fundraising goalsFundraising goals make it easier to raise the money you need to fund your programs.

When there’s no targeted result, it’s tough to know when you’ve crossed the finish line.

But, what if you’re not sure what your fundraising goals should be?

What if you just want to raise as much money as you can, then figure out how to spend it?

Actually, don’t do it that way. It’s backwards and too vague to be effective.

I have a better idea.


Start here with a BHAG

Where do all good things start? With the end in mind.

Start by clearly defining your organization’s Impact Goal this year. What’s the BIG difference you want to make?

  • For an animal rescue, how many dogs/cats/guinea pigs do you want to save?
  • For a food bank, how many pounds of food and subsequent meals will you distribute?
  • For a housing nonprofit, how many families will become home owners?

If your Impact Goal is substantial, that’s even better. It becomes a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) and that’s something donors get excited about.

After all, no one makes big gifts to mediocre goals. (Think about that.)

A good BHAG is something that may not be accomplished this year. And maybe not next year either.

It could take some time. That’s okay.

Don’t get hung up on something that can be neatly put in a box and checked off the list by 12/31/18. Focus on what matters – the lives your nonprofit is changing.

Here’s what a BHAG might look like:

  • For an animal rescue, you may try to take your community to No Kill status
  • For a food bank, you may want to eliminate hunger in your area
  • For a housing nonprofit, you may want to make sure that everyone who needs simple decent affordable housing has access to it

See how big, hairy, and audacious those goals are?

Goals with zip and zing tend to raise more money than those that are ordinary and unremarkable.

Zip and zing will get you bigger results, so let’s do that.


Set 3 main fundraising goals

fundraising goalsMost folks focus on one thing in fundraising: money.

Seems obvious, right?

But there are other things that are equally important.

Like donor retention.

Donor retention numbers across the board are not great.

And it’s stupid in my opinion. All you have to do to keep people giving is to treat them with a lot of respect and give them a good experience. The problem is that so many people are so focused on money that they forget about the donor and the relationship.

Want to keep more donors? Focus on the relationship instead of the money.

Right alongside donor retention, you need to think about donor acquisition. Where and how will you get new donors to replace the ones that are slipping away? How can you inspire them to pull out their wallet and make a donation?

So, there are 3 fundraising goals you should be focused on during the year:

  • Dollars you need to fund your work
  • The number of current donors you need to renew
  • The number of new donors you need to bring in

Let’s look at each one of these in a little more detail.


Fundraising Goal #1 – Total amount of money to raise

This seems straight forward to me – you need to know how much to raise so your nonprofit can deliver its programs. But apparently not everyone sees it that way.

Here are two ways you can get in trouble with this goal.

1. Doing it backwards. Don’t go try to raise all the money you can THEN figure out how to spend it. That’s the tail wagging the dog. Decide what programs you want to deliver, then figure out what it will cost. THAT’S how much you need to raise.

2. Vague goal. Be specific – down to the penny – how much you need to raise. Why? If you don’t have a clear goal, how will you know how much to ask for? How will you know when you’ve crossed the finish line?

I had a client several years ago with an $11 million budget. When I asked him how much he wanted to raise, he said “more than last year.” Seriously? I was stunned. How much is ‘more?’ A dollar more? A million more?You will NEVER fully fund your budget with vague goals. So be specific and measurable.


Fundraising Goal #2 – Number of donors to renew

Donor retention is something that not near enough people pay attention to, yet it’s critical to long-term fundraising success.

Across the board, donor retention rates are awful right now, running about 35%. That means if you start the year with 100 donors, you’ll end the year with 35.

What’s happening to people? Where are they going?

Here’s my theory: You lose some donors because they move away and give to nonprofits in their new community. You lose some donors because they pass away and can no longer give. But you lose MOST donors because they simply go away – they don’t feel connected to your mission or they don’t feel appreciated or needed, and they decide that the nonprofit down the road will be more fun to give to.

This one you can fix.

As you’re creating your fundraising plan, be sure that you’re including plenty of activities to connect with donors and help them feel good about giving to your nonprofit. Make sure you’re making more deposits than withdrawals into the relationship account.

Nobody wakes up in the morning and says “I feel like giving some money away. Where’s the yellow pages? I gotta find a nonprofit!”  It’s YOUR job to give people a reason to care and invite them to give again.


Fundraising Goal #3 – Number of donors to acquire

We just established that you’re going to lose donors. Every year. That means if you’re average, you need to bring in 65 new donors just to break even at the end of the year (remember, you’re only retaining 35).

Then the question becomes “Where do we find new donors?”

The best place to start is with those closest to your organization and work out. Invite staff and volunteers to give. Your Board should already be giving. Ask everyone to invite their friends to give. Ask your program participants to give.

When you’re just starting to look for donors, it can feel overwhelming. Hang in there with it and be persistent, and it won’t take long to see the fruits of your labor.

Add the hot sauce

Having a detailed plan can make a huge difference in your success. fundraising goals

I see this ALL the time with clients. The ones who have plans in detail about what they want to accomplish are much more successful than those who don’t.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to dig into the details of your plan so you can reach your 3 critical goals.

  • What fundraising activities worked well last year that I can repeat this year? Is there a way to make them even more productive?
  • What didn’t work at all and should be let go?
  • What sort of worked but has room for improvement and needs to be tweaked?
  • What fundraising activities seemed easy to do? Which ones do I personally enjoy doing?
  • What fundraising activities do I despise?
  • What could I let go of that would free up some time and energy for something even better to take its place?
  • What could I delegate to someone else (other staff person, volunteer, intern, or committee)?

The answers to these questions will give you some clues about where to spend your time this year to get the most bang for the buck. I tell my clients to only do those things that bring them the most ROI and avoid the ‘nickel and dime’ stuff.

Make your fundraising goals real

Something one of my coaches told me once was that if I want my goals to become real, I had to tell someone.

You see, telling someone gives you accountability because now you know someone’s watching to see if you do the thing you said you’d do.

I’d love for you to make your fundraising goals real by sharing them in the comments. I’ll be right here all year to root for you and cheer you on.


The Bottom Line

Set clear fundraising goals for the year making each one specific, measurable, and based on historical data.

Lay out the strategies you plan to use (direct appeals, ask events, monthly giving, etc.) and how each one will support each of these three goals, and you can not only predict what your results will be for the year, but you’ll find fundraising to be easier and less stressful. And doesn’t THAT sound good?