Not impossible.
I have been working with a number of MGOs and development professionals who are just starting to go through the budgeting process for next fiscal year, starting in July. Perhaps you are, too.
There is a tension that happens in the budgeting process within development departments regarding major gifts. There is pressure from the Director of Development to announce overall growth goals. The pressure to do that, of course, usually comes from her boss. Sometimes that growth goal is based on a 3- to 5-year plan, and sometimes it’s just a random number that the CEO or board wants to grow by.
I mean, Richard and I have seen Executive Directors just make an announcement saying, “We need to grow by 20% next year.” So across the board, every department has to figure out how to increase revenue by that percentage. It’s not the most “donor-centered” approach to growth.
Richard and I understand why leadership wants growth. Growth is good, when there is so much need. However, growth also needs to be based in reality. This is why we stress over and over again that in major gifts, you need to establish a revenue goal with every one of your donors.
In other words, get out in front of your non-profit’s leadership and start the process of goal-setting for every one of your donors, rather than wait for leadership to hand them to you. Here are four really good reasons why you need to set goals.

  1. Budgeting — Just as I said above, if you start now to create a culture of having revenue goals for all caseload donors, you will help your manager budget for the entire department. “Managing up” is helpful here. And it’s much more donor-centered to create goals with each donor than to have those goals come from the top down as an overall percentage. Now, you still may get into disagreements on some of those individual goals that you first set, but that is to be expected. In fact, when Veritus works with MGOs, we have a process of “back and forth” until both the manager and the MGO each feel good about the goal. Overall, the goal has to be attainable, and it also needs to meet budget expectations for the department.
  2. Focus — We have found that when an MGO has a goal attached to every donor, it helps the MGO focus his time and energy in the right place. Goals naturally create a structure for you. It’s a great reason NOT to go off and help with an event or something else, because you have goals you need to make that your manager is owning with you.
  3. Aspiration — I believe you need something to attain. I know I I have work and personal goals I’m trying to achieve. It gives me a way to look forward. When MGOs push back on creating a goal for every donor on their portfolio, I tell them that goals are not meant to be a form of punishment if you don’t make them, but a way to inspire them.
  4. Performance measurement — Having a revenue goal that you cash-flow throughout the year is a critical way for you and your manager to measure performance and hold you accountable. Again, not to punish, but as one way to measure how you are doing. As an MGO, you need that accountability, and your manager needs a guide to know how you and your donors are performing. If you are meeting weekly with your manager, and you have cash-flowed your individual revenue goals with your caseload, it allows for you and your manager to have some good conversations on moves management, the donor cycle, solicitation, cultivation and stewardship of your donors.

Once you have created a culture of individual donor goals in major gifts, it becomes easier and easier to do. It naturally creates a “bottom-up” approach to aid in the budgeting of the entire development department.
If you want to know exactly how to create those revenue goals you can read more here  or request our white paper on goal and strategy development for individual donors.
Richard and I believe goal setting is critical to your success as an MGO. It will help your entire organization move to being more donor-centered in their approach to budgeting.