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Where Are You Going to Get the Money?

fundraising feasibility study

Four Steps to Own Your Fundraising Goals

Rather early in my fundraising career, I drove out one afternoon to meet with the new volunteer chair of my development committee. Our objective for the day was to establish the organization’s fundraising goal for the year.

Of course, I wasn’t goal-less. In “my pocket” I had a number, but it was based mostly on the needs of my non-profit rather than plans and objective strategies for the next year.

If this is where you find yourself today, keep reading. This meeting changed my goal-setting strategy forever, and it will change yours too!


“Where are you going to get the money?” he asked. That one, final question resulted in a strategical, goal-setting plan that I’ve used ever since. Today, I want to share this simple plan which will forever ensure you’re active in goal setting instead of being acted upon.


1. What have you raised historically?

Count all donated money. This sounds logical, doesn’t it? You can’t believe the conversations I have around counting United Way or a one-time gift from Chuck or whatever. In Step One, run a report by year for the past two or three years, and, if you didn’t earn the revenue, then it was donated, and should be counted in your annual total.

2. Based on your history of fundraising, what do you project to raise this year?

At this point, you have two or three years of fundraising totals, and in an ideal world, you can see some patterns. However, this is where I hear a common refrain: “The data’s dirty,” or “The reporting wasn’t right,” or “The numbers are in Quick Books, and they’re hard to figure out.”

This is a turning point for your next year. Do the best you can, but please don’t give up. These numbers are not part of a Supreme Court testimony.

Fundraising goals will be part of your organization’s budget, and either you can play a role in setting them or spend the next year overwhelmed or under-praised because you sat on the sidelines!

3. How will you raise it?

Here’s where you need to engage your Development Committee. With their help, review your giving history associated with each fundraising strategy, and decide which to keep, which to jettison, and where there’s risk (remember Chuck and United Way?).

4. From whom will you raise it? Here’s where I use Excel, faith, common sense!

In Excel, subtotal each sector such as Grants, Foundations, Major Gifts by Individuals, Corporate Support, Annual Gifts, and Events. Then, by faith with a healthy sprinkle of fact (giving history) create a column projecting the dollars you believe you can get again!

Finally, use common sense, and add additional funding streams with the dollars you believe you can raise. Your boss, your board, and hopefully, your internal drive compel you to add this column, which can include donors in the pipeline, new grants you’ve identified, added fundraising events, etc.


By this point, you have a realistic idea of how much money your department can raise and where you’ll get it! Print the cover of this document – which I refer to as the One Document That Changed My Career – and track your work! (This is my most popular blog, by the way!)

My team and I, with the faithful, now-believing help of our board and committee, worked that plan daily and reported our progress each month.


What a difference that meeting around 2005 made to my career and my success: I owned my goals. My department played an active role in the budget process, and the professional stature of our department and strategies gained visibility across the organization!

If you’re a development director whose fiscal year starts June 1, begin work on this asap! If you’re a board member, ask for this information. Then, be patient and encouraging as you work through the first year.


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