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How to set a smart fundraising goal for your nonprofit

December 07, 2021
This image shows two young nonprofit professionals sitting at a desk with some papers discussing smart fundraising goals.

Setting fundraising goals helps ensure that everyone at your nonprofit organization is on the same page about your various campaigns’ objectives. Keeping track of how close you are to meeting your goal provides the insight you need to adjust your fundraising strategy and find success for both your current and future campaigns. 

In this guide, we’ll discuss how to develop goals that will help your nonprofit maximize your fundraising initiatives.

How do you develop a fundraising goal?

Your organization should approach its fundraising campaigns with clear, concrete goals. With these defined goals, you’ll be able to know if your nonprofit is successfully fulfilling its purpose. 

Use these tips to define the results your organization wants to achieve.

Establish a primary goal for your fundraising campaign

Choose a goal your entire team can work towards. This goal should yield a specific, measurable result by the end of your fundraiser. For example, your overall goal might be to gain new donors. In this case, you might define success as gaining 200 new supporters by the end of the campaign.

To determine your primary, overarching goal, ask yourself these questions:

  • What are you trying to accomplish? Picture what your ideal end result will look like. By noting your target outcome for the campaign at the beginning, you can save time and energy by focusing on strategies, tasks, and messages that will achieve that outcome.
  • Who are you trying to reach? Choose your target audiences before planning your campaign. Having a specific audience in mind allows your nonprofit to get in touch with the people who will be most interested in your cause and most likely to support you. 
  • What do you want your supporters to do? Have a clear call to action for your supporters, like asking them to donate a specific amount or pledge a recurring gift. By deciding exactly what you want donors to do before officially launching your campaign, you can target their unique reasons to donate.
  • What is the best way to reach your audience? Once you’ve identified your audience and calls to action, think about the best way to reach and activate your supporters. If donors have already shared the communication channels where they prefer to receive messages from your nonprofit, be sure to use that information when planning your outreach strategy.

Once you’ve decided on your fundraiser’s overarching objective, you can move on to choosing specific fundraising goals.

Use the SMART method when setting fundraising goals

The SMART method is a popular system used to create goals. This system gives your organization a framework for setting goals that encourage growth while remaining realistic.

In the SMART method, you’ll develop goals that are:

  • Specific. Make your goal as detailed as possible by establishing what you want to accomplish and what your target number for that goal is. For example, rather than saying one of your goals is to sell more merchandise, you might specify that you want to sell 300 t-shirts.
  • Measurable. Attaching specific numbers to your goals makes them measurable, allowing you to determine whether you achieved your goal. By setting a goal of selling 300 t-shirts, you can track how close you came to that goal and how much you improved from the previous year.
  • Attainable. Look at data from your past fundraisers to set goals that are challenging but within reach for your team. In our example, if your organization sold 250 t-shirts last year and 200 the year before, you might decide to raise the goal by 50 again. This will motivate your team to work hard and make the most of your fundraiser. 
  • Relevant. You should be able to clearly tie your fundraising goal to your overall purpose. If your goal is to sell more merchandise, note what these sales will mean for your nonprofit and purpose. For example, the revenue from t-shirt sales might be used to fund a specific project, or the t-shirts might have a design or logo on them that will help spread awareness about your organization and target issue. 
  • Time-based. Designate a specific deadline for each fundraising goal, such as stating that you’ll sell those 300 t-shirts by the end of this calendar year. Deadlines not only ensure that each goal is completed, but they also give team members a concrete timeline to schedule their work within.

As you set fundraising goals for your next campaign, use the qualities in the SMART method to shape them.

Segment your audience

Your nonprofit’s donor base is likely made up of a diverse group of individual supporters. From your broader group of supporters, you can create subgroups, or segments, of donors based on shared characteristics. Then, target each segment with messages that will move them to take a certain action that will help you achieve your goal.

For example, let’s say your fundraising goal is to raise 10% more than you did the previous year. First, create a segment of your most loyal donors. These donors should be those who make large contributions, regularly donate, volunteer, attend events, and generally show a vested interest in your cause. Then, you can target this subgroup of donors with messaging about contributing more to your cause this year, making for an effective strategy that puts you well on your way to meeting your goal.

Fundraising goals: The bottom line

Setting fundraising goals is a key part of planning any fundraising campaign. By developing goals that push your nonprofit, you can make progress toward fulfilling your purpose. Be sure to measure your fundraising success year after year to continue achieving each goal you set.

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