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January 10, 2018

Make Your New Year’s Fundraising Resolutions SMART

I’ve never really been into New Year’s resolutions. Yeah, I should exercise more and stop eating sugar. I should try to improve my focus and be a better mom.

But I’ve found my resolutions to be hard to keep. They are too big and broad. And how would I ever know if I’ve met my goal? Will I ever really cut out all sugar? (Unlikely). What does it mean exactly to improve my focus? How do I measure these things?

So it is with your fundraising plans. Unless you can get SMART about developing your fundraising goals and objectives, you too will wonder how in the world you’ll ever know if you are making any progress.


SMART is an acronym that many of our long-time readers will have seen a lot. It means:

S = Specific. Clear about the goal, task, and expected outcome.

M= Measurable. How you will know if you’ve succeeded. Metrics.

A = Achievable. Realistic.

R = Relevant. Supporting the organization’s goals.

T = Time-bound. Within a specific time frame.


Here’s an example of a UN-SMART objective:

“Increase donor retention rate”

Turn that around and add some specificity:

“Increase donor retention rate from 60% to 65% by December 31, 2018”


Here’s a set of activities that aren’t very SMART:

  • Send a donor newsletter – How often? To Whom?
  • Keep donors informed of our work – How? Through what channels?
  • Improve acknowledgement system – In what way?

 Here are some that are SMART:

  • Send a donor newsletter to all lapsed donors (those that haven’t given a gift in 36 months) three times a year
  • Coordinate members of the Board Development Committee to call all legacy society members with a message of thanks be the end of December 2018
  • Reduce the time between when a gift is received in the mail and when the thank-you letter is mailed from 7 days to 4 days for all individual donors


With SMART goals and objectives, your team knows who is responsible for what, when,  and why you are doing it. You’ll know what success looks like when you get there.

Most importantly, SMART goals and objectives help us learn improve the way we work and our skills. We learn from mistakes as well as successes!

Take a look at your fundraising plan and make sure it’s SMART.

As for me, I’m going to aim for one cookie rather than two with my tea in the afternoon. Starting small, but specific…


p.s. If you’re looking for more personal inspiration, The New York Times featured an article on SMART New Year’s Resolutions that you can see here.

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