Setting Fundraising Goals? Two is Better Than One

Shout-out to our friend Ashley in Loveland, Colorado who wrote with this great question:

“How do you foster good relationships between development staff when donations are tracked to various positions for the purpose of determining who is meeting annual goals?”

Thanks, Ashley, for taking the time to write! To you and other fundraisers with more than one person on your development team, a good way to move away from an environment of competition is to consider setting two types of goals:  Dollars-in-the-Door Goals and Activity Goals. 

(And to help everyone be successful, your very first step should be to set fundraising goals that are rooted in reality.)

A couple quick definitions:

A Dollars-in-the-Door Goal is the traditional fundraising goal. It’s a measurement of dollars raised. An example of a Dollars-in-the-Door Goal would be: $400,000 for your fiscal year. 

Or, if your total annual goal is $150,000, you might break it down to the monies needed in specific areas:  for example $100,000 in programmatic support and $50,000 in general operating support.

An Activity Goal is a goal related to one of the many activities on which you and your staff spend time leading up to a solicitation, or “the Ask.” Examples of Activity Goals might be: 

•    Participate in three face-to-face donor encounters each month (36 per year) with current, lapsed, or prospective donors. 
•    Call two donors each month to solicit their advice on the organization’s strategic direction.
•    Send three personal notes each month to current donors. 

Activity Goals do a great job of recognizing where most of the real work happens, i.e., prospecting, research, communication, cultivation and stewardship. Activity Goals help capture how you and your development team members spend your time each day. After all, there’s so much more to fundraising than simply asking for a gift!

If you’ve ever felt that much of the legwork needed to secure a donation for your organization goes unnoticed or undocumented, you’ll love Activity Goals! 

Activity Goals are also better than Dollars-in-the-Door Goals for measuring individual team member performance. Going back to Ashley’s question, they remove that donor-poaching awkwardness between team members because the development activities, not the dollars-in-the-door, are tracked to each person’s individual position.

Of course, I’m not suggesting you completely ditch Dollars-in-the-Door Goals! But rather than setting them as individual goals, try setting them as team goals. By doing so, every contribution brought in by a staff member goes into the collective pot and the team is accountable for reaching that dollar goal. 

Still on the fence? Here are more reasons this type of two-pronged goal setting approach makes sense and contributes to a positive team environment:

•    By making the dollar goal a team goal, you share the responsibility across the organization. No single person withers beneath the weight of a huge annual fundraising goal.

•    Activity Goals are relevant to those fundraising staff who do not have direct solicitation responsibilities, so everyone can be involved. (Think: administrative staff, database manager, and event coordinator.) 

•    By measuring employee performance according to fundraising activity, you encourage your team members to get out of the office and connect with donors. And, of course, fundraising activity leads to donations! 

A friend who works for a Denver nonprofit recently introduced this type of goal setting. After a year, her team noticed that they were doing less actual asking but still raising money. How could that be? 

As a result of the Activity Goal focus, donors understood the nonprofit’s needs, individual donor relationships to the organization were super solid, and some donors were giving before they were even asked! Who doesn’t love that? 

Ashley (and everyone!), I hope this helps. By re-jiggering the way you set goals and measure employee performance, I hope you’ll be able to better capture all of the real, hard work you are doing, see better collaboration amongst your team, and maybe even raise more money for your mission. Good luck!

If you have a question, you’d like me to tackle in an upcoming blog post, please post it in the Comments box below or shoot me an email at Kathie[at}

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