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How to Set SMART Goals for your Fundraising Campaigns

27 June, 2019

If you want to drive donations through an effective fundraising campaign, you need to be SMART with your goals! The SMART goal-setting concept – which stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely – is widely used in corporates, however, it also lends itself nicely to charities.

Establishing SMART goals will help you set realistic and meaningful expectations that you can deliver on. SMART goals can also give your charity greater focus and direction as they’ll be easier to measure and evaluate over time. In this post, we’ll introduce the concept of SMART goals and explain how they could enhance your next fundraising campaign.

S is for Specific (Focus on the Numbers)

Which goal do you think is more compelling to your network:

  • The goal of this fundraising campaign is to raise as much money as possible.
  • The goal of this fundraising campaign is to raise £20,000 in donations.

While you may indeed want to achieve the first goal, it really doesn’t say much. In this context, “as much money as possible” could be £1 or it could be £100,000. The second goal, which includes a monetary figure, is clear and specific. When planning your fundraising campaigns and establishing your goals, be specific about what you want to accomplish. While this may seem hard to pin down, ask yourself what you are hoping to achieve and how this could be quantified. For example, you may want to set a monetary goal for your campaign (raise £20,000) or a percentage increase in donations (20% increase over last year’s campaign) or you may aim for better participation in a charitable event (register 500 people for a fun run).

M is for Measurable (Establish Quantifiable Goals)

Whatever your goal is, make sure that it’s measurable. Monetary goals are easily measurable as you can confirm exactly how much money is raised through your fundraising campaign. However, if you establish a goal to “raise awareness” or “extend visibility” through the campaign, that’s much harder to measure.

Linking impact to something measurable can be a challenging exercise. For example, if the mission of your charity is to improve the livelihoods of children with cancer, how would you measure improvement as every child and situation is unique? A more measurable goal might be to raise £100,000 for children’s cancer research or register and train 10 new volunteers to lead special outings for children and their families. These two goals are impactful but also measurable – did you raise more or less money or train more or less people?

A is for Attainable (Be Aspirational but Realistic)

If every year you set a goal to raise £1,000,000 for your charity, but every year you instead raised about half of that, you and your team may start to feel disillusioned or disappointed. In actuality, you should feel accomplished! The problem in this scenario is that your goals may not be attainable, at least not at this time or for this particular campaign. If you had set a more realistic goal of £500,000 and then exceeded that goal, imagine the pride and inspiration you and your supporters might feel.

The point here is that setting goals is only effective if they are actually achievable. The best way to identify an achievable SMART goal is to look to your previous fundraising campaigns and performance. What were the results? Use these numbers to establish a benchmark and determine a goal that will be aspirational yet attainable.

R is for Relevant (Does it Support your Mission?)

SMART goals should be relevant to the broader objective of your charity. Keep your mission statement in mind when establishing your goals and identify objectives that are relevant to your cause and your people.

For example, the vision of the British Heart Foundation is a world that is free from the fear of heart and circulatory diseases. While campaign goals might range from total donations received to the number of workplace well-being programs established, both goals support the charity’s vision. The foundation wouldn’t necessarily set a goal to fund Alzheimer’s research as this is outside its vision, though it could perhaps partner with a charity like Alzheimer’s Research UK on an effective campaign that benefits both charities in a meaningful way.

T is for Timely (Duration Can be Long or Short)

Set a specific timeframe in which you can achieve your goals. For example, if you’re running a fundraising campaign as part of World Mental Health Day (10 October every year), you might set a goal to raise a certain amount of money on that specific day or for the first ten days of October.

Your timeframe doesn’t have to be short to be SMART, either. Some charities have annual fundraising goals and measure how much is raised at the end of the year compared with the previous year. However, your charity could also select quarterly or monthly milestones to track progress throughout the year and adjust the pacing as needed. Assigning a timeframe will help keep you accountable and striving to reach the goal.

Lastly, another benefit of SMART goals is that it can be easier to make clear connections between your achievements and your impact. It’s one thing to talk about your mission, it’s another thing entirely when you can include numbers or real-life examples that clearly demonstrate your impact. Perhaps most importantly, this connection is something that donors, supporters and the general public will want to see!

What do you think? Do you see the value of establishing SMART goals for your own charity? We’d love to hear more about your work and help you think through your goals and needs for your upcoming fundraising campaigns. Please get in touch with us today!


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