With the new year comes new resolutions. Some are set on improving their physical fitness, while some are dedicated to giving back more to their communities in the coming year.
Just as people around the world do, nonprofits set (or refresh) their goals as the new year approaches. With a fresh calendar ripe for filling with fundraising activities, nonprofits plan out their ultimate fundraising goals and smaller checkpoints to help them along the way.
Whether improving supporter experience or crossing the finish line of a capital campaign, outlining your goals and the path to achieving them is no small task! There are a ton of variables to consider, and just getting started can seem like an insurmountable task.
Don’t fret! We’ve outlined a four-step process to help your nonprofit get started with setting goals for the new year. Check it out:
- Recruit your team.
- Evaluate your goals from the year before.
- Choose measurable metrics.
- Schedule your goals and benchmark periods.
As the new year has already begun, there’s no time to waste! Let’s get started.
1. Recruit your team.
Crafting goals for an entire nonprofit isn’t a one-person job. Rather, it takes a team of dedicated individuals providing their input from the start.
Involve the following groups when setting your goals.
- Fundraising consultant. If your nonprofit has a budget for fundraising consultant fees, consider bringing on one of these third-party team members to help in the charge. A consultant brings a fresh outside perspective as well as the experience gained from working with other nonprofits like your own.
- Nonprofit board. Your nonprofit’s board has to sign off on any major initiatives and the funding necessary to complete them. Further, involving them in this process helps to cultivate a culture of philanthropy and engagement in your board, who can then be a valuable resource in your efforts!
- Staff members. There’s a lot of discussion surrounding improving nonprofit staff retention, suggesting there’s a high turnover rate for fundraisers. Include your staff’s input when forming your fundraising goals for this year. For example: Did they feel overworked in the quest for last year’s goals? Consider how you can alter this year to address that.
- Key stakeholders. Key stakeholders, such as major supporters and community leaders, can play a valuable role in informing your goals. Schedule interviews with those influencers to get their opinions on your nonprofit’s fundraising goals to gauge community support.
Each team member will bring a different, unique perspective to your goals. Make sure their opinions are heard from the beginning of your planning process, as they’re going to have a major role to play in achieving the goals you outline.
2. Evaluate your goals from the year before.
In the early days of outlining your goals, reflect on the year of fundraising you’ve just completed. It’s hard to grow from your past experiences if you’re not retrospectively examining them!
Dig back into your nonprofit’s CRM and ask team members to reflect on their experience. Look out for:
- Strengths. Which parts of your fundraising strategy are working the best? Which parts of your fundraising strategy are most responsible for your successes?
- Challenges. What roadblocks did your nonprofit run into when chasing goals last year? What recurring challenges arose?
- Opportunities. Are there any opportunities to build upon your nonprofit’s current strengths, for better fundraising? Are any of these opportunities goal-worthy?
- Vulnerabilities. What external factors can affect your nonprofit’s ability to hit your goals? Are there factors that you’re unable to control?
Put simply, evaluate what worked and what didn’t. Think about how you can build upon what did, and address what didn’t. Did your major gifts officer see great results last year? Or, maybe you had an unsuccessful outreach strategy? Incorporate that knowledge when creating your goals for the new year.
3. Choose measurable metrics.
If you’re spending all of your planning time brainstorming goals around places for improvement and opportunities to seize, you’re going to miss out on a crucial part of the process.
How will your nonprofit know it’s met its goals without specific metrics to measure that success against? Dedicate a portion of your planning time to how exactly you’ll define success for each of your goals, with measurable metrics such as:
- Increased supporter retention.
- Increased online engagement.
- Higher volunteer participation.
- Identified (or secured) major gifts.
- High supporter survey response rate (learn more here)
While you’re probably going to set one overall fundraising goal (“X amount raised in gifts,” for example), the easiest way to hit that goal is to break it out into a few smaller fundraising capacity-building goals. The idea is that you want to have actual hard numbers to refer back to at pre-decided benchmarks throughout the year.
If you’re not reaching your overall fundraising goal, there are a ton of reasons why that may be happening. If you have things broken into smaller goals, however, you can identify the exact smaller goal you’re not hitting (and by how much) to discover what’s standing in your way.
The above examples are just a few of the many measurable metrics you can use to determine success in your new year goals.
4. Schedule your goals and benchmark periods.
Finally, after assembling your team, reflecting on past efforts, and choosing metrics to measure your success, you can schedule your goals and benchmark periods.
Scheduling, in this context, refers to outlining a fundraising calendar for the year that will allow you to achieve your goals. Keep your organization’s previous successes from the first step, the strengths, challenges, opportunities, and vulnerabilities from the second step, and the metrics you chose in the third step, in mind when doing so.
This is the action plan, the steps you will follow each day to reach your overall goals. Make sure your calendar includes:
- Tasks that need to be completed to reach your goals for the new year, such as major supporter stewardship activities, thank-you activities, events, and key campaign dates.
- Benchmarks to reflect on your progress, including dates and the numbers you want to see reflected in your progress at that point.
Set exact dates for each of these tasks and benchmarks and make sure they’re clearly communicated across your entire nonprofit. This ensures that each staffer and volunteer knows what they can be working on at any given time, as well as expectations around each goal.
As you’ll see in this Averill Fundraising Solutions guide to nonprofit strategic planning, even 3-5 year nonprofit strategic plans need to leave some room for adjustment. In the same manner, realize that the calendar you create now can be adjusted as needed throughout the year.
The new year is full of potential, but the opportunities can make setting new goals a stressful activity! Break the goal-setting process out into these four steps and you’ll have actionable goals in no time.
Guest Author – Bob Happy
Bob Happy brings nearly 35 years of experience providing expert leadership and direction to clients across the not-for-profit sector to his current role as President of Averill Solutions. Before forming Averill Solutions, Bob served as the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the nation’s largest fundraising firm. He has mentored hundreds of professional fundraising practitioners and many have joined him at Averill Fundraising Solutions.