Fundraising SMART

Tim Ahern | March 19, 2019

In order to run a successful fundraiser, you have to know what success will mean.  What will it look like to have met that “success” level at the end of your fundraiser? In order to determine what success will mean, start with creating goals.  


In a world full of goal-setting there is one technique that sets the standard for effective goal-setting.  That is the SMART goal method. Let’s unpack what exactly the SMART method is by first going through each letter of the acronym.






Each of the letters represents one requirement of your goals. For example, say that you want to double the funds that you raised during your previous fundraiser.  Your goal should meet each one of the SMART criteria in order to properly measure success.

Instead of creating a goal that’s vague like “Increase the funds we raise”, make sure it is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound: Increase our monetary funds within the duration of the fundraiser by 50% from last year’s final funds raised.  

Assumedly you know exactly what that number is, so you can track your progress and measure if your final number has reached the goal. In order to measure your goal, you have to know the exact dollar amount you’ll need to meet.  Assign someone to track your progress so you’ll be aware of how close you are to your goal as time goes on.

One of the most difficult objectives to include in goals is making sure it is attainable.  Another way of looking at this objective is thinking about what is realistic for your organization.  If this is your first fundraiser, do a little bit of research into other fundraisers in your community and get some insight into some realistic goals.  

If your fundraising goals aren’t relevant to your organization and your mission, then they should be tweaked until they reflect the organization as a whole.  In order to ensure your goals are relevant, determine if the goal really works for your organization in making it successful. Think about who your targeting, and who you’re benefiting.  They should be the driving forces behind your goals.

Without a deadline, your goal has no boundaries.  Make sure that any and all goals you create adhere to a specific time-frame, or in other words, make them time-bound. This criteria relies heavily on the attainability of your goals, be sure to give yourself enough time to meet these goals while not giving yourself too much time where the goals can get lost.  


In order to meet all of these criteria, think about the following:

  • Specific – What is your ultimate goal?
  • Measurable – How will you know if you’ve met that goal?
  • Attainable – Is this goal realistic based on past fundraising?
  • Relevant – What will this goal do to further the mission of the fundraiser?
  • Time-Bound – What are the start and end dates to meet this goal?

Get on your way to a successful fundraiser by using these tips and check out our other blog posts for more great guides on fundraising!