Dear Kim:

In all the fundraising literature I read (including yours), I am advised to set a goal for my fundraising.  Our ten year old organization has never done that.  We have basically operated on whatever we raised, and made our budget fit with that.  As we get bigger, I think this isn’t such a good idea.  But I always set goals in my head, and then usually we do better than that, so my fear is that publicizing our goal would give us less money than we have now.  Have you ever seen that publicizing a goal hurt an organization?

~Less is Not More in Fundraising



Dear Not More:

The first step to any fundraising effort, whether it is $200 to buy new bullhorns to use at your rallies, or raising $15 million to build a new hospital in your rural community, is to know how much you need. This information comes in large part from your budget.  Your budget is not created out of what you raise-instead, you raise (or attempt to raise) what you need to do your work.   Reversing the financial order of things in your organization will already make a big difference.

Your fundraising goals will also be influenced by your history of fundraising, the strategies you are using, and the volunteers you can mobilize (including, but not limited to, the board of directors.) Just like you don’t get in your car, start the engine and then decide where you are going, so you don’t start raising money without knowing what it is going to take to do the job.  You have created goals in your head and consistently the organization has done better than that.  Use that history to determine your goal.  What were you thinking that turned out not to be true?  How did your organization consistently raise more than you thought it would?  You can now, in your head or preferably on paper, create an accurate goal.

Your overall goal is to raise the amount you intend to spend in a year, or a little more.    However, fundraising goals need to be broken down into more time-limited components to be really useful.  Let’s say you need to raise $250,000 overall.  You plan that this will be raised from a combination of membership dues, one large and two smaller special events, a year-end major donor drive, three foundation grants, and sale of a cookbook.  First take those components and decide what time of year, and for what period of time you are going to focus most of your fundraising efforts on them.

You may come up with something like this:

Membership dues:  200 new and 500 renewing members X average of $35= $24,500

  • Renewals go out quarterly and are handled by staff (need some volunteer help in Feb when most memberships come due for renewal)
  • New Member Drive:  Feb 1-April 1:  Intensive effort spearheaded by membership committee


  • Signature Gala:  Sept 15.  Planning begins April 15.          Net: $50,000
  • Two house parties:  June and November. Goal net $5000 each  =  $10,000
November house party: invite 50 long time members and
ask them to upgrade their giving
June house party: invite small business owners to join our work

Year-End Major Donor Drive:  Nov 1-December 31:  200 donors giving $125,000

Foundation grants:  Year round, handled by staff:                             $60,000

Cookbook sales:  Goal is 50 per month through web sales, at speaking engagements, board efforts, etc.  50 X 12 = 600 per year X net $10 $6,000

You can see these fundraising goals have three parts:  1) the amount of money you need to raise in 2) the time period you have to raise it, and 3) and how it will be raised.

The other element in having a goal is to make sure everyone knows what the goal is and how the organization is doing toward meeting that goal.  Very much like a football game, where the goal is to win by scoring more than the other team in order to advance in the league, the fans, the players, the coach and the other team all know at any given time what the score is.  Everyone can then tell who is winning, if the game is close, what are the chances the team that is behind will catch up, etc.

In the example above, during the membership drive, the website shows the goal and how many members have joined so far.  This is sent by e-mail to all board and committee members.  The major donor drive is shown on the web, but also in the office so that anyone walking in can see progress to date.  There is constant excitement, varying from anxiety when things are not going as well to great joy when goals are being met or exceeded.    For the cookbook sales, the organization has a large drawing of a recipe, with each month as an ingredient and 50 as the measurement.  They leave space to mark in what number of books they have sold in each month and a total.

I have seen organizations solve many of their fundraising problems simply by paying more attention to publicizing their goal and their progress toward that goal.

Creating a goal is not as easy as it sounds, but once you do it for a couple of years, it will get quite easy.  A goal requires that you have in place a plan for what you are going to do, cost estimates for financing your plans, some sense of the history of your fundraising efforts and a clear idea of where the money should come from, but having all that will also make your fundraising program stronger and everyone’s life easier.

~Kim Klein