Setting the right fundraising goals can propel a giving campaign forward and help spur donations. While that may sound pretty easy, there’s a lot of thought and research that goes into planning a fundraiser and asking for appropriate donation amounts.
Too high of a goal or ask can turn away donors that don’t think they will make an impact. Too low of a goal creates an immediate end to a campaign if it is met quickly.
There’s a sweet spot, though, and it starts with a solid understanding of your donor base so that you can set goals that will resonate and inspire giving.
Choose an Attainable Fundraising Goal
The sweet spot for a fundraising goal is somewhere between aspirational and “we’ve got this!”
Fundraising goals – whether you are working on a one-off giving effort or a capital campaign – should be focused, attainable, and measurable. Many campaigns have a published goal so their donors can see the result of the fundraising effort.
Goals might be rooted in a specific need, such as generating the funds to build a new facility or establishing a scholarship fund. They might also contribute to the general health of the organization. Either way, an attainable goal provides more opportunity for giving and success.
When it comes to setting a specific goal, consider the following:
- Past campaigns and goals: Did you meet previous goals? How long did it take? If campaign goals were met early, then you can probably aim higher. If goals were not met, you may need to back off.
- Break down of needs: If you are tying the overall goal to a specific activity, it should align with cost estimates.
- Donor database: How large or small is your database of previous donors? What is the average gift per donor? Find your average gift values to begin formulating a base fundraising goal.
- Donor prospects: Is there potential to appeal to new donors? Current supporters can make the introduction and help you power up giving potential with new donors.
- Acquisition costs: Not every penny from a fundraising campaign goes directly to support an activity or program. There are often administrative, marketing, and other costs that have to be taken into account for each donor. Make sure you know the costs that have to be subtracted from each donation when you set your overall goal.
Still not sure where to start? The Gift Range Calculator is an online tool that uses a mathematical equation to help you determine if a goal is reasonable or not.
Align Fundraising Goals with Your Database
Your current donor database can hold a lot of clues when it comes to giving potential for a campaign. This information can help you create attainable goals and help connect with the right donors to meet them.
It just takes a little research into your database. You want to create a profile of your donors so that you can best connect with them and their giving affinities.
Some organizations will have one donor persona, while others may have several. It can vary by organization. What’s important is ensuring that goals are in line with all of your personas and that you market to each group accordingly.
An example of two different types of donor personas may include corporate donors that contribute large gifts and individual donors for the same campaign.
It may break down to look something like this:
- Start a fundraising campaign with corporate donor support first.
- Then, announce the campaign and a goal, noting that you are already a certain percentage of the way there thanks to corporate supporters.
- Finally, ask for individual gifts to help reach the final goal.
When it comes to creating a donor persona for individuals, BoardSource recommends looking at three things:
- Philanthropic indicators: Past supporters are your most likely future givers.
- Wealth markers: Real estate ownership, stock holdings, and business affiliation can help you gauge giving potential of donors. Marketing to higher-wealth demographics can result in fewer, but larger donations and marketing to middle to lower-wealth individuals can result in more donations of a lesser value.
- Major giving potential: A handful of past donors or supporters may have the potential to fuel campaigns. Pay attention to past philanthropy with your organization or others and their propensity to donate.
Connect Donation Amounts to Goals
Many donors want to know where their money is going and what it will be used for. Your core donors, social media followers, and email subscribers already connect with your mission for a reason. Connect that mission or special project to a specific fundraising efforts.
Connecting donation amounts to mission-specific goals works in two ways:
- It helps you set an attainable goal for a campaign
- It gives donors something to be a part of
Over the course of a year, you may have different campaigns with different goals of varying amounts. These smaller campaigns are often for a specific activity, such as funding a student trip or helping a family during the holidays.
Larger campaigns often break donation levels out in other ways as part of a bigger, sustainable goal. Marketing materials might include the impact of a $5, $20, $100, or $1,000 donation and what it allows your organization to do. For example, $5 might feed an individual whereas $20 can feed a family.
Finally, you can connect fundraising goals to greater brand awareness with donors. As you set individual donation amounts, consider amounts that tell a story about your mission or organization. Oddball dollar amounts will grab donor attention and make them think about your ask.
Consider asking for an amount with significance, such as a number that correlates to the year your organization was founded, street address, or number of people/animals/etc. helped last year. (Just move the decimal to make numbers work for varying donation levels, such as $19.99, $199.90, and $1,999.)
How to Ask for the Right Donation Amount
Anyone who has raised funds knows that the most challenging part of the process can be the ask. How do you know what ask to make so that you connect with donors in the best way and maximize giving potential?
The trick is not to provide too many options. Most people won’t pick the highest or lowest ask and will fall somewhere in the middle, according to research published by Harvard Business Review. When using an online form, providing three or four options with an “other” choice is often the sweet spot.
With your more consistent and larger donors, consider a more customized approach to the ask. Your goal should be to collect a higher pledge than in the past.
Consider one of these formulas for a more customized ask:
Maximum gift amount in the last three years + 20% and round it to the nearest $5, $10, or $100, depending on the amount of the ask so that the number is clean and memorable.
- For example: $150 (maximum gift) + $30 (20%) = $180 (new ask)
For donors that have a more complex record of gifts, a hybrid formula can be more effective. This equation takes into account the maximum gift and the last contribution amount in a weighted formula + 20% and then rounded to make it clean.
- For example: 70% x $150 (maximum gift) + 30% x $100 (last gift) = $105 + $30 = $135 + 27 (20%) = $162, which is rounded to $165
Asking for a specific amount takes the work out of it for donors. It can make them feel important if you ask them to give an amount within the range of past donations. These formulas can help you ask for donations in an attainable range that are appropriate to the individual donor.
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