The Psychology of Fundraising Goals

Dear Kim,

My organization is in the middle of our fall campaign and each staff and board member has committed to reaching individual goals.  I was close to reaching my goal last week and entered some “offline” donations to my fundraising page. Then I remembered that I had just sent out a couple of email asks, and didn’t want to dissuade people from giving if they saw that I was at or over my goal. So I upped my goal by $500. Does any of this matter? What’s the psychology behind this? Are people more or less likely to give if you’re way behind, almost at or over your goal?

May be over thinking this,

~Close to goal

Dear Close,

The purpose of a fundraising goal is to let donors know how much a project or program is going to cost. When you create your own fundraising page with a specific goal, that amount is presumably the share you have agreed to take on in order to help the organization meet its overall goal. In general you don’t add to the goal. The goal stays constant so donors can feel happy when the goal is reached or exceeded. However, I doubt you have done any damage so I wouldn’t worry too much. The people who have already given may not remember the goal and will probably not return to your page. You can also always send an email to everyone who gave saying that the interest in the project was so great, you decided to raise the goal, and now you have met the raised goal amount! Yay! To answer your last question, people rarely give when the goal is already reached, and they often don’t give when you are way behind, which is why we try to start our fundraising with some of the money in hand. But ultimately, the goal is not why people give. They give to meet a need or make something happen—keep focused on that.

Best wishes,