Like most people, I’m not the best at keeping resolutions — and yet, I always make them.

Why do we torture ourselves if we fail at keeping resolutions year after year? It’s because we believe we can do better, holding out hope.

And with the right formula, we can succeed.

From Fundraising Resolutions to Goals

You might do better to switch your terminology and thought process from resolutions to goals.

Reflect upon your successes and failures from last year. What are you most proud of?

If you really think about it, you probably did a lot of great things last year. But in the areas where you fell short, what got in the way of your success?

Perhaps it was the goal itself.

Realistic Goals vs. Ridiculous Goals

One reason you may have had trouble with previous resolutions (or goals) is because they weren’t realistic. In other words, it wasn’t so much that you failed your resolution; rather, your resolution failed you because you were aiming for an unrealistic goal.

To make sure you chose a realistic and achievable goal, you need to do two things:

  1. Break down your big goals into smaller goals
  2. Ensure your smaller goals are SMART

Break Down Your Goals and Make Them SMART

Each year, I typically set one big goal and a series of smaller goals for various areas of my life — both personal and professional.

Breaking Down the Big Goals

It’s important to break down each larger annual goal into monthly, weekly, and daily tasks.

For example, when my goal was to write a book, I committed to writing one chapter per month and one page per day. By the end of the year, I had a 12-chapter book with approximately 30 pages per chapter.

At the start of the year, writing a book seemed completely overwhelming. But writing one page per day was something I could do. (Note that none of my books are 365 pages long — they are all shorter, but it was a helpful way to break down a big goal.)

Setting SMART Goals

To be successful, it’s important for your smaller goals to be SMART — that is, goals that are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

An Example

For example, one of my bigger goals for this year is to run a 5K. I’m going to pick some smaller related goals to help increase my chances of success to achieve that big goal. For example:

  1. By the end of this week, download a running app to track my progress. (If you have recommendations, let me know!)
  2. Walk / jog on the treadmill for 30 minutes per day, five days per week.
  3. Run with an accountability partner on weekends. (Any takers ;-)?)
  4. Hire a personal trainer to meet with me each week to help me train properly. (Because, hey, I’m worth it.)

Notice how each of those goals is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and, most importantly, timely — meaning, it includes a time parameter.

A Successful Resolution to Raise Major Gifts

Maybe you’ve always wanted to raise major gifts. You’re reading my blog, so it’s a good guess.

You’ve likely attended webinars, read blog posts, listened to podcasts, and even attended conferences, but becoming a successful major gift fundraiser has remained elusive. So how can you make this resolution realistic?

Let’s look at successful people. What do they have in common?

4 Habits of Extremely Successful People

The most successful people in the world maintain the following habits:

  • Write down their goals – in other words, they state their intentions
  • Invest in themselves – they do whatever it takes
  • Hire coaches or personal trainers – they learn from others and know when to ask for help
  • Take risks – particularly, they take calculated risks

How many of those things do you do? How often?

What’s a SMART Goal to Raise Major Gifts?

Let’s circle back to the idea of setting a SMART goal for yourself to raise major gifts this year. How about this?

GOAL — Raise $100,000 or more in major gifts by December 1, 2023

Is this goal SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely)? YES!

Now, let’s add a couple of caveats to start breaking this big goal down into smaller SMART goals:

  • From a minimum of 10 donors
  • Gifts of at least $5,000 or more

Translate this into monthly, weekly, and daily tasks. If you’re unsure of the specific smaller goals in terms of raising major gifts, I suggest you try the Major Gifts Challenge (it’s free).

If you get to the end of January and you haven’t asked for your first gift, you’ll know you’re off track.

Final Tip: Don’t Tread the Same Old Ground

If you’ve made a full-on commitment to raise major gifts before and you’ve struggled to keep yourself on track, you’re going to need to try something new. You can’t do the same old same old and expect a different result. That’s the definition of insanity.

What will you need to do to be successful this time around? A few ideas:

  1. Hire a coach
  2. Find an accountability partner
  3. Take greater risks

Mix it up — do something you haven’t done before and give it another go. And remember — break down the big goals into smaller SMART goals.

Make Your Major Gift Fundraising Resolution a Success!

There’s no time like the present to learn to raise major gifts. Make this the year of no excuses!

Declare your commitment publicly — write “I’m in” in the comments.

A great way to conquer this big resolution is with some help. Sign up for Mastering Major Gifts and get your first 30 days free. But don’t sign up if you don’t plan to do the work. I’ll meet with you twice a month to answer your questions, help you set and achieve your goals, and I’ll be there to hold you accountable.

Let’s make it happen… together!





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