As we wind down the Major Gifts Challenge, it’s important to consider the best way to set your major gift goals going forward.
Some organizations use last year’s results to set the next year’s goal, but that’s not always a good idea because year-to-year totals can swing wildly depending on all sorts of circumstances. This is particularly true in the realm of major gifts where one huge, one-time gift could lead to a spike in last year’s revenue that you can’t realistically expect to match this year.
If you can’t use last year’s totals, then what data can you use to set the following year’s major gift fundraising goal?
I always advise my clients to use their prospect list.
(Side note: If your organization doesn’t yet have a Major Gift prospect list, don’t worry — I am providing detailed instructions for putting such a list together in my latest book, which should be out in spring 2014. It’s also available in an earlier post of the Major Gifts Challenge.)
Determining your Major Gift Goal
Take a look at the table below. As an example, let’s say you want to raise $100,000 in major gifts.
To hit your $100,000 goal, you’ll need approximately twenty-five donors at the levels shown. (To achieve twenty-five donors at these levels, you’ll need about three times as many prospects.)
So why so many prospective donors (prospects) at each level?
Because it’s unlikely that every donor you meet with will be able or willing to give you the full amount you ask for. And if you are getting every prospect you ask to say “yes,” then you’re not asking nearly enough people!
In the table above, you start with four prospects for the one gift of $20,000 that you need. This means that there are four prospective donors that you know of, and that you have good reason to expect that they would consider making a $20,000 gift. Ultimately only one may make a gift of that size, but hopefully the other three will drop down to the next category and make a gift of $10,000 or more. And so on.
When it comes time to set your own major gifts goal for the year, take a close look at your prospect database. How much have they given in the past and how often? Remember that not everyone who gave last year will be able to give (or give at the same amount) this year, while others may be able to give more.
Once you’ve done the analysis of what each of your donors is likely to be able to give and added an analysis of prospects you plan to ask for the first time this year, you’ll have the basis for the coming year’s major gift fundraising goal.
Measuring Your Success: It’s Not Just Dollars
Granted, you’ve set a major gift fundraising goal for this year – and meeting that goal will be one important measure of your success. That said, achieving that bottom line isn’t the only indication of how well you’ve done.
In addition to tallying up the final amount raised, take a look at the number of visits and asks that took place. What’s the ratio of asks to the number of gifts and total amount of each gift?
If you have a high ratio of successful asks, what went right that you can use next year?
If your ratio of successful asks was lower — even if you hit your overall fundraising goal — what might you want to change to improve your ratio next year?
Ask yourself the same questions about the ratio of asks to the amount raised with each ask – what went well, and what could you do even better next year?
And remember, you don’t want to get all “yes” answers either. It means you’re not asking nearly enough.
Action Item of the Week — 2 hours or less
Set your goal for next year. It’s never too soon to start planning for next year, and before you know it, year-end will be here. Get each new year off to a great start by setting a realistic, yet ambitious Major Gifts goal.
Major Gift Fundraising is a Continual Effort
Setting major gift fundraising goals isn’t just a year-to-year process — it’s a continual effort, with each year building to the next. Use the table in this post and analyze your results thoroughly, and you’ll be well on your way to achieving larger goals every year!
This post is part of Amy’s Major Gifts Challenge. Read the entire series to learn how to get major gifts by spending just two hours each week.