By Amy Wong – President 

It’s a new year – and, for many nonprofits, it’s time to launch new fundraising goals. Unlike those pesky resolutions many of us make (and don’t keep), our goals must be met in order to meet the needs of those we serve in our organizations.

So, as you plan for the coming year, here are five ways you can set your nonprofit up for fundraising success.


  1. Celebrate the successes from 2018.

Like many nonprofits, you worked hard until the final hour to get those last-minute gifts before the December 31 deadline. You made phone calls, sent letters, emailed constituents and pushed your message out on social media.

Fundraisers are often challenged to move immediately to the next thing, whether it is an event, the next appeal, paperwork or (hopefully) the slew of thank you letters that need to be sent.

But, remember to take time to celebrate the successes from the prior year. Celebrate meeting your financial or communications goals; share a great donor story; note that you overcame a specific challenge; or simply take a moment to recognize the impact you are making on those you serve.  This celebration may be formal (taking the team to lunch or ordering in a special treat) or informal (special recognition at staff meeting or thank you notes to your team).

  1. Set SMART goals for the coming year.

Unlike those resolutions, setting SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound) helps nonprofit fundraisers be much more targeted in their planning, which leads to better overall outcomes and successes. For example:

Specific: We will raise $100,000 in philanthropic income for our nonprofit in 2019.

Measurable: We will do this by raising $50,000 from individuals, $20,000 through grants, $20,000 through special events and $10,000 through corporate sponsorships.

Achievable: We will do this by planning, developing timelines and tracking monthly metrics to stay on track.

Relevant: $100,000 is a 10% increase over last-year’s total raised and will help us grow a key program that is greatly needed in our community.

Time-Bound: We want to raise this money in a 12-month period.

  1. Turn those goals into actionable plans.

We’ve talked a great deal about planning in our Dot Org blog – we’re huge fans of plans! (Check out Sara Lundenberger’s blog post on annual funding planning in January and my blog post on how nonprofit leaders should develop solid plans for their organizations.) Written plans help break your SMART goals into tasks (checklists), assign those tasks to the right people (accountability), give you deadlines for completion (timelines) and provide direction from year-to-year so you don’t have to remember everything (sustainability). This leads to SUCCESS!

It is important to have plans for every key component of your fundraising strategy. Some examples are:

  • Annual giving: Include deadlines for writing, designing, printing and mailing appeals; information on coordinating individual asks; and social, print and electronic media updates.
  • Grants: Include funder deadlines and reporting deadlines, ask amounts and projects.
  • Events: Include deadlines for securing venues, printing materials, sponsorships, mailing invitations, coordinating entertainment, managing volunteers, getting permits and other relevant details.
  • Major gifts/planned giving: Include your solicitation strategy, marketing strategy, reporting strategy and special event strategy. Also, incorporate any special projects or campaigns that are happening or will be launched throughout the year.
  • Stewardship plan: Decide how you will thank your donors throughout the year. (Is this through a donor event, thank you letters, follow up visits or asks? This plan depends on the size and capacity of your organization.)

Planning will allow your organization’s fundraising goals to be more structured and successful – however, a solid plan takes time and even sometimes a unique perspective. Contact us at 330.247.2180 or [email protected] to see how we can help with your planning needs.

  1. Review the plans.

A plan is no good unless you stay on top of it. Some ways to do this effectively include:

  • Create 30-60-90 day plans to help manage the projects better and keep everyone on task.
  • Review your plans regularly. Take time at staff meetings to go over key components of the plans. Or review them one-on-one at your regular meetings with a manager with direct reports.
  • Make changes if needed. Things happen, so there are times when a plan does need to change. That is okay. It is better to change a plan that isn’t working during the middle of the year than to let it fall to pieces and wait until the next year.
  1. Remember why you are doing this job in the first place.

Nonprofits serve such an important role in our society. Whether they are serving the needs of those who are in poverty, treating those in need of healthcare, educating our young people or providing a vibrant community through the arts and other cultural programs, nonprofits make our world a better place.

Demands on the time of the nonprofit fundraiser (or executive director, president or anyone else involved in raising philanthropic dollars) often cause them to lose focus on the “why” of their job. If you find this happening to you, consider doing the following:

  • Spend time with someone being helped by your organization to see how they have been impacted.
  • Take a donor, volunteer or long-time staff member to breakfast or lunch and listen to why they support the organization.
  • Think about the work you do as transformational, not transactional. As fundraisers, we often are measured by dollars, visits and other metrics. While these are important to keep teams on track to meet goals, don’t lose sight of the important relationships you have made and those being served by your organization.


A new year offers a fresh start in many ways. While I personally have shelved the traditional “resolutions,” I am a firm believer that we can all be successful if we start the new year off in the right way.

Hopefully you and your organization will have much success in 2019. Fundraising is hard work, but those who do it make a huge difference in their communities and beyond.


Want to take on the new year with our team? Contact us at 330.247.2180 or at [email protected].