So many emails and letters – from organizations you support and sometimes from those you barely know.
But every time I saw an appeal (email or direct mail) based on the organization’s fundraising goals, I wanted to cry.
So in case you’ve done this, let me put it to you bluntly:
Your fundraising goals are really important – inside your organization. Your donors don’t care.
Meeting your goals is your job. Donors want to do something meaningful.
You understand the connection between your fundraising goals and your mission. You live and breathe those goals. And the goals are important. (More about that later.)
But the goals are not motivating for donors. They’re a lazy and ineffective argument.
Fundraising goals as a fundraising message cheats donors.
Instead of meaning, instead of stories, instead of inspiration you’re offering something that doesn’t matter to them.
You’re holding back on emotion. You’re going for an easy, but dull, pitch.
Donors are capable of more.
Donors give because they have big hearts. They give because they see pain in the world and want to soothe it. Or because they see beauty and want it to continue.
They give because they’re worried, or sad, or guilty, or angry or inspired.
Would hearing about your donor’s expense report that’s due by noon Friday inspire you to send money?
Yeah, me either.
So don’t fall back on easy, gimmicky reasons to give.
If your fundraising goals represent money that simply must come in for your mission to happen, then go right to the mission.
Instead of “Help us reach our annual fund goal this year!” try “Help us feed more people this year!”
Instead of “We’re almost there! Only $3,000 more needed by midnight to reach our goals!” try “We’re almost there! If we can raise only $3,000 more by midnight, we can provide support for two families without homes this winter.”
You can talk about money. But don’t talk about fundraising goals as an end themselves. Your annual fund or campaign goals are a means to the end, not the end.
Your donors care about what they can do if they send you money.
But goals do matter.
Goals are your internal signpost. They help you know if you’re succeeding or falling behind.
They should give you direction, scare you a little, inspire you to try new things.
You can’t do good work without goals.
Goals give structure to your work. And they give you emotional satisfaction, too.
If you’re $75 short of your $300,000 fundraising goal, chances are your mission won’t take a serious hit. But admit it, that $75 will bug you.
So you dig deep, you get creative, you find that $75.
Because there’s something in our wiring that makes setting and meeting goals satisfying.
So do set goals. Set big, scary goals, set small weekly goals. Set goals for yourself and goals you share with the boss or the board.
Plaster your office with charts and thermometers if it energizes you.
But remember that you work with your organization’s mission every day. You don’t need someone to connect the dots between fundraising goals and your organization’s work or sustainability.
You’re inside. That matters.
So you get it. And for your board, your fundraising goals are also probably interesting. (Though not as much as they are to you, I’ll bet.)
Use the goals inside to spur you on, to measure your progress, to get you through the last weeks of a campaign.
But give your donors more.
Give them the chance to do something with meaning. To save a life. To build a library. To protect a right.
Don’t offer donors your fundraising goals.