Fundraise Smarter

The Stupid Simple Trick for Getting More Donations Online

Posted by Andrew Littlefield on May 14, 2015 10:00:00 AM

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Fundraising Trick

I’m going to tell you the absolute, hands-down, number one, best way to increase your online fundraising efforts. The end-all, be-all tip for internet fundraising success.

Are you ready?

Write this down...

Seriously, grab a pen and notepad, I’ll wait…

Alright, here it is…

Set goals.

Yup, that’s it. Set goals.

Well, there’s a little more: set S.M.A.R.T. goals (we’ll get to the S.M.A.R.T. part later).

The single most important thing you can do for your online fundraising is set goals. Without that foundation, you’re sunk.

As a fundraiser, you probably are quite used to fundraising goals. Just about every fundraising shop under the sun sets quotas and funding goals for the year, quarter, or month. Yet for some reason, many fundraisers abandon this commitment to goals once they venture online. It’s almost like we get too excited to get started and put the cart in front of the horse.

You’ve got to have goals.

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But inevitably whenever we first start writing goals, the goals we write kind of suck. They’re vague and non-committal. When you have vague goals, you end up with no real actionable plan to meet those goals. You just kind of float on, hoping that something you do might resemble success.

That’s why you’ve got to have S.M.A.R.T. goals.

You may have heard this S.M.A.R.T. acronym before. It stands for:






S.M.A.R.T. goals help ensure that you have a very clear understanding of your desired outcome. There’s no fuzziness surrounding the terms of success or failure. You met them, or you didn’t.

Let’s break down each category to dissect the meaning.


The goal is focused on one thing and one thing only. You can certainly have more than one goal for various outcomes, but each goal should be laser-focused.


The goal is something that you can observe and measure to see if it’s improved. There’s no ambiguity about it. “Dollars raised” is measurable, “improving brand” is not.


Yes, you want your goals to be a challenge for your team, but they also need to be something you can actually achieve. There’s no point in setting a goal that you can never meet, otherwise you’ll find yourself giving up on your mission. You can always set another, more lofty, goal once you achieved the first one.


Does your goal matter? What are you trying to achieve? In online fundraising, it’s probably dollars raised, so setting out to measure Likes on Facebook might not translate into that goal.


The goal needs to have a deadline that you are aiming to meet. Otherwise, you’ll end up pushing off tasks forever, as there is no sense of urgency.

See what I mean? It’s stupid simple to be S.M.A.R.T.! But even still, this is a tough skill to master. It always helps to have some examples, particularly when it’s a new area for you (as online fundraising is for many).

Let’s take a look at some good (and bad) examples of online fundraising goals.


“Increase donation page conversion rate to 6% by end of Q2.”

Does this meet our criteria? It’s certainly specific and measurable. It may or may not be attainable for your organization, depending on your starting point, but it’s definitely relevant to our overall mission of raising more money, and we gave ourselves a deadline.


“Get more donors from our website.”

When? Just more donors? Do you need more visitors to pull this off, or just more visitors who donate? How many? If you get one more donor, is that good enough? Not S.M.A.R.T.!


“750 visitors to donation page in May.”

You might question whether this one is relevant, given our overarching goal of increasing revenue through online donations. However, the reason we write goals and track data is to make predictions about how our actions might affect our desired outcome.

And when it comes to increasing online donations, there are really only three ways to do this: increase average donation size, improve our donation conversion rate, or attract a larger number of visitors to increase the odds of securing a donor.

So in this instance, increasing the traffic to our donation page is relevant to our main goal.


“Increase donation page traffic this month.”

Not specific! No way to measure success! Not S.M.A.R.T.! No goal for you!


“Achieve an average online donation size of $150 in Q3.”

The possible hang-up here is how attainable this goal is for your organization. I urge caution when focusing goals on increasing donation size unless you have a very clear understanding of the actions you’ll take to accomplish this feat.

Things like increasing the distribution (how you get your page in front of people) of your donation page are unlikely to do this (in fact, it will usually decrease it).

However, an action like increasing the minimum suggested donation amount could affect this metric.


“Secure an average online donation size of $15,000 in March”

Getting tricky now. This one is specific, measurable, relevant, and time-limited. However, it’s not likely very attainable for most nonprofits. This might be a good goal for a major gifts department, but it’s not likely to be very attainable for an online fundraising channel.

Why S.M.A.R.T. Goals Matter

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know one of my favorite sayings: “You improve what you measure.”

Setting a S.M.A.R.T. goal gives you focus for your online fundraising. You know exactly what you’re looking to improve, which helps you create strategies to get there. Once you met those goals, you can look back and see what worked and what didn’t, and scale up your most successful strategies.

It’s stupid simple: be S.M.A.R.T.!

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Image credit: Wikipedia Commons user 1997, GNU Free Documentation License


Topics: Fundraising, online fundraising

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