mythtruths 2013-Aug14
A little over a year ago, our team at Veritus Group started working with a client to help  build and manage their major gift program.  Once we got going to help them qualify donors and figure out who should actually be on a caseload, we started the process of goal setting.
This is usually where we begin to get pushback from the client.  And, in this particular case… WE REALLY GOT A LOT OF PUSHBACK.

“Why do we need to put goals to donors?  Can’t we just set an overall revenue goal for the entire caseload?  It’s wrong to put a revenue goal to a donor.  It doesn’t seem right.  If I put a goal to a donor and they don’t make it, I’ll get fired.  Goals just restrict me from creating and building relationships.  If I put a goal down, I’m only going to focus on the money.  We’ve never attached goals to individual donors.  What if someone dies?  Really?  Every donor?  This will take forever…”

Our team at Veritus Group has heard just about every excuse from MGOs on why they don’t want to create goals for each of their donors.  However, with some encouragement and empathy and a dash of discipline, we managed to help the MGOs at this organization understand its importance.
And, it paid off.  After one year this client either made or exceeded their revenue goals with each of their donors.  They were astounded.  We were happy for them, but we were not surprised.
Why?  Because over all the years we have been working with MGOs, when goals are set with donors, more often than not, THEY MAKE THE GOAL.  But, just as importantly, if they did NOT make the goal, we know exactly why.
Let me say this again, because I want you to realize how important this is:  If you don’t make a revenue goal, YOU must know why.  You have to know the story behind that donor.  Perhaps, the goal was too high.  Perhaps something happened to that donor’s business and he could not give as he had in the past?  There may be a hundred reasons…but by setting goals, you have a benchmark from which to work.
Here are four common myths about goal setting:

  1. If I create goals for everyone of my donors and I don’t make them, I’ll be fired. — Gosh, we’ve written about fear a lot in this blog, but this one is close to the #1 fear we hear from MGOs.  Sadly, most MGOs have not had to put down individual goals for donors, so when Veritus Group comes along, it really scares the MGO.  What we tell MGOs is that no one is getting fired for not making their goals…unless they are not doing their job.  That is a huge difference.  As I just wrote, if you, as the MGO, are working your strategic plan and doing all the right things to cultivate and nurture a relationship with that donor…then that is ALL you can do.  With a major donor, so many things can happen that are beyond your control.  However, the vast majority of the time, when an MGO has the right goal, a solid plan, and executes that plan, the goal is either met or exceeded.  It happens over and over and over.
  2. It’s wrong to put a revenue goal to an individual — We get this one quite a bit.  Somewhere down the line folks have developed the idea that it’s “not right” to attach a goal to a donor.  Some faith-based groups have come to believe that “God will lead a donor to know what to give.”   Other organizations argue that putting a goal to an individual somehow “cheapens” the relationship.  Both of these arguments are off base.  Goals allow you to a) create a marker to help you understand the donor’s capacity, b) allow your department to set realistic budgets, and c) give you something to strive to attain and keep you accountable to do it.
  3. Goals get in the way of relationship building with a donor — I admit, it could APPEAR this way, but in reality, goal setting only helps ENHANCE your relationship.  As you know, Major Gift Fundraising is about creating, developing and nurturing relationships with donors.  Goals guide you to create structure and discipline throughout the year to help you actually do the work of relationship building.  No goal = no plan, no plan = no cultivation or relationship building with the donor.  If you are doing all the right things with a donor, the money will follow.
  4. Setting goals takes too much time.  I could be doing more important things — Well, I’m not going to lie. It does take time to thoughtfully figure out a revenue goal for each of your donors.  (And, YES, I mean for EVERY DONOR.) Obviously it will take even more time if you’ve never done this before.  But, it really is laying the foundation of a solid major gift program and caseload success.  If you don’t take the time upfront, your foundation will be built on shaky ground…and you know what happens then – collapse, disaster, and unhappy people.  Believe me, Richard and I see this all the time when we are asked to come in and assess a major gift program.  The programs that are struggling don’t set goals.

So, hopefully you now have a solid foundation as to why goals are necessary.  Next time, I’ll talk about the correct step-by-step process to actually set goals.  You’ll be empowered.