Before you jump into the major gift fundraising cycle, you need to set some major fundraising goals. This crucial step in your fundraising journey will help you and your team of major gift officers work cohesively and effectively towards raising as much money as possible.

This article outlines why major gift fundraising metrics matter and some best practices for setting major gift fundraising goals (hint: they are SMART). 

Why Major Gifts Fundraising Goals Matter

Setting major gifts fundraising goals gives your team direction and focus. It allows you to forecast, budget, and plan your fundraising strategy

For individual major gift officers, these goals can be beneficial when working with unique donors. When you set individual fundraising goals for specific major donors, you can figure out the best way to build the relationship with that donor and steward them over time.

Not all goals are equally as helpful, though. So, ensure that you set the right goals to help your fundraising team succeed. Whatever you do, follow the best and SMART-est practices discussed in the next section. 

Best Practices for Setting Major Gifts Fundraising Goals 

Okay, enough of the SMART puns for now. 

SMART is an acronym for a goal-setting method that has been best practice in the business world since the 1980s. We recommend using this method when setting major gift fundraising goals because it provides a framework for goal setting that is replicable yet simple so you can write strong goals every time. 


Your fundraising goal should be as specific as you can make it. Flesh out as many of the factors of the goal as you can so that you can control as many variables as possible. 

Ask yourself, what outcomes am I trying to work on? Number of new donors? Amount of money raised? Then put a numeric value on it! 

For example: 

  • Raise $20,000 
  • Increase the new donor pool by 10% 
  • Retain 7% more donors than last year 


To understand whether or not you are making progress towards your goal, you need to be able to measure it, so you need to set a quantifiable goal. You will need to determine which fundraising metrics to track. You should choose fundraising metrics that indicate your progress towards the outcomes you have set out. 

For example, if your goal is to retain 7% more donors than last year, you might track the metrics donor retention rate and lapsed donor rate


When choosing a target to work towards, you want to select a number that will force you to stretch a little bit but not too lofty that it is improbable to reach. 

To determine whether your goal is attainable, you can look to historical data. What has the trajectory looked like for this metric over the past few years? If it is an individual major donor fundraising goal you are setting, what does their giving history look like? 

Then, look at the context. What does the giving climate look like? Are we in a recession causing people to keep their dollars in their pockets? Is that particular donor retiring this year, potentially limiting how much they may give? 

Combining historical data with present context will tell you how attainable that goal is for your fundraising team. And then, you can adjust accordingly.


You need to ensure that your goal is relevant to your organization and aligns with your fundraising goals. You don’t want to work hard at tasks and projects that aren’t in the best interest of your organization and community.

For example, if you set an ambitious major donor acquisition goal but realize that you need to retain existing donors, you may want to revisit that goal. That goal doesn’t align with your fundraising strategy at the moment, and you shouldn’t be spending so many resources on it.

There is a finite amount of resources available to you, so you need to spend them progressing towards the goals that will help you meet the demands of your fundraising strategy.  


If you do not establish timelines and deadlines, you could set the perfect major donor fundraising goal but never achieve it. You always need to ask yourself: when do we plan to achieve this goal? 

Make sure that your timeline matches the scope of the goal. It can be helpful to set incremental check-ins as well. This allows you to gauge your progress and make the necessary adjustments over time. 

For example, if your goal is to raise $10,000 by the end of the quarter, you may want to include a checkpoint at the 6-week mark and evaluate your performance so far. 

Track Your Major Gifts Fundraising Progress with this KPIs Dashboard

No matter the goals you set, you need to closely monitor your fundraising progress over time. 

You can use our free fundraising KPIs Dashboard to set new goals, measure your performance, and keep your team aligned. The dashboard is user-friendly and customizable, so you can view and assess the metrics that matter.

You can also share it with your team, so everyone is on the page about what you are working towards and how far you are from getting there. 

Get the FREE Fundraising KPIs Dashboard

With this fundraising analysis dashboard, you can track the metrics that matter and assess your campaign’s performance over time.

Setting major gift fundraising goals is the SMART-est thing your fundraising team can do to improve your fundraising outcomes (okay, now I am done with the pun!). When you set goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based, you give your whole team the best chance of achieving major gifts fundraising success.

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