The SMART Way to Create Fundraising Goals

If you’re looking to increase donations for your nonprofit organization, your first move will be to evaluate and validate the fundraising goals you set for your organization. Most nonprofits have fundraising goals, but not all goals are created equal. In 1981, an article by George Doran, There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives, appeared in Management Review. It outlined a five-part method for creating smart objectives that is now used in many industries for project management.

Although there are alternatives, we will be defining SMART goals with the following terms:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Ambitious/Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-Based

The SMART method helps to define your goals so that you can work towards them effectively, and applying these elements to your fundraising goals can give direction and focus to your campaign. In this post, we will explain the five qualities of a SMART goal and how they can be applied to your development plans.

  • S Is for Specific

The first step to refining your fundraising goals is to make them specific. It’s not enough to say, “We want to raise more money than last year.” That goal can be accomplished by raising one more dollar. Instead, focus on a specific goal that includes dollars raised and programmatic impact.

At first, it can feel like a challenge to quantify social impact and measure the good that a program achieves, but it’s really not that complicated. As long as you tie fundraising dollars to social impact and keep results in mind while setting your fundraising goals, you can easily communicate the potential impact to your network.

Monetary fundraising goals are easier to define and should be rooted in specifics like these four sample fundraising goals and objectives:

  • Raise $10,000
  • Gain 400 new donors
  • Raise 20 percent more in total donations compared to last year
  • Recruit 100 fundraisers to make campaign pages

Don’t forget to write down your goals and make them visible. Having a daily reminder of your objectives can help your team stay focused and motivated.

  • M Is for Measurable

Measurability is a big part of making your goals specific, but it also merits its own explanation. By setting measurable goals, you make success and failure more objective. If your goal is to raise “a lot” of money, everyone involved may have different numbers in mind. Without a quantifiable goal, there is no way to truly judge if you have succeeded. To make your objectives measurable, ask questions like “how much?” and “how many?”

  • A Is for Ambitious/Attainable

Your fundraising goals should be both Ambitious and Attainable. Research by Dr. Edwin Locke and Dr. Gary Latham suggests that difficult goals resulted in greater performance, and our everyday experiences support this. Think of your proudest accomplishment. Was it easy to achieve or very difficult? Most people derive a greater amount of satisfaction from achievements they had to work hard for. If a task is simple, you probably won’t be patting yourself on the back.

Keep in mind, however, that setting goals that are too difficult can also work against you. If a goal seems unachievable, people may feel inadequate or as though they are being set up to fail. Your fundraising goals should be challenging, not impossible.

  • R Is for Relevant

Going back to your proudest accomplishment, think about why it is important to you. Did getting your college degree to allow you to pursue new career opportunities and provide a better life for your family? Did losing weight help you lower your blood pressure and increase your life expectancy?

We value achievements that make a positive difference, so you should know the “why” behind all your fundraising goals. Much like how donors need to know what impact their gift will have, fundraisers, need to be reminded of the work their development goals support. You should know how every fundraising goal relates to your mission.

This facet also ties back to showcasing the impact and can be achieved by simply sharing those goals on your campaign page. Check out how Soles4Souls uses simple, powerful impact statements and images to demonstrate the power of donating a pair of new or gently worn shoes.

  • T Is for Time-Based

Deadlines are an important part of making your objectives specific and measurable. If a goal isn’t time-based, you can put it off indefinitely. As we have written in the past, having a visible deadline can be a powerful motivator for donors and fundraisers. But don’t forget to allow a reasonable amount of time to achieve your results. Your deadline, too, should be ambitious but attainable.

Having a timeline for your campaign also makes it easy to check your progress toward your goal. If you are two weeks into a month-long fundraiser, and you are nearly halfway to your goal, you are doing great! But if the campaign is half over and your fundraising thermometer is lagging, you will know that it is time to put in some extra work to catch up.

Building Your Own SMART Goal

You may have noticed that the description of one quality often leads back to another. Defining one element of your goal can help you develop the rest. And you don’t have to start with specificity.

Maybe you already know when the campaign is going to begin and end. Knowing the timeline of a fundraiser can help you determine how much you might be able to raise. Or your goal can begin with the “Relevant” section. You can decide what impact you want this campaign to support and then determine how much you need to raise. Wherever you start, you can use SMART objectives to bolster your fundraising.

This article is written by Allison Gauss and published on Classy

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