Setting Your Fundraising Goal

What is fundraising without a goal? Most campaigns have one. The question is: how do you set it?

Over the years we have observed different methods. We present them for your consideration. Which will work best for you? Which is similar to the way your organization sets its fundraising goal? How might you want to modify the method you use?

A common method is to pick a number out of the sky. This is an emotion-based method of goal setting. It can be a good starting point and can create inspiration. When you believe a number is achievable, and feel your organization rise to the occasion, you can serve as a catalyst and motivator. But, be careful – this is also the riskest way to set your goal. Your goal may “feel” right, but that is not always the same as an achievable goal!

You may choose to base your goal on what a similar organization has been able to raise. “If they can do it, so can we,” may be your rallying cry. A good starting point that can motivate a deeper analysis of similarities and points of difference. A comparable organization may raise more money because they provide more extensive – or more expensive – services. They may have a strong annual giving program in place, a corps of major donors, and multi-year state or federal contracts. They may raise more money because, over the years, they have set their sights higher and built the capacity and talent needed to meet their goals.

You can base your goal on the needs of your institution. A review of projected income and expenses may show a “gap” that becomes an institution’s fundraising goal. A charter school, college or university may look at all revenue sources and operating costs, identify the gap that needs to be filled and set that as a fundraising goal that will help the institution operate at the highest level. The gap is real, but does it represent a realistic fundraising goal?

Other methods include basing your goal on what you have been able to raise in the past with a modest increase; responding to pressure from board, alumni, volunteers or community leaders; accepting a challenge grant from a donor, designed to encourage increased giving; or seeking new funding from a foundation for programs that are in line with your mission.

Wherever you start with determining a fundraising goal you need to come to a point where you evaluate the proposed goal and your ability to meet it.  This evaluation should include a sound analysis and assessment of your organization’s impact and role within the community; the strength of your board and their willingness to engage in fundraising; market research such as a fundraising feasibility study or survey; and your fundraising capacity. Whether you serve as an executive director or CEO, a board member, or a fundraising volunteer it is always wise to ask questions about fundraising goals and methods.


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