7 Mistakes Non-Profits Make When Setting Fundraising Goals


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Fundraising goals are an important part of your fundraising strategy. They provide a benchmark to measure success against, and can help you prove growth and campaign effectiveness. If you’re new to a metrics driven approach to fundraising, establishing your goals can be daunting. But it’s well worth going beyond your comfort zone to identify some fundraising goals that will be effective for your non-profit organization.

Keep in mind that setting fundraising goals should be more comprehensive than deciding how much money you need to raise. You may want to include goals related to media coverage, or social engagement, or increasing donor retention rate. Your goals should be aligned with your mission and business objectives. When used properly, will help motivate your team members and increase your organization’s impact. However, if the goal is unattainable, unclear or unrelated to your mission, it won’t be motivating and can have the opposite effect.

Avoid These Things When Establishing Your Fundraising Goals

1. Setting unrealistic goals. Your fundraising goals shouldn’t be easy, but they should be attainable. If they’re too lofty or conservative, they don’t help your team grow. Goals that are too aggressive are certain to fail. On the other hand, if your fundraising goals, you might be inclined to not work as hard. A realistic goal encourages achievable growth and is enough of a stretch to motivate people.

2. Misaligning goals. All goals should be connected to your NPO’s mission and overall business objectives. Although it is helpful to define small, attainable steps, DonorBox recommends not losing sight of the bigger picture. It’s also important to make sure that your goals don’t compete with each other, such as focusing on increasing one-time donation dollars but also increasing recurring donations. It may be hard to develop a fundraising campaign that maximizes performance for each of these goals.

3. Forgetting to set relationship goals. Your primary fundraising goal will likely focus on raising a total dollar amount. However, it’s important to also set goals around donor relationships. CauseVox, a crowdfunding software, explains how cultivating donor relations is a win-win situation. Donors win when they feel valued, appreciated and wanted. Your charity wins because you drive a deeper connection between donors and your cause. When creating your fundraising strategy, consider including relationship goals around reactivating lapsed donors, increasing recurring donations and increasing engagement.

4. Neglecting social impact. Causeartist, an organization that highlights people who use their talents to impact the world, believes in the important of social impact. Social impact is basically the effect that you organization has on individuals, families or communities. Social impact goals may include hosting a specific number of community events, recruiting new volunteers, or even increasing your engagement on social media.

5. Only measuring dollars. There’s no doubt that setting financial goals is critical to your organization’s success. However, it’s also necessary to look beyond dollars and set non-financial goals. In addition to measuring social impact, consider setting goals for your marketing and communications departments such as increasing email open rates or conversion rates for your online donation page. These goals represent micro-steps that can often add up to huge leaps in dollars raise. Other non-financial goals could include:

– Campaign conversion rates
– Total number of donors
– Engagement rates
– Overall reach

6. Ignoring past performance. Measuring campaign performance should be part of your fundraising strategy from the beginning. As a result, you’ll accumulate a wealth of data to base future projections on. It’s important to take past performance into account when setting new campaign and fundraising goals. Many organizations base goals on a percentage increase over last year’s performance. The percentage can vary greatly depending on that starting point and the exact area you’re measuring.

7. Doing it all alone. Although you know your cause inside and out, calling on an expert to help you with your fundraising efforts and goal-setting can be helpful. It’s common for non-profit organizations to work with outside partners to develop customized strategies, campaign-specific goals and insightful reporting. External experts can help you avoid common mistakes and create stronger goals that encourage better campaign performance.

The Secret to Establishing Better Fundraising Goals

Now that you know what to watch out for when setting goals, take a minute to examine your current campaign goals and see if they’re “SMART.” SMART goal setting is a common technique that’s been used for decades by for-profit and non-profit organizations alike. When using this methodology, each goal should be:

  • Specific – Make your goals clear and detailed. Leave nothing open to interpretation. For example: Increase donor retention rate by 50% by the end of 2019.
  • Measurable – State the specific units of measurement you’ll use, like the number of donors acquired or the number of people impacted. If you’re targeting growth percentages, document where you’re starting from. In the above example, if you’re current donors donate for 6 months on average, and you’re targeting a 50% growth, this number should growth to 9 months.
  • Attainable – Like we talked about previously, your goals should be realistic and achievable. Consider the time and resources required to reach each goal so you can set reasonable expectations. If your charity’s fundraising on social media only consists of your 12 closest friends, it’s not likely you’ll hit a million followers by the end of the quarter.
  • Relevant – Organizations perform best when everyone is working towards the same goals. That’s why your fundraising and marketing strategy should align to broader business objectives. If your annual objective is to increase donor retention by x%, then perhaps you don’t need to spend too much time working to get 1000 new likes on Facebook.
  • Timely – Goals must time-sensitive. For each goal, define if it’s monthly, quarterly or annual. This finite time frame will keep you focused and make it easier to measure success.
  • If you’re able to base your goals on this outline, you’ll find that they are much more effective in driving growth.

    Has your team faced any failures or triumphs when setting fundraising goals? We’d love to hear your story.

    Brittany Evans
    Organized and diligent operations professional who thrives in fast-paced environments and excels when handling varied and diverse tasks. Strong ability to identify opportunities for improvement and a deep understanding of all aspects of business, customer requirements and service expectations.


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