Hope Is Not A Strategy

You want me to raise HOW MUCH?

It’s your last chance to get organized before the busy fall fundraising season!

It’s not too late to lay down some very deliberate plans and get well organized.

You might be glad you did.

A clear, well-defined, practical fundraising plan can help you raise MORE money than ever in LESS time this year.

Do you have a realistic fundraising plan for the coming year?

Last year, I surveyed over 800 fundraisers and board members about their fundraising planning.

I found out some amazing info:

Only 43% actually have a FORMAL FUNDRAISING PLAN.

Does your organization have a formal fundraising plan?

Does your organization have a formal fundraising plan?
43% Yes – orange
20% No – blue
30% Informal – purple
5% We do what we did last year – red

  • And an appalling number – 20% – have NO plan at all. (no wonder they are not raising the money they need!)
  • 30% say they have an “Informal Plan” – (that sounds like trouble to me.)
  • 5% responded that “We just do what we did last year.”

Well, do you know what I say to that?

I say – NO WONDER we are all in this fix of not having enough money for our work!

There’s no planning ahead. There’s no thoughtful figuring out of a smart course of action.

THIS, my friends, is why so many of us are running ragged.

Hundreds of wonderful, smart, well-meaning, capable staff and board members answered the survey last summer.

And over 40% said they did NOT have a formal fundraising plan. Whew.

“Hope is not a strategy.”

It almost makes me weep. Because, my dear friend, you can’t raise a lot of money without thinking carefully ahead of time what you are going to actually do to raise it.

You can’t just hope.

You gotta have a plan.

Stay out of awkward situations like this one, for example:

1. A particular fundraising strategy (say, your mailing campaign) last year raised $300,000.

2. This year, your new goal is $400, 000 for the mailing campaign.

How are you going to go from $300k to $400k?

Wellll . . . Not sure. Somebody is hoping, that’s all.


As far as I am concerned, if I need to raise 25% more than last year’s direct mail efforts – then I want a PLAN to figure out what to do differently.

I would not dare to commit to that kind of increase without knowing specifically ahead of time HOW I’ll reach the goal.

I want to know what I will add or do differently. I will want to ask for an increased investment so I can bring in a higher return.

“Smoke and Mirrors” when you set fundraising goals?

How do YOU set your fundraising goals?

I hope you are not just pulling them out of the air.


How do you set fundraising goals?
50% Red – needs and priorities
27% blue – based on last year
23% purple – balance the budget.
13% green – “as much as possible.”

How are your peers setting their fundraising goals?

Last summer, survey respondents said they set their fundraising goals based on:

  • 50%- their organization’s needs and priorities (Sounds appropriate)
  • 27%  – a percentage increase from last year (This worries me a lot unless we know HOW we’ll get there.)
  • 23%  – “what we need to balance the budget” (This is a scary way to set your fundraising goals)
  • 13% plan to “just raise as much as possible.”

How To Set Fundraising Goals  by the Numbers

I don’t place a lot of stock in “hope. ”

And I hope you don’t either!

Here’s what fundraising by the numbers looks like, for a for a major gift program, for example:

  • How many major donors can I cultivate this year? Number
  • What is the potential dollar value of my major donor portfolio?  Number
  • How many asks can I get on the table?  Number
  • How many asks can I close this year? Number

Bottom Line: This is how the best shops set fundraising goals.

This is what deliberate, thoughtful fundraising by the numbers looks like.