Planning your fundraising goals when a new fiscal year approaches can be intimidating – we hear questions again and again about how to prioritize what people, resources, systems, and more need attention and support. At MPW we always recommend basing your next steps on what can realistically be achieved for the year based on development resources, leading indicators of donor engagement, last year's results, and information available about your organization and donors – while also keeping an eye on broader giving trends. This holistic, data-driven approach will give your organization the push it needs to level up in fundraising while ensuring your goals are attainable with the talent and resources on hand! We recommend pulling information from surveys, portfolio management, contact reports, giving data and multi-year trends, your leadership and team's perspectives, and any other touch points.




What to look for…

Donor Insights

  • Who increased, dropped off, or didn’t give their usual annual gift to your organization last year? What are your annual retention and acquisition rates over the last few years – how does your last year compare?

  • Conduct a donor screen of recent donors to analyze for major giving prospects.

  • Review portfolios and quantify your relationships with donors. How many are in the identification stage and cultivation stage?

  • How many asks are in the pipeline, and at what amounts for the upcoming year? How many donors are considering asks, and at what amounts? When will they decide?

  • What is your best resource opportunity for increasing fundraising revenue? Did your gifts mostly come from individuals? Or, did foundations and corporations pull most of the weight last year? Consider what operations or staff need support to cultivate one or more of these areas.

  • Are you promoting complex gifts such as gifts of stock, estate gifts, life insurance, 401ks, or gifts of property? If so, can your organization process these gifts with ease, or do you need assistance from a community foundation? How many of your donors, both major and annual, are giving via DAFs?

Effective Communication

  • What information did you share (either through campaigns or in one-on-one meetings) that motivated your donors the most or caught the attention of someone new?

  • What visits were most memorable for your donors and resulted in increased engagement of greater giving?

  • Do your donors know what your organization’s primary opportunities for investing are? 

  • Did you use videos throughout the year to tell compelling stories of your impact, your donors, and those who benefit from philanthropy at your organization? Does your communication showcase the diversity in all previously mentioned?

  • Are you leveraging technology to understand donor behavior and building deeper engagement through email, social media, texts, and other communication channels?

Opportunities for Investment

  • Are you offering your donors the possibility to genuinely impact your work or take it to a higher level?

  • Are you appealing to major gift prospects with asks for transformative gifts, while also creating meaningful opportunities to give to a variety of impactful areas throughout the year?

  • Do you know why donors are drawn to your organization, and do you know what your current donors are most interested in when it comes to investing in your organization? Do you know if they are ready to give at a greater level?

  • Put yourself in the donor’s shoes: if you were visiting your giving page or sitting down for an ask, would you be excited about the impact your giving could make?

Team Capacities and Needs

  • Does your team have the time, talent, and resources to meet the goals you set for them? The best way to find out is to ask directly – what do they need to thrive in your organization?

  • What do your teams' portfolios look like at this point in time? Will those who manage a portfolio have enough qualified prospects moving into the ask stage during the upcoming year to meet your organization's goals?

  • Is your organization focused on utilizing leading indicators (number of visits, asks, portfolio moves, and other interactions) as performance measurements instead of lagging indicators (dollars raised)?

  • Is your board responsive to your fundraising team’s asks for support – in donor relations, committee work, and more?

Budget and Projections

  • Did your organization's expense and revenue end your year trending in the direction you anticipated? As always, keep the biggest question front and center: do your budget and expense revenue align with your organization's overall strategic direction and goals?

  • Are your projections for growth attainable with the resources your organization has on hand? As mentioned above, the assurance you need for success lies in your team's ability to reach the benchmarks you set.

  • Are your budget and fundraising projections easily communicated to leadership and digestible at board meetings? While your team needs a detailed budget, we recommend keeping your goals succinct when sharing with leadership.

Peer Review and Trends

  • Whether you’re a member of a local or national association, or wonder what organizations like yours are doing, we strongly emphasize keeping a pulse on what challenges and successes your peers are facing.

  • On the above – do you have contacts in this network who you can call for advice or perspective? Connecting with fellow fundraisers, especially in organizations similar to your own, is a great way to benchmark your progress and understand what steps you may need to take.

  • Are you aware of larger philanthropic, economic, and other trends relative to fundraising? Our favorite resources to stay abreast are The Chronicle of Philanthropy, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal,  and The Economist




How to use what you find…

When sitting down to chart your course, we suggest first reflecting on your big wins from the last year. Within all that you find, what are three things you believe are a huge success? Perhaps a donor relayed how inspired they were to make a significant gift or how a particular story of impact moved them; or perhaps you retained a higher percentage of donors.

Once you’ve appropriately celebrated your success, ask yourself (and your team, including leadership!) some big-picture questions:

  • How can the upcoming year’s fundraising work best serve your organization’s long-term goals and strategic plans?

  • What can you qualify as both ambitious and realistic goals for your organization at this time?

  • Can you define both your wants and needs to improve your fundraising?

After you’ve identified your greatest needs, take a look at how your systems and staff currently support growth in those areas. We recommend focusing on two to three areas of deep improvement per year – remember, not everything in your organization may need to change, and only so much can change each year.

Once you have your focus areas, you also have direction in which to orient your staff, board, committees, and higher-ups. You can “work backwards” to fill in actionable steps toward your goals. These actions become your leading indicators that fill your reporting out to the groups we just mentioned – measurements that help forecast fundraising revenue and educate your team on what it takes to meet your development goals.


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