Your case for fundraising goal better match your messaging and need

zikaThis morning, I was in my car driving down the interstate when National Public Radio (NPR) ran a story about UNICEF’s goal to raise $9 million to fight against the Zika virus. If you want to learn more about this new, you can click here and read more about it in the Washington Post. However, this isn’t really what today’s blog post is about . . . this morning I want to share with you my response to this story and how it applies to your non-profit organization.
In the three seconds after listening to this NPR story, here are the thoughts that raced through my mind:

  • Ugh! Not another scary disease story (e.g. Swine flu, bird flu, SARS, Ebola, etc) to whip up public fear and motivate action on any number of fronts. Here we go again. 🙁
  • Hmmmm, I wonder if little kids are still carrying UNICEF boxes collecting small change at Halloween? Is it possible for a simple “tin cup philanthropy” campaign to raise $9 million for this effort?
  • Barf . . . I think some of the U.S. Presidential candidates who lost last night’s Iowa Caucus could probably fund this $9 million UNICEF goal many times over. (If you doubt me, then you may want to click here and make sure you’re near a toilet for the post-article queasiness)

You’re probably wondering what any of this has to do with you and your non-profit organization?
Simply . . .

Make sure that your fundraising goal matches the size of your case for support!

If you are trying to do something BIG and you need your donors to understand how BIG it is as well as rise to the BIG occasion, then your fundraising goal better also be BIG. If you don’t live by this rule, then it is likely that your campaign will:

  • be seen as underwhelming
  • lack traction and volunteer support
  • attract fewer donors than anticipated
  • result in smaller average size gifts
  • run the risk of not meeting goal

I took a phone call the other day from a potential client wanting me to bid on a capital campaign. After asking a few questions, it was apparent they only wanted to set a six figure goal to do a little renovation. I encouraged them to go back to their boardroom, ask the following questions, and then we’ll talk again:

  • What other needs do your clients face in your community? How much money do you need to address those needs?
  • Are your physical plant issues perfect if you are successful with these small renovations? If not, then what more needs to occur and how much would that cost?
  • Is your endowment satisfactorily large enough to inspire confidence in your donors that you have the question of long-term sustainability addressed?
  • Look at this renovation campaign through the eyes of your donors. What do they see? What are their reactions?
  • Does your organization possess the internal organizational capacity to sustain what you’re building? If not, can that be built into this campaign? If so, what would that cost? (e.g. endowing staff positions, etc)

Please use the comment box to share your thoughts and experiences with goal setting and building a B-HAG (e.g. big, hairy audacious goal) type of campaign and case for support. Have you been in this position before? If so, what did you do and what did you learn? We can all learn from each other.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

The difference between success and failure

goalsMany years ago I traveled the Midwest region as an internal consultant working for a large national non-profit organization. For part of my time there, I worked with countless local affiliated organizations on planning and implementing an annual campaign focused on face-to-face solicitation strategy. Some agencies took to it like a duck to water, and others just struggled. Every once in a while (typically when I’m contemplating the origins of the universe), I think back to those days and wonder what the difference was between those two realities.
Whenever I get into one of those “WHY?” moods, I’ve concluded that differences in the following factors must be what made the difference:

  • resource development skill sets
  • state of donor donor readiness
  • board of directors
  • community factors

While I am sure all of these things play a role, I think it might be even more simple.
This morning I was enjoying my coffee and reading a book when I came across the following passages from the book “The Magic of Thinking Big” written by David Schwartz:

Desire, when harnessed is power.”
Success required heart and soul effort and you can only put your heart and soul into something you really desire.”
When you surrender yourself to your desires, when you let yourself become obsessed with a goal, you receive the physical power, energy, and enthusiasm needed to accomplish your goal. But you receive something else, something equally valuable. You receive the ‘automatic instrumentation’ needed to keep you going straight to your objective.”

While I’ve always believed in the power of goal setting, I guess I’ve never seen it in this light or from this perspective.
So, the answer to my original question very likely is simple . . . those who succeeded just desired it more and those that didn’t do well didn’t.
I guess this is why successful fundraising professionals are focused on measurable goals such as:

  • campaign and event contribution goals
  • sponsorship goals
  • grant writing goals
  • donor retention goals
  • new donor acquisition goals

These goals are encapsulated in strategic plans, fundraising plans, stewardship plans, major gift prospect cultivation plans, annual performance plans, etc.
What type of fundraising-related goals does your organization have? Where are those goals written down? How do those goals get translated into your individual goals and where are those written? Were those goals developed collaboratively and do they align with what you’re passionate about? If not, how do you bridge that gap in order to avoid failure?
Please scroll down and share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Reaching for the stars? Do your homework first!

Welcome to O.D. Fridays at DonorDreams blog. Every Friday for the foreseeable future we will be looking more closely at a recent post from John Greco’s blog called “johnponders ~ about life at work, mostly” and applying his organizational development messages to the non-profit community.

Today, I am focusing on a post that John wrote that was inspired by the following quotation from Robert Browning:

Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, else what’s a heaven for?”

He uses Browning’s words to springboard off into two significant issues that every non-profit organization confronts during strategic planning.

  1. How lofty should the strategic goals be?
  2. What capacity building efforts need to be undertaken to support the new vision and strategic goals?

If you’re a non-profit professional who dislikes strategic planning, I suspect that John’s blog post might speak to you. I also suspect it will give you a much-needed new perspective before heading into your next strategic planning initiative.

While it is tempting for me to use John’s post to get on a soapbox and pontificate about strategic planning, I will resist doing so and instead talk about annual campaign planning.

As many of you know, I spent the last six years working with countless non-profit organizations on planning, implementing and evaluating annual campaigns. During the planning process, there are a variety of decisions that must be made including how big is the fundraising goal.

My approach has always been to starts off conservatively:

  • Identify prospective donors
  • Evaluate capacity to give and propensity to give
  • Set a suggested ask amount based upon what the prospect is likely to give (factoring in who is asking, giving history to the agency, and state of the relationship between the organization and prospective donor)

After going through all of these gymnastics, we have a spreadsheet with names and ask amounts. It is at this point that I urge the planning committee to sum the column of ask amounts and then divide by two.

Why divide by two? First, not everyone is going to say ‘YES’ to your request for a contribution. Second, not everyone who agrees to contribute will agree to the give at the suggested ask amount. Third, we sometimes miss the mark when setting suggested ask amounts.

This approach flies in the face of Robert Browning’s quotation and John Greco’s blog post.

But wait . . . there’s more!

Looking around the planning table, the sight isn’t pretty. Campaign volunteers are usually a little upset. All of that work and the goal seems small. The executive director or fundraising professional is wringing their hands and they look nauseated.

It is at this point that I like to introduce the idea of “reaching for the stars”.

In my opinion, timing is everything. To introduce the idea of reaching for the stars, before everyone has a realistic view of organizational and campaign capacity, is irresponsible.

Truth be told, this is my favorite part of the annual campaign planning process. Campaign volunteers are chomping at the bit to talk about what needs to be done to increase the size of the campaign goal. The following are just a few of the questions that get asked and answered:

  • How many more prospects need to be identified and added to our prospect list?
  • How many more volunteer solicitors need to be recruited?
  • Does the case for support need to be strengthened?
  • Is there more cultivation or stewardship activities that should be done prior to the solicitation that would maximize the chances of getting what we need to reach our campaign goal?

These are engaging and powerful discussions that are tons of fun to facilitate!

Finally, these conversations always end with a robust discussion about how the new annual campaign stretch goal should be included in the agency’s budget. This is where it gets interesting.

Some folks are conservative and advocate for budgeting the original smaller goal. Others want to go for it and budget the whole amount.

Over the years, I’ve given lots of different sounding advice to a number of different organizations. However, the common thread has always been that you need to have “skin in the game”. If you don’t hold yourself accountable to reaching the stretch goal, then you’ll never reach it.

Human beings normally don’t accomplish things unless we absolutely have to do so. Behind every audacious vision has been an urgent and pressing need to do it. So, whatever you end up budgeting, it needs to feel like a bit of a stretch.

In conclusion, I encourage you to set an annual campaign goal that is a bit of a stretch, but whatever you do don’t just pull the number out of the air or apply a percentage increase over last year. Do the hard work around prospecting and evaluating propensity and capacity, then conservatively divide everything by a factor of two or three.

It is only at this point that everyone will be ready to reach for the stars and focus on those capacity building questions that are necessary for success!

How has your organization set its annual campaign goals? What has worked or not worked for you? Please share your thoughts in the comment section because we can all learn from each other.

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847