Setting Giving Day Goals

Posted on 09/01/2021

Many schools who are running a giving day for the first time—and even some who have run them in the past—don’t go through the process of setting goals for their event. Instead, they just cross their fingers and hope for the best. Even those that do set goals often do so arbitrarily, without any correlation to what they’re hoping to achieve. 

And yet, giving day goals are important for a number of reasons. They set expectations, keep everyone focused on what’s paramount to the institution, and serve as a motivator for staff, volunteers, and donors. They can also help manage expectations—especially when a lot of different stakeholders are involved. It’s important for goals to be aggressive, but also realistic. 

When you’re gearing up for your next giving day, consider the following tips to help develop a goal that’s right for your program:

  1. Decide between donors and dollars. While both will likely be on your radar, figure out which is the top success metric for your institution. The tactics you put in place will vary depending on your priority. 
  2. Analyze past results. History is often the best way to predict the future. If you’ve done a giving day before, start there. If not, evaluate past giving around the dates when you will be holding your event. Find out what your institution’s single highest day of online giving has been, and let that serve as your floor.
  3. Benchmark. You don’t have to be a trailblazer. Survey your peers, both actual and aspirational. Learning about their fundraising results—as well as other challenges and opportunities they’ve faced—will provide you with a good basis to develop your own goals and strategies.
  4. Consider the environment. Take a look around. How’s the economy? Has your school had any exciting athletic seasons lately? Are your alumni and donors happy with the direction of the institution? 
  5. Reflect on the 80/20 rule. In almost every fundraising campaign, the majority of the money (roughly 80% or more) will come from relatively few leadership-level donors. The remainder (the other 20% or less) will come from smaller gifts. Determine who your leadership donors will be and how much they can realistically contribute to this effort. 
  6. Get buy-in from the top. No goal is complete without input from institutional leadership. Following these tips will provide the necessary information and context to help them evaluate what the event can accomplish, and (hopefully) secure their support.

Running a giving day program (or really, any fundraising campaign!) without a goal is like being on a ship without a sail. Among their many benefits, goals can raise sights and help organizations strive to do better and accomplish more—particularly if programs have become complacent or satisfied with the status quo. Regardless of their main purpose for your institution, goals work best when they’re conceived thoughtfully, developed collaboratively, and informed by data.

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