Setting Fundraising Goals: It’s More Than Math

When you decide your organization could benefit from a fundraiser, don’t just pick up the phone and reserve a banquet hall for an estimated number of guests. Don’t flood electronic mailboxes with a desperate plea for funds. First, you and key staff need to set goals for the fundraiser. Do you want to reward faithful donors? Interest potential donors? Raise a lot of money? Build a new facility?

Involve staff beyond the department or person charged with raising funds. What are the greatest needs, and how can you best meet them? Keep in mind that people give to people — or animals — in need, not to balance a budget. Every department should have a stake in it, and every department is a source of innovative ideas and also a source to alert you to potential problems. The person in charge of the mail will tell you that that arty invite in a square envelope will cost more to mail than a rectangular envelope. Facility managers may point out that the number of people you want to invite will exceed the occupancy code.


Set a realistic goal that will meet a specific need. Then, with input from all departments, determine the best way to meet this goal. Compute more than dollar costs. What is the cost in employee time? Will you end up paying overtime that will reduce your profit? How many items for the project can you reasonably expect to be donated and who will request these donations?

Staff is usually excited about the prospect of a fundraiser, and feelings may be hurt when management turns down an idea. To boost staff morale and encourage more staff participation, have hard facts and real numbers on paper proving that the chosen idea is, indeed, the idea that will reap the greatest return.