Unrealistic Goals.

Third in the series Six Reasons Your MGO Will Leave Your Organization

When speaking of fundraising goals, we’ve heard it all:

  • “Look, just add 15% to what you got last year, and we’re good to go!”
  • “It doesn’t matter that you got that one-time gift of $100,000; we need to do better than we did last year.”
  • “I don’t understand why Mr. and Mrs. Smith can’t give $250,000. They’re wealthy, aren’t they? I need you to make it happen.”
  • “We need at least one six-figure gift in our goals for next year. So add it in.”
  • “I understand that Bill Allen is not currently a donor. But I think you can put him down for $10,000 because he is interested in what we do and I am sure he is good for it.”

Like my friend from Paducah, Kentucky once said to me: “This dog just won’t hunt, Richard.” And it truly won’t. There is nothing more discouraging to a MGO than to have an authority figure unilaterally announce what reality will be, when there is no reality to be found. If you want to chase your MGO out the door, just keep doing this.
Money does not suddenly appear because someone wished it to. Doesn’t happen. And Jeff and I keep talking about this repeatedly, not only to be helpful but also to counter this dynamic of authority figures wanting money to show up magically.
This is how annual or caseload goals should be set:

  1. Take the current caseload of donors assigned to a MGO and make sure you have a three-year giving history in front of you for each donor.
  2. Look at each donor and, taking into account their capacity and inclination to give and with an intention to upgrade that donor’s giving, set a goal for that donor. Your goal may be 5% more than last year. It may be 20% more. Or double. Or less. There is no rule except that you want to upgrade. That is your intention. But that intention is set into the context of the donor and your perception and knowledge of their willingness and ability to give more. Be very aware of your tendency to ask low and think low. Counter that impulse in your planning. Also, identify two to three donors on your caseload who could give transformational gifts. See if you can find a way to make that happen.
  3. Discount one-time gifts in past giving, unless you believe they can be repeated.
  4. Add up all the goals to get to your total caseload goal. Compare that to prior year giving and make note about what you think and feel about it. You want to be optimistically realistic.
  5. Finish the exercise and leave it for a few days.
  6. You have finished your preliminary “management goals.” Now, as a separate exercise, do this whole process again to come up with your “private goals.” This process is your “what I could do if everything goes really well, beyond my realistic expectations” exercise. The point of this private goal exercise is that it gives you a private place to put down stretch goals – to dream and think big. This is important because it moves you away from the fear of failure and helps you to be open to possibility and potential. Do this and see what that total comes out to.
  7. Having finished your private/stretch goals, now go back and review your management goals for each donor. Make changes up or down as you rethink it. You will be amazed how your private/stretch goal exercise has influenced your thinking.
  8. Turn in your management goals and hide your private/stretch goals (in a safe place!).

This is how goals should be set. Support your MGO by supporting this process. I know things are tough, and you need more money. But you cannot just arbitrarily tell a MGO what the number should be for any financial period. The MGO’s number must be based on the reality of the donor decisions that drive the number. Don’t forget that. Because if you ignore that reality, you are showing your good MGO the door out of your organization.
My next post on this subject is about changing expectations, another way to push your MGO out of your organization.
Read the whole series, Six Reasons Your MGO Will Leave Your Organization:

  1. MGOs Will Leave a Culture that Focuses on Money vs The Cause
  2. MGOs Leave If They Have Nothing to Offer Donors
  3. MGOs Will Leave If You Give Them Unrealistic Goals
  4. MGOs Will Leave with Too Many Changing Expectations
  5. MGOs Will Leave Incompetent Managers
  6. MGOs Leave When the Job Doesn’t Fit