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Do Your Donors NEED to Know Your Goals?

Fabulous fundraisers, secrets are hard to keep. And that’s no different whether you’re keeping the lid on a big announcement or figuring out which donors should know your event goals in advance of event day.

Artisan, what are you saying here? Have we been sharing too much information in advance of our virtual events? Fundraisers, we think it’s possible some of you have. It can be a really tough call to figure out the best ways to inspire both a smaller handful of major donors AND a larger audience of more general donors.

As a baseline, of course you always want to have a goal! And you want your internal team to know what that goal is so they know what they’re striving for. But lately, we’ve seen a few examples of why publishing your goals to your entire audience may actually cap the amount of money you can raise. Here are a few examples.

Client #1: Filling a Capital Campaign Gap for $50K

This client set a specific goal/need and began going to donors to fill it when the unexpected happened: a donor stepped up with the whole goal of $50K. They’d reached out to supporters and people were activated to give to the point where at the end of their pre-asks, they had $120K pre-committed, including the matching gift of $50K.

The good news is that on event night, this client was able to celebrate already reaching their goal. Sometimes this kind of “sure thing” can feel great in the days leading up to your event. But what if nobody had known what they needed to raise? The activation of pre-committed dollars could have inspired giving to cover other gaps of need.

Is this the worst problem to have? Of course not! and big kudos to this client for stewardship of donors such that they felt inspired to come forward in a moment of need. We just can’t help wondering how those pre-committed dollars could have been leveraged if most of their audience didn’t know the goal had already been reached.

Client #2: Building a Gymnasium for $150K

This was a fund-a-need instead of a special appeal. The client’s school gym needed a big upgrade, from bleachers and locker rooms to an overall facelift. They also had an unexpected donor pledge $75K to match every dollar they needed to raise to fulfill their goal.

On event night, we realized pre-commits exceeded the overall goal. In a bit of a panic, we brainstormed many other uses for extra dollars, including updated sports equipment, instructor salaries and other functional upgrades to the school. But because the thermometer was basically full before we got started, it was much harder to build momentum for these asks. Not the worst thing! But would we have recommended strategically widening the gap and restructuring the messaging in advance? We sure would have!

Ultimately, we learned along with our clients that turning the ship on your messaging around specific projects and dollar amounts is more difficult the more specific you are. When you go out to meet a specific goal, it’s hard not to talk about it! But sometimes the less you say to folks beyond your largest and most committed donors, the better. Your goal secret-keeping allows you to inspire bigger and broader giving with your unexpected windfalls. Because as we like to say around the watercooler at Artisan, there’s no such thing as too much support.



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