Hard numbers vs. soft numbers in campaign reporting

Hard numbers vs. soft numbers in campaign reporting

Planning a campaign requires key milestones, and most of these milestones are tracked in hard figures. “Raise $20,000 by October 1st” or “Contact 30 per cent of electorate by July 31st” are examples of some milestone figures. On a more granular level and how we build up to those goals, are smaller goals tracked on a more regular basis.

When creating goals on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, it’s important to be intentional about the information you want to see and what behaviour you want to incentivise. Creating reporting systems for human and technology input can be complicated to get up and running. When building such processes, knowing which metrics are hard or soft numbers can help you find the best fit for that information.


Definition: ‘Hard numbers’ is data that is from a tracking source that depends on technology to do the counting, not data that is counted manually by a human.

When to use: In almost all situations, if you have the technology to track the metric, use the technology system.


  • Usually automated
  • Standardised definition of metric
  • Not subjective
  • Less room for error, more accurate


  • Not everything can be tracked by a hard number. Some data is much more valuable if qualitative or not tracked by specific tracked actions.
  • It is sometimes difficult to share the specifications of the metric definition. Need to have shared understanding of what the numbers mean and where they come from.


Definition: Soft numbers are numbers that are self-reported or reported from a human count.

When to use: In the numerous field campaigns I have been involved in, we often did soft reporting (organisers counting calls and packets by hand) and hard reporting (what data was inputted into database) every night to see if there were big discrepancies between the two. The most common case is that the soft counts are higher than hard counts, which means to follow up with the organiser and figure out where that data went (or if it existed at all – Never lie about data!).


  • Ownership over data. The organiser has to care about, count, report and be accountable for their work.
  • Can capture outcomes that would be difficult for technology to track (“How was the vibe on a scale of 1-5?”)


  • Not as reliable as hard number
  • Subjective
  • Easily manipulated

Typically, it is advised to use Hard numbers because they are more reliable and objectively accurate, however you will find situations where only a Soft number will suit.

For further advice on how to build and engage the community for your organisation, please contact Campaign Capital.

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