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  • Writer's pictureThe MSG Team


This week's entry is for all you nonprofit fundraisers out there . . . whether you are the Exec, Development Director, Grant Writer, Event Director, or Lemonade Stand Director.

We want to talk about GOALS. Now to be clear, we are not talking about whatever numbers you plug into your budget to make everyone happy. Anyone can enter a number into a spreadsheet. We are talking about actual numbers that you strategically consider, talk about with your fundraising team, and hold each other accountable to.

When it comes to being given fundraising goals, there are two main types of people (with many other types scattered in between):

- Those who don't like goals

- Those who like goals

We know . . . cue in the thunderous applause for that award winning Sherlock Holmes moment. I think we all could have guessed that was coming. In fact, what we are going to talk to you about next is ALSO going to be Captain Obvious type knowledge but sometimes you need to have someone push you over the ledge a little in order to move forward on things. Consider this your push . . .

There are many reasons why fundraisers do not like goals. For the person who is responsible it can be scary to be tied down to something. Being tied down to something means . . . gulp . . . you have to be responsible and accountable. It's simple, if you are not given a goal, then you can't be blamed for a goal not being hit. From the Executive Director's point of view, you might not like goals because you don't want to be the "bad guy". Goals are for those suit and tie type places. Goals are for the corporate world. You want your culture to feel cool, calm, and fancy free. Goals just make people feel stressed and makes you look like a big meanie.

Although the above may be true for some, there are some side effects from not having goals:

- It's easy to shift blame when funding does not get raised. Goals help to get rid of excuses . . . the most popular with organizations without goals? "I did not know", which is usually followed by the similar "No one told me I had to raise XXXX dollars."

- It's easy for Executive Directors to get flustered when revenue does not come in the way they hoped. You get upset at your fundraising team but . . . well . . . you never told them the goals. Tell them the goals and now you have something to hold them accountable for.

- It's easy for people to get stressed when having goals. Some people don't like the feeling of being held accountable for something. When the end of the year comes closer, what if the goal has not been reached? Will you be fired?????? Let's be honest here, that stress does exist. There are plenty of reasons to like having goals though. In the irony of it all . . . you will actually be LESS stressed when given a goal. You now know how much harder to work on something, you now know when you have to do something by, you now know what makes your Executive Director happy and not happy, and for Executive Directors . . . you now put something in place so YOU know what makes you happy and not happy. Having goals pushes you in a forward direction and helps for growth. So make sure you set goals for your fundraising each year. Before you do though, here are a few suggestions we think you should consider:

TOGETHER is better when making goals. There are a number of reasons we think you should not have just the Development Director or Executive Director come up with the goals individually. It should be done as a team. That way there is complete buy in from everyone and one person might think of something the other person might not.

Be REALISTIC AND STRATEGIC with your goals. This is something we have brought up in past blog entries. You can't (I mean, I guess you can) just take your grants budget line and add 10% to it just because that number sounds good to you. Why 10%? Where is that 10% coming from? Is that number realistic? Be fair to all parties involved and create goals that push you but are also fair. Now everyone knows what the definition of "success" is.

Have METRICS with all of your goals. Stay away from subjective words such as more, less, bigger, smaller, etc. What percentage bigger? How many grant opps less? How many more people at your next event? You can only be on the same page if everyone actually knows what the same page is.

Create some STRETCH GOALS as well. Not only are stretch goals a great sense of motivation, it also keeps everyone accountable in case the original goals are reached early. What if goals are met 10 months into the year? Without having stretch goals there is potential for people to not know what to do the last 2 months. Also coming up with a new goal in the middle of the year can be disheartening to people who are raising money. So for every budget year, every event, every annual campaign . . . come up with stretch goals from the get go.

Finally, have CHECK IN MEETINGS throughout the year. How often those meetings occur is for your team to decide but checking in at least on a monthly or quarterly basis makes a huge difference. That way if you are doing great, it gives the chance for you to celebrate. If things are not going that well, then it also gives the chance for you all to put your brains together to figure out how to make improvements. Far too often fundraising goals are set . . . then month 11 comes, getting near your goal is not even close, and now it's too late to do anything about it.

So take our advice and be sure to set goals for your organization. If you need help with creating a fundraising plan, finding new donors for your organization, or grant writing . . . feel free to reach out to us, to see how MSG can help.


Midwest Studies Group connects nonprofits to their communities, by providing feasibility studies, annual giving studies, RD planning, strategic planning, and capital campaign support. Learn more at

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