This year make your board stop smoking | npENGAGE

New Year Resolution – I will stop smoking!

By on Dec 21, 2012


Every year the Board does the responsible task of setting fundraising goals for the organization.   Yet, according the Urbane Institute, only 52% of nonprofit organizations surveyed in the United States were able to hit these fundraising goals in 2010.  This year, get the smoke out of your eyes and start to understand how to set REALISTIC goals for your agency.

Planning your fundraising is the logical second step in preparing your program and organizational direction. Putting this plan in place should be the staff’s responsibility.  If not, there are a number of excellent resources that can help you establish financial goals in line with your strategic plan.  The most important step is the first one – recognize that you have a problem – unrealistic expectations.

Now, here are the next 5 steps to help you kick that filthy, dirty habit.

Pick a date.

In the nicotine world, they call it your quit date.  Let’s call is your start to win date.  Begin by thinking like your donor – it’s the beginning of the year, “what shall I do, what shall I do?”  Then look at your plans for the year and see if they make sense to that donor.

There is no rule that your fundraising plan has to start on the beginning of the fiscal year or the start of a new year.  Whatever the date, push your plan out at least 12 months, preferably 18.  That gives you time to ask your donors what they think.

Get help.

For every fundraising campaign, appeal, or idea, there is  data,  benchmark studies and best practices that have proven to be successful.   If you haven’t checked out these resources, do a search and spend a day learning about what works for organizations similar to yours.  This will serve as the starting point for setting your fundraising goals.

Swap habits.

What areas are bringing you down?  Are you losing more donors than you are gaining?  Are your events growing or becoming a drain?  Thinking small is one of the easiest habits to get into.   So – don’t sabotage yourself.  There are only a handful of large nonprofits and over one million small to mid-sized organizations that do important work every day.  The best companies in the world have reasonable business plans that they follow.  Be one of the best!

Take it one day at a time.

It will take time to build a board of directors that will be able to think strategically enough to grow intentionally.  Set small milestones and growth in your fundraising plan that are realistic in terms of staff and volunteer time, community engagement

Reward yourself.

Just because the work is hard, doesn’t mean it can’t be fun.  Create some contests among the volunteers to see who can meet their fundraising goals.  Give our prizes to folks who “over perform”.   As this video shows, anyone can be a volunteer, anyone can help.  It takes a special group of people to set a goal and it takes superheroes to reach it.


And just like kicking that tobacco habit, it may be hard to follow a fundraising plan.  But you will be much healthier for it.


Debbi Stanley is manager of the Blackbaud client success team. As certified fundraising executive, Debbi has raised more than $15 million for nonprofit agencies and is a recognized expert in strategic, succession and resource development planning. During her nonprofit career, she served in many positions including development director for health and human services agencies and she was a successful consultant teaching nonprofits approaches to organizational development that properly leverage resources for project sustainability. Her expertise in situational leadership and her knowledge of funding strategies has helped hundreds of nonprofits do more for their communities. An avid fan, Debbi is blessed to have two sons who are great athletes at both forms of football – the American and the International version.

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