How to Set Fundraising Goals
When you’re fundraising, you’re trying to accomplish something. You might be trying to pay your theater’s rent for the upcoming year, cover pre-production costs on your documentary, or get enough money coming in regularly that you can count on paying your bills through recurring donations. These are all different kinds of goals that you can make for your fundraising campaigns.
Fractured Atlas provides a platform for artists and arts organizations to help you raise tax-deductible donations through crowdfunding campaigns, general support, and even recurring support. We want to help you fundraise in the smartest, most strategic, and also (of course!) most successful way possible so that you have more time to get to work and create your art.
Here, we’re going to share the benefit of articulating a fundraising goal (beyond just “make as much money as possible”) and share some examples for how you can think about setting goals that make sense for you, your art, and your community.
Why Should Artists Set Fundraising Goals?
The most important reason that artists should set specific goals for fundraisers is that it actually helps the fundraising campaign.
If you have a specific target you’re trying to hit, it can help you create a narrative around your fundraising asks. Instead of asking for support in a broad sense, you can ask your donors to give you $50 to help offset the cost of moving into a new studio space or $15 per month to help pay your electricity bill. Successful fundraising campaigns tell a story about who you are, what you are trying to accomplish, where your roadblocks are, and how your community can come in and support you. Specific goals can help you frame that story.
Fundraising goals can also give you and your community a shared sense of accomplishment when the goal is met. It’s a way that you can know that you’ve been successful and it’s a way for your donor pool to know that they have been instrumental in that success for you.
On the flip side, fundraising goals can also be instructive when they aren’t met. If you only met 70% of your fundraising goal, you can use that as a learning experience. Was your goal too lofty? Try taking another look at your budget and your plans for the next year or two.
Did you not share your fundraiser enough with your network? Set a communications cadence for your next fundraiser. Is your network just not big enough to support the goal? Work on growing your email list or social media following. Unmet goals can show you where you can refine or shift your approach.
A specific fundraising goal can help you practice solidarity and abundance. If you’ve met your goal, perhaps you can encourage donors to redirect their donations to similar artists or organizations. You can use it as an opportunity to reflect on what you need to create your work freely without hoarding or falling into the trap of thinking that fundraising is an end in and of itself.
Start With Your Budget
There isn’t one way to set a fundraising goal. But there is one way to start. Your budget!
Before you figure out how much you want to raise, you have to know what your expenses look like right now and what you expect them to look like in the near (and not-so-near) future.
Your budget line items will depend on if you’re fundraising for general operating expenses or for a specific project. For example, general operating expenses would include paying for the electricity bill at your studio whereas a project-specific expense might be a plane ticket to perform your work at a fringe festival.
Consider what amount of money you would need at the very minimum. If you’re to make your work on a shoestring budget, what does that shoestring look like? On the flip side, consider an abundant budget. What would it look like to have the funds to expand beyond the baseline?
For a detailed guide to building your budget, check out “How to Create a Budget for Your Artistic Project.”
Now that you know how to set up your budget, we’ll cover example goals to help you better focus your own fundraising campaign.
Goal 1: Pay Your Operating Expenses
One of the most basic goals that you can have as a creator is to fundraise to cover your general operating expenses. These are the expenses that are not related to a specific project but are the ongoing expenses you need to pay in order to keep the lights on (both literally and figuratively).
Your operating expenses include rent, bills, accounting services, payroll, and other regular fees.
It isn’t usually considered particularly “sexy” to fundraise for these kinds of expenses. The general wisdom goes that people are more excited to donate to big splashy events or ambitious projects rather than more quotidian expenses. However, these donations are essential for artists and arts organizations! Paying for your operating expenses through fundraising can take a big mental load off your mind so that you can focus more of your efforts on those big projects instead of trying to scrape by and keep the lights on.
Plus, if you communicate your operational needs to your donors, it can be an effective fundraising narrative. People want to know what their money is going to support. If they believe in you, they’ll want to help you pay your internet bill as much as help you charter a bus to take your show on tour.
Goal 2: Receive Recurring Donations
One way to think more specifically about fundraising for your general operating expenses is to shoot to receive a specific amount of money in monthly recurring donations. Recurring donations can add up over time and can give you a better sense of your overall budget for the whole year. Recurring donations don’t just give you a one-time source of funds, it gives you a pot that replenishes.
Once you know about what your operating expenses are, you can break them down into monthly expenses and seek to bring in recurring donations to cover some or all of those costs. What would $200 per month cover for your recurring needs? What would you be able to accomplish with $500 per month?
One benefit of a recurring donations-based fundraising goal is that it can seem easier to achieve. For example, $100 per month in recurring donations sounds more manageable than $1,200.
Goal 3: Fund a Specific Project
This is the kind of goal that you are probably most familiar with for your fundraising efforts. Often, artists (as well as everyone else) will fundraise in order to bring a specific project to fruition. The project itself can be anything from moving into a new studio space, filming a documentary, publishing a book, choreographing and performing a dance piece, or whatever else it is that you do.
Two benefits of fundraising for a specific project are that donors are very used to donating to support these kinds of discrete efforts and these projects are often what go beyond what you and your team can afford on your own. We’ve got donor familiarity plus demonstrated need, a winning combination for a fundraising strategy!
Goal 4: Bring in New Donors or Hit Donor Number Target
Your fundraising goals can be less about dollar amount and more about donor engagement. In addition to your financial goals, you might aim to receive donations from a specific number of people or a specific number of new people. Or, perhaps converting social media followers or newsletter subscribers to financial supporters.
For example, you might aim to get a total of 200 donations for your spring fundraiser with at least 75 new donors.
Ultimately, creating a broader pool of donors will serve you well in the long run. Donors are people who are likely to come to your performances, share your work with their networks, donate again, or become a part of your funding community in other ways. Repeat donors are a crucial part of your fundraising strategy, but so is an infusion of fresh attention.
Goal 5: Receive Donations from Specific Percentage of Your Audience
Not everyone who sees your campaign, who follows you on social media, or who receives your emails will donate to your fundraiser. As much as we wish that wasn’t the case, it’s the world we live in. There are plenty of different things competing for your audience’s attention and not everyone will be able to support you every time you ask. Which is okay!
According to statistics shared by Fundera, 53% of email shares of a campaign result in a donation whereas 12% of Facebook shares and 3% of Twitter shares convert to donations.
One way that you can set your goals and measure your success is to aim for a particular percentage of your audience to donate. For example, 15% of your Instagram following or 60% of your email list. This goal is about how you successfully engage the audience that you currently have.
Set SMART Goals
Now that you’ve seen a variety of kinds of goals, there are different ways that you can set them for yourself to best support your fundraising efforts. We suggest using the structure of a SMART goal. This idea is very popular in workplaces but is widely applicable beyond the world of day jobs. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time (or Time-Based).
You want your goal to hit all of these benchmarks. To see it in action, here’s how I set a SMART goal for my community garden’s end-of-year fundraiser.
I determined, after digging into our expenses, that we should shoot for $250 per month in recurring donations by the end of the year.
Specific: Set financial amount - in this case $250 in recurring donations
Measurable: I could use the fundraising platform to keep track of the money coming in
Achievable: Looking at our social media following, email list, and volunteer base I figured it wouldn’t be hard to get, for example, 25 people to donate $10 per month
Relevant: Looking forward to our 2022 season, we needed money to help us expand and become a better community resource
Timely: The end of the year is a popular time to fundraise, making the campaign timely. It was also time-based insofar as there was an endpoint (the end of the year)
This format might not work for you, but it can give you a good template. As with all of our advice, take what’s useful and leave the rest.
Fundraising is About the Long Game
At the end of the day, fundraising is absolutely about money. It’s about bringing in the resources you need to do the work that calls to you. And it’s disingenuous to say that it’s not about finances.
But fundraising isn’t just about money or reaching your specific fundraising goal, whatever it may be. Fundraising is about building connections and relationships that you should nurture beyond an individual fundraising campaign. It’s about creating a community of people who are engaged with and excited about your work, who are willing to give financial support or other kinds of support to help you see it through.
Your donors aren’t just a big ATM that you can walk up to every so often and expect to get a payout. They are a community of people who have financial support to offer, but also plenty of other forms of support. You are building a funding community made up of donors as well as traders, volunteers, and connectors.
About Nina Berman
Nina Berman is an arts industry worker and ceramicist based in New York City, currently working as Associate Director, Communications and Content at Fractured Atlas. She holds an MA in English from Loyola University Chicago. At Fractured Atlas, she shares tips and strategies for navigating the art world, interviews artists, and writes about creating a more equitable arts ecosystem. Before joining Fractured Atlas, she covered the book publishing industry for an audience of publishers at NetGalley. When she's not writing, she's making ceramics at Centerpoint Ceramics in Brooklyn.