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5 tips to launch a SMART and successful fundraising campaign

August 15, 2020
Nonprofit professionals work on their fundraising strategy using a whiteboard, putting their fundraising campaign tips into action.

We hear so many stories about nonprofits earning major donations and it sometimes seems like those gifts just come out of thin air, as if there are so many good Samaritans out there, just waiting to donate millions to nonprofit organizations like yours.

These stories are great, but few nonprofit organizations have sudden major donations appear from out of the blue. Instead, most nonprofit organizations work and plan carefully to create a successful budget and a stable financial standing. If your organization has been around for a few years, you have revenue streams: an event or two, an annual appeal campaign, a grant, and a handful of major donors. Maybe you tried an online giving campaign like #GivingTuesday. But there are always ways to make your campaigns more effective to maximize your revenue and advance your purpose.

The secret is executing a strong, and well-planned, fundraising campaign.

What makes a strong fundraising campaign?

A strong fundraising campaign is planned around SMART goals. That means the goals are specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, and time-limited. We’ll walk through how to set one of these goals for fundraising:

First, state clearly, at least internally if not externally, your specific goal.

Next, make sure your stated goal is measurable. Quantify the actual amount you need to raise. For example, a nonprofit organization might say that they want to raise $50,000 throughout the course of a fundraising campaign. 

Then, decide which actions are needed to meet that goal. If you want to acquire three new donors who will contribute $5,000 each, what specific steps will you take to receive their support?

Use historical data to set realistic expectations. If you have recently earned support from 100 new contacts in your database and usually raise $40,000 in annual gifts from your current stakeholders, you might estimate that you’ll raise $41,000 this year if your average gift amount is $100. Estimate using real numbers to give your organization some cushion. 

And, while you may have an entire year to raise the specified funds, set a shorter timeframe or deadline. This reinforces a sense of urgency for prospective donors.

Now that you know how to set a SMART goal, let’s see how you can achieve one. Here are the five keys to success:

1. Know the why.

When launching a campaign, make sure you can clearly answer the “Why?” Imagine for a moment that your donor is presented with three possible giving opportunities: your organization and two others. Why should the donor give you money (instead of another organization)? Why are you raising money? Why do you need money now? Why is this urgent? Why should the donor care?

2. Understand the donor.

People want to give. They give because it makes them feel that they’ve made a difference. A successful campaign understands what the audience cares about. To grow your audience, you have to know where to reach them. Ask yourself two questions:

  • Where are the people who care about what you care about?
  • How can you share your story with them?

If the people who care about your nonprofit organization’s cause are on social media, you can use that as a platform to reach out to them. Then, tell stories about your impact on the community and how they can make a difference. 

3. Create a connection.

People hear and respond to campaigns differently. Once you identify and know where to find your potential donors, converting them to actual donors requires you to understand their connection to your organization. Should you tug on their heartstrings or offer clear, concise proof of effectiveness?

4. Offer the right opportunities.

Some people love a great night out for a worthy cause. Others prefer writing a check and calling it a day. Once you’ve identified your potential donors, you need to figure out the best way to empower them to give. Which opportunities will engage your donors?

5. Make the ask.

Ask for a specific amount and tell donors exactly how the money will help your nonprofit and what project it will be dedicated to. 

The impact of strong SMART goals

Launching a successful fundraising campaign centers around ideal goals. If you take the time to implement the SMART framework, you'll engage the right audience and achieve your objectives.

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