occur from January 1 to March 13, 2020. Please forward any questions to your strategic leader or email

Advocating for advancement investment

Today, institutions of all types and sizes are feeling pressure to cut costs. In this climate, advancement professionals seek a trusted data source to justify a known fact—you can only cut advancement expenses so far before those cuts put the ability to raise philanthropic revenue at risk.

Guiding Principles of Our Research Framework

The Advancement Forum’s Advancement Investment and Performance Initiative (AIPI) provides chief advancement officers with data to systematically compare the performance of their internal operations to similar institutions and cohort averages.

AIPI comprises two parts: ROI Benchmarking, which explores the staffing and investment decisions that lead to fundraising growth; and Fundraiser Productivity Benchmarking, which focuses on individual fundraisers’ activities and outcomes on the front lines


Related resources

This event will elaborate on the Advancement Investment and Performance Initiative data that the Advancement Forum collects through its benchmarking initiative. The meeting will explore which staff members and expenditures to include and exclude in each of the advancement functions, how to correctly account for high-net-worth prospects, and which gifts to report in your workbook.

Frequently asked questions

What data do you collect from participants?
Data pulls focus on number of gifts and amount raised by gift level, as well as salaries, benefits, FTEs, fundraisers’ portfolio size, prospect visits, proposal submissions and other expenditures for each advancement unit (e.g., development, alumni relations, advancement services, etc.) In addition, we collect some institutional and fundraising characteristics, such as alumni of record, prospect wealth, and endowment size, that will help us compile accurate and meaningful cohorts.

How many years of data must I submit?
We collect the past three years of fundraising revenue data to control for market volatility. For investments and staffing, we reduce complexity by collecting only the most recent year of data.

Is there a cost for participating in the initiative?
No. The Advancement Investment and Performance Initiative is open to all Advancement Forum members.

What kind of support will I receive throughout the process?
We provide dedicated, on-call support throughout data collection and feedback. If you have any questions while collecting or submitting your benchmarking data, please email your strategic leader.

We have multiple, separate 501(c)(3)’s that fundraise and engage alumni (e.g. alumni association, athletics foundation, etc.). Should we report data for all of them?
Yes, you should report data for all offices that support university advancement, regardless of whether they are a separate 501(c)(3). Their staffing, expenditure, and fundraising production data should be reported if they fall under the unit definitions that are detailed in the workbook.

How will my cohort be compiled? Will I get to choose who is included in my cohort?
A propriety algorithm is used to group members into cohorts with like institutions. We use a variety of key metrics, such as total alumni population, average annual fundraising totals, and advancement ROI, to assemble a cohort of institutions whose structure and outcomes can shed light on how your institutions can elevate its performance. We prioritize including institutions that you submitted to the US Department of Education as part of your comparison group.

In addition to your final report, you will receive a list of all the institutions that participated in benchmarking this year. If you would like to change your cohort after looking at this list, please reach out to your strategic leader and we would be happy to rerun you report with the modified cohort.

Will my data be shared with others?
No, your report will only be sent to advancement leaders at your institution. When your institution appears in other participants’ cohorts, your data will be anonymized and reported in the aggregate with other cohort members’ data.

When can I expect my report?
Reports will be sent out in April 2020.

How do members use their benchmarking results?
Members often leverage their benchmarking results to make the case that additional resource investments in advancement are needed to elevate their fundraising performance. The staffing and structure data in the report identifies inefficiencies and areas for growth to help direct members where to specially invest and where they may need to shift resources to grow.

My organization is structured differently than the unit definitions in the workbook. Should I report my data based on my structure, or should I align the data with the functional definitions described in the workbook?
You should report your data in line with the functional definitions in the workbook. We recognize that each institution may be structured differently, but for consistency and accuracy purposes, all participants must adhere to the definitions in the workbook. If you have any questions about the definitions, please reach out to your strategic leader.

Should I count staff member who only worked in advancement for a short time in FY18?
If a staff member has been in seat at least 6 months during FY19, then they should be counted in your data. Only staff who receive W-2s should be included.

Some of my staff members split their time between multiple roles and functions. How should I count them in my data?
For staff members who split their time between functions, divide their FTE count accordingly. For example, if a staff member spends half of his or her time in development and the other half in alumni relations, you would report .5 FTE for each category. You can use up to two decimal places to represent split staff time.

Should student workers who receive W-2s be included in our FTE counts? If yes, how should they be counted?
Yes, all staff, including student workers, should be included in your FTE counts if they receive W-2s. Student workers are typically hourly employees so you should count their time as a fraction of an FTE. For example, if you have student callers who each work 8 hours in a week, they should each count as .2 FTEs. If you have 10 total student callers, they would equate to 2 FTEs total.

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