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Improve Your Fundraising Program the SMART Way

Hopefully, evidence of the resolutions you set at the start of January have become evident in your everyday life by now. If you haven’t made much progress toward your goals or are struggling just to get off the ground, you may have to reevaluate your decision. Being realistic about goal setting is important—both in your personal life and when it comes to your organization. Here, we discuss the two steps that will help you figure out what you really want to do with your fundraising program this year. 

Step 1: Dive Deeper Into Your Data

Before you can begin developing goals for your fundraising program, you need to understand its current state. How is your donor retention rate? Are you growing your donor pool? Is your sustainer program declining, holding steady, or growing? Determine which KPIs are most important to your program, and then take a look at your data year over year to determine any trends.  
When you understand how your supporters are interacting with your fundraising program, you can determine goals that are achievable for your specific program and ultimately grow it.

 Step 2: Set Goals

After analyzing your data, you will, most likely, find areas of your fundraising program that could improve. Now what? Set a “SMART” goal that is achievable for your organization. SMART is an acronym for the type of goals you need to set:       


Specific: Your goal needs to be clear enough that anyone in your organization can understand what you’re trying to achieve. For example, specific goals include, “I want to convert 5% of my non-donors to donors” or “I want to raise 5% more revenue than I did last year.” The more specific your goal, the easier it is to define how you will achieve it. 

Measurable: Add a way your goal can be measured (i.e., X% increase, $X more, etc.) so you can determine your success. But you’ll need to ensure you’re realistic in determining how you’re measuring success. For example, if you only converted 5% of your non-donors to donors last year, don’t set your goal to convert 25% to non-donors this year.

Achievable: Think through how you’re going to accomplish this goal. Do you have all of the tools you need? For example, if your goal is to acquire 5,000 new people onto your file, do you have the technology in place to acquire them, cultivate them, and ultimately track their performance throughout the year? If you don’t have the right tools in place, determine whether or not you can gather them and put them into place.  Having the right tools in your toolbox will help make you achieve your goal. 

Relevant (realistic): If you can’t clearly explain why you want to achieve something, you should rethink your goal. Is this goal important to your overall fundraising program? Does it align with your broader program or organization’s objectives?

Timely: Set a deadline. This will allow you to map out your plan to achieve it. When the deadline arrives, you’ll also be able to review whether you were successful in achieving your goal or whether you need to readjust it or your course of action to achieve it.

Taking the time to understand what’s going on with your fundraising program and setting SMART goals will not only allow you to achieve what you wanted to, but it will also allow you to improve your fundraising program as a whole. 


Jessica Lee

Account Manager, Digital Media