Establishing fundraising goals for the annual fund involves clear and detail-driven planning at several points throughout the year, especially the mid-year point, to determine if the process is on track or in need of change.

Here two veteran development experts offer their thoughts regarding specific steps involved in establishing annual fund goals:

“An important first step is to gather information and analyze it thoroughly,” says Susan Axelrod, founder and managing partner of Confident Fundraising (Rexford, NY). “It's a good idea for nonprofits to develop a matrix to chart anticipated income from major gifts, events, memberships or dues, annual giving, endowments, e-mail solicitations and other fundraising efforts.”

Also important, according to Axelrod, is a thorough and focused evaluation of past fundraising efforts. “This follow-up step will help the nonprofit leadership to note what has worked well, what hasn't lived up to expectations, what steps can be taken to modify and improve fundraising efforts and what new opportunities have been identified.”

“Annual fundraising efforts of nonprofit institutions must be strategic and carefully developed and implemented, with clear goals, action steps and evaluation methodology to monitor success” says Steve Smith, associate vice president of James Madison University (Harrisburg, VA).

Smith offers key information related to the three phase process:

  • The strategic goal-setting plan is the step-by-step process of what is to be done: concentrating on acquiring new donors, renewing current donors and upgrading current donors to consider larger gifts to the institution.
  • The success or failure of the plan is directly connected to the carefully constructed detail involved in the plan, including projected income, total costs associated with the fundraising effort, staff and consultant time, printing and travel costs and the departmentalized sources of revenue.
  • The coordination of the fundraising plan involves creating charts and worksheets to analyze activities at important milestones (quarterly, mid-year), and includes projected revenue, profiles of donors, costs associated with cultivation and solicitation and unexpected occurrences.

Sources: Susan Axelrod, Founder and Managing Partner, Confident Fundraising, Rexford, NY. Phone (518) 495-4573. E-mail: Website:

Steve Smith, Associate Vice President, James Madison University, Harrisburg, VA. Phone (540) 568-3628. E-mail: Website: