Welcome to Jay Love, providing this post on how you can use your database to help establish goals for your fundraising program!

Yes, you read correctly, the database, which scares so many of the staff at most nonprofits from actually using, could be the key to proper goal setting for your new fiscal year.  Ironically, basing goals for your staff and organization from data within your database should lead to a much greater focus and higher usage of the database.  Sort of ironic, but why not take advantage of this inverse relationship!

When you think about it, creating future goals and objectives from the output of the mechanism used to track results/activity is perfectly natural.  It is done every day in the commercial sector.   It is just not the norm in the non-profit sector because so few executives and fundraisers actually use the database daily to record their actions and results.

Every Goal Requires Detailed Components

For example, you would like to increase major gifts by 20% in the coming fiscal year.  This is a wonderful goal, but to truly have a chance to succeed any goal needs the following detailed components:

  1. A specified time period
  2. Individual steps with due dates
  3. List of resources required
  4. A method of measurement

Let’s explore each component deeper.

Specific Time Period

First, a specified time period so you know when the measurement begins and ends.  This might be the entire fiscal year or quarters of the year or my favorite monthly.    Where else but your fundraising database could you easily compare the desired goal to the actual and perhaps to one year ago with a touch of a button?

Individual Steps

Second, the individual steps involved are my favorite components.  Any task is almost always comprised of smaller segments or steps.  In our example of increasing major gifts by 20% these might work:

  1. Make 25% more outgoing calls
  2. Share a meal with a major gift prospect 8-10 times a week
  3. Utilize other key friends of the organization as connectors daily
  4. Increase my average ask amount by 15%
  5. Increase my weekly appointments by 33%
  6. Utilize a prospect research tool


Third, almost any large goal entails more or better use of resources to make it happen.  Yes, that means there is an investment of some nature.  (This reinforces the need for accurate and timely measurement since future investments often depend on the ROI of previous investments.)    Just think how easy those future investment dollars will be to garner, if you have previous goal achievements and return on investments documented!   (Don’t we wish we had such data for ever goal requiring significant investment?)

Method of Measurement

Could you imagine a Super Bowl or World Series where they never kept score?


Do you think the interest level and attendance might dwindle a bit without that key factor?  Obviously, we want as much excitement and interest in our goals, as there is in major sporting events. If you were thinking the fundraising database might be a key factor again, you are correct.   If it is not easy to measure, forget it!   Nobody has time to create extra mechanisms for measurement.

Everyone in the nonprofit world reading this post can make the above goal components happen.   Just make sure a database is truly in use and it is simple enough for everyone to understand and use.   Perhaps we can explore those issues in another post . . .

Best of luck with your new fiscal year goals, I know you can do it!

Jay LoveJay Love, Co-Founder & CEO at Bloomerang

A veteran of the nonprofit software industry, Jay Love was the co-founder of eTapestry and is currently Senior Vice President at Avectra. You can connect with Jay on Twitter or LinkedIn.