Targets for fundraisers work best when accompanied by good management and a realistic timescale

Remember that targets are only relevant if everyone takes them seriously, says Valerie Morton

Valerie Morton
Valerie Morton

Q. We are expanding our fundraising team. What tips do you have on setting targets?

It is easy to think that after many years of hundreds of charities employing fundraisers there would be a set of  ‘off the shelf’ models that could be followed, with the only challenge being working out the best one for each individual charity. Sadly this is not so, mainly because of the wide variation in charity services, awareness and emotiveness and in fundraising mechanisms, target audiences and team structure. But don’t worry – I can help you to find some solutions.

Firstly, I suggest there are two aspects of your question: what overall target should be set for a fundraising function, and what target should be given to an individual fundraiser?

Looking at your overall target, the most important factor is, of course, what services you need to run. I believe strongly that in the long term most charities can raise whatever they need if they put the right investment in place and are realistic about the timescale. However, some projects are more ‘fundraisable’ than others. A major appeal is an opportunity for a one-off injection of income that should also have lasting benefits. It need not cannibalise existing activity – I describe it as "an appeal that opens new doors and opens existing doors wider".

Historical income is the most frequently used guideline for targets, but it is important to carry out a review of fundraising budgets every few years to make sure you are getting the best return on investments. Ideally you would take each of the fundraising areas – for example, statutory, trusts, corporate, individual, community – and carry out an annual mini-audit of each one to see whether income and return on investment are being maximised. This gives you the opportunity to make changes to overall targets with the benefit of insight. Please avoid the often-used but completely unscientific budgeting system of "last year plus X per cent".

When it comes to setting targets for individual fundraisers, there are a number of questions to consider. What do you want the targets to achieve? Are they a way of assessing individual performance? – in which case it is important that the fundraiser is involved in setting the targets and that they are realistic enough to avoid demotivation. Or do you want them to support team working? – in which case you could include a system of soft crediting to avoid a fighting-over-donors syndrome or silo working.

Have a look at the average amounts raised in similar charities per member of staff for each of the fundraising mechanisms used. The variation issue is relevant here, but it will give you a benchmark and is useful if you are expanding in to new areas.

Finally, remember that targets are only relevant if they are backed up by a good performance management process and everyone takes them seriously.

Valerie Morton is a trainer, fundraiser and consultant

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