“Goals are vital to success.”

In some form or fashion, we’ve all heard that statement, haven’t we? 

Want to lose weight? Set a goal! 

Want to get a job in a new career? Set a goal!

Want to do yoga? Set a goal! 

Goals, goals, goals….

In this day and age, it seems like the g-word shows up everywhere in our lives. Doesn’t it? 

People are making millions of dollars across the globe doing seminars and writing books about how to use them for personal and professional development. YouTube is saturated with videos about why they’re important. And social media? Memes about goals are EVERYWHERE! 

Even our watches are helping us reach our goals! (You’re 1,216 steps away from hitting your 10,000 step goal for the day. Sound familiar?)

So why all of this hoopla about goals? 

The reality is: goals ARE vital to success – especially when it comes to fundraising for your nonprofit. 


Because fundraising goals help a nonprofit reach its mission.

Without fundraising goals, you’re left without direction, which is imperative to getting the money you need to grow your nonprofit, help more lives, and make a greater difference in your community.  

Without fundraising goals, you may wander aimlessly from one thing to another just hoping something works out. 

I’m guessing you don’t want to be in that boat, do you?? 

Or maybe you already are, and you’re trying to figure out how to get out and get moving the right way.

If you are, the good news is, you’re not alone…and we can help with that. 

How smart fundraising goals can help you (and why they’re important)

If someone asked you to define what a goal is, what would you say? 

Perhaps you might say:

  • It’s something I’m trying to achieve. 
  • It’s a desired result to be reached. 
  • It’s an idea of the future that gets me focused. 
  • It’s what happens in hockey when a player slaps a puck into a net. [Thought I’d sneak that one in on you…]

In all instances, you’re right! 

Goals are powerful tools that help channel resources towards solutions (even in hockey). Imagine knowing what you want to achieve and figuring out how to get there…and then actually getting there! (A-M-A-Z-I-N-G)

Goals boost motivation and ambition. 

Reaching them creates a sense of accomplishment and allows you opportunity to celebrate! 

They move you away from disappointment and give you something to be proud of – progress! 

Who doesn’t love increased confidence??

So if goals help do all of these spectacular things, why don’t more nonprofits use fundraising goals?? 

Don’t fall into one of these traps

Unfortunately, there are lots of nonprofits out there that don’t set fundraising goals, and here are some of the most common reasons we hear about why they don’t. Do any of these resonate with you?

“We can’t set goals because we never know how many people (or animals, organizations, etc.) we’re going to be helping!”  

“It just takes too much time.”

“No thanks. We already know what we want to do, so we don’t need to write anything down.” 

“Ehhh, we got this. We’re doing fine…we don’t need goals.”

“No way. If we come up with goals, the Board and our donors will hold us to them. And if we don’t reach them, they’ll stop supporting us.” 

“What’s the point? We never reach them.”

“We tried to set goals one time but never really finished them. So we just don’t mess with them anymore.”

“Honestly, I don’t think they work.”

Regardless of your nonprofit’s shape or size, setting fundraising goals should be a priority. 

This single act is often the difference between a successful and a not so successful nonprofit. 

And if you prefer to be a successful nonprofit (which I hope you do!), setting SMART fundraising goals almost guarantees that you’ll achieve great things with your fundraising efforts.

Set SMART fundraising goals

Although lots of people have probably heard of SMART goals, let’s take a quick moment to review what that acronym stands for before we move on to the juicy stuff.

Ok, so what the heck is SMART?

SMART is a widely used goal setting model that can help nonprofits clarify ideas, focus efforts, use time and resources productively, achieve missions, and move closer to their vision. 

Taking a closer look, here’s what each of these words mean: 

  • Specific: Well defined, clear, and unambiguous.
  • Measurable: Specific criteria that measure your progress towards the accomplishment of the goal.
  • Achievable: Attainable and not impossible to achieve.
  • Realistic: Within reach. Realistic, and relevant to your nonprofit’s purpose.
  • Timely: Uses a clearly defined timeline, including a starting date and a target date, to help create urgency.

When it comes to fundraising, one of the “SMARTest” things you can do is develop a fundraising plan for your nonprofit using these components. Here are some tips on how to create those SMART goals: 

S = Set specific goals for your fundraising activities, like “acquire 100 new donors this year” or “write 10 grant proposals in March”. Answer the ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘where’, and ‘why’ questions to make your goals specific.

M = Make sure your goals are easily measured. Establishing concrete criteria will help you determine if you are successful or not. Think through questions like ‘how much’ and ‘how many’ to make your goal quantifiable.

A = Set goals for yourself that can be reached with the skills and resources you have. Don’t set goals that are unrealistic – you’ll likely get frustrated and stop working on them.

R = Set goals that you are willing to work on and that are reachable. Otherwise, it’s just a dream and that won’t move your fundraising forward.

T = Create a timeline for reaching your goals. If you plan to double your donor base, by when will you do it?

But what does a good SMART fundraising goal really look like, though? 

Here are some examples:

  • Increase our donor base by 10% (from 950 to 1,045) by June 1, 2009.

  • Recruit 2 new sponsors for our Spring Golf Tournament by March 1.

  • Find 6 volunteers to help sort donations at the thrift store on Mondays. Orient them and have them in place by April 15.

Think you got the hang of it? 

Now it’s your turn. With all of this in mind……….what will your SMART fundraising goals look like? 

Don’t forget to write ‘em down!

Once you’ve figured out your SMART fundraising goals, be sure to write them down!  


Because the physical act of writing down goals makes them real and tangible.

Think back for a moment. How much time have you spent thinking about doing something? Is it the same as acting on it? 

Noooo, it’s not!

Writing them down gives you something to look at. Something that gives you a roadmap and helps you stay on track. When you’re focused on what you’re doing, you’re directing your energy toward your goals and you achieve better results.

The Bottom Line

Whether your love them or hate them, to be a successful nonprofit, you MUST have fundraising goals.

By setting SMART fundraising goals, you’ll be much more likely to be successful in raising the money your organization needs to provide programs and fulfill its mission.

And THAT is what we’re here for.