One of my favorite strategies that we’ve implemented into our major gifts coaching is the idea of an aspirational goal.

But before I get to that, let me back up and talk a bit more about how we think about and approach goal setting overall.

In our major gifts system, we create individual revenue goals for every assigned donor. And that goal is cash-flowed so we can see when the gift is expected over the course of the year.

This is so critical because it helps the fundraiser build a strategic communications plan for that donor that leads to the ask and includes intentional and meaningful report backs. It also helps leadership in the budgeting process to know when certain gifts are expected.

The other thing I want to mention before I dig into the idea of aspirational goals is to state something that we see all the time and that is foundational to this strategy:

Fundraisers tend to ask too low.

There are a number of reasons for this: fear, worry about upsetting the donor, not feeling like they have the offers they need, etc.

And this leads me into why we do both revenue (budget) goals and aspirational goals.

The revenue (budget) goal is the official number you are giving to leadership. This is the number they will use for budgeting purposes.

The aspirational goal is your idea of what could be possible if everything lined up perfectly. There’s a big difference between the two, and we do not recommend that you share the aspirational goal with your Finance team!

This might look like a budget goal of $10,000 and an aspirational goal of $15,000. Or maybe it’s a budget goal of $10,000 and an aspirational goal of $100,000.

The reason we recommend an aspirational goal is because it helps you think differently about the whole asking process and imagine the possibility of asking for a larger gift.

It shifts your mindset so you become braver, more confident, and motivated. It also allows you to dream big, which can lead you toward some fascinating and transformational conversations with the donor when appropriate.

This simple idea has helped countless fundraisers we work with imagine, and then realize, larger gifts from donors who are now more deeply engaged with the mission because they’ve been given an opportunity to make a significant difference in an area they care deeply about.

I can’t wait to hear how aspirational goals change how you think about your donors’ potential.


PS — If you’re ready to learn more about goal setting, and the rest of our system and structure for major gifts, be sure to check out our Certification Course for Major Gift Fundraisers. This is a comprehensive training that will give you our best practices, tools, and resources to help you create a thriving major gift program and connect more strategically with your donors.