Stuff you love to hate: Metrics 101


Have you quit beating your spouse yet?


For most groups, that's how they feel when I ask them, "How often do you check your rescue's metrics?"


 Metrics. Right up there with fundraising, yes?


Call 'em stats, numbers, averages, whatever you want --  you've got to know them.   And I don't mean just Dogs In/Dogs Out. 



Because if you don't know your numbers, you don't know where your processes need improvement.  If you've got a shortage of qualified applicants, that's one problem.  If your dogs are spending a lot of time waiting for transport, that's another. If you know that most of your applicants are disapproved because they don't have a fence, and you have an absolute policy on that, then you put that right up front on your application so you're not wasting volunteer time processing.  


Different solutions to each of these problems. Some are easy fixes. Some are not.  


Just for starters, here's what you need to track in addition to the usual In/Out/Results that you need for like every grant proposal in the world.


  • # applicants
  • # applicants approved
  • # returning applicants
  • Top three reasons for disapproval
  • # foster homes
  • Average stay in foster home
  • Average time from Intake to permanent placement
  • Average vet costs (it is nice to break this down into Routine/HW/Train Wreck categories)


At the Waystation, I track three numbers: Snout Count, average length of stay, average census.


In years past, the average length of stay was 14.2 days, average census 11.8.  (Snout Count is a daily metric.)  This year, our throughput is WAY down, as is our average census. Average Stay is WAY up.


I know why average census is down -- I have not yet hired anyone else to work at The Waystation, so I try to keep it down to what I can manage. The average stay, though -- I'm looking at the factors involved with a few of the rescues and trying to help them come up with some solutions as well. 


Don't assume you know your numbers or that you have a good gut feeling for them. You will probably find some surprises when you actually look at the data. I know I did. Caught up in the day to day running of the kennel, I didn't realize just how much our average stay had changed, and that's affected our throughput.


Metrics are like email addresses. If you don't collect email addresses from supporters and donors, you're going to find it harder to build a solid financial basis. And if you don't follow your metrics, at least on a monthly basis, you're not going to know how to grow. 


SO, until we all work ourselves out of a job, make it a point to look at your numbers.