Creating a Development Plan with SMART goals

A fundraising development plan with SMART goals is essential for any charity or non-profit.

The plan should be in line with your charity’s fiscal year so that you can easily set realistic goals in line with your charity’s budget and measure results. I suggest doing quarterly reports against your plan so that you can see how your various fundraising activities are performing and make any adjustments to your strategies and efforts in that aspect of fundraising.

What are SMART goals?

SMART goals are those that are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-Bound

Setting SMART goals keeps you and your charity on track to success.

The goals in your charity’s annual Development Plan should be clearly defined. It’s not enough to say, “Raise more money for our programs.”  You need to set detailed objectives for each part of your plan — for major gifts, grants, the annual campaign, the legacy campaign and so on. Here’s an example: “To raise at least $30,000 net from the spring appeal letter by September 1.” For small charities, goals for legacy programs won’t be revenue because it’s not realistic, but a specific goal might be to increase the number of people who say they have included a bequest to your charity from X number to Y number by a certain date.

Unless a goal is measurable, you can’t know if you’ve achieved it. Just raising “more money” is not a measurable goal. Know what you’re aiming for and be specific in your plan. If you want to increase your number of monthly donors from 30 to 60 and to increase the annual revenue from your monthly donor program from $X to $Y, then say so in your plan. If part-way through the year you can see that you’ve made no progress on this part of your plan, address it, perhaps with a specific campaign to recruit monthly donors.

Sadly, there’s no magic wand in fundraising. In collaboration with your charity’s executive director, you have to set realistic, achievable goals. If the goals set out in your Development Plan are way too high to achieve it will just be discouraging to you and your team. Moreover, they will also give the board of directors a false picture of what is possible. Before you set your overall revenue goal for the fiscal year and the specific goals for each aspect of your fundraising plan, know your benchmarks and understand any challenges that you face for that area of fundraising. For instance, if your annual holiday appeal has raised an average of $40,000 per year over the past five years, then it’s OK to set a realistic stretch goal, but be realistic in your plan. It’s better to under-promise and over-deliver.

Your mission and programs must guide your plan. Don’t go madly off in all directions. Know what fundraising methods are the most relevant and suitable for your organization.

Set a deadline or timeline for each goal. Often, the deadline for goals will be the end of the fiscal year, but state it for each goal. If your goals aren’t time-bound they can easily stagnate. Deadlines keep you and your charity on track.

Good luck and may you and your organization achieve your missions!


Brilliant marketing video

This video is so great I had to share it.

The Great Escape, a 2015 advertisement by Graubunden Tourism in Switzerland, is slightly similar to the WestJet Christmas Miracle campaign that I shared in 2013 in that it uses interactive technology to reach out to stressed-out travellers in a busy place, in this case a Zurich train station.

Via a special booth in the centre of the station, a genuine Graubunden mountain man sitting outdoors in his idyllic mountain village is able to see and talk to passersby in the train station. He charmingly interacts with them and invites them to visit him in the mountains that very afternoon. He even offers to call their teachers or bosses to provide an excuse for their absence. If the travellers accept, the screen prints out a train ticket and all they need to do is jump on the train on the next platform.

The surfboard’s a sweet touch!

14 Tips for Great Nonprofit Storytelling

Here are some tips to help you tell better stories.

  1. Start strong, fast and end big. You only have a few seconds to hook your reader.
  2. Appeal to the heart. Tap into people’s emotions.
  3. Exercise brutal efficiency. Cut out the deadwood.
  4. Read your story aloud multiple times. Listen carefully to where your story flows and where you might stumble.
  5. Use short powerful sentences and a conversational tone to engage the reader.
  6. Avoid jargon, acronyms and lots of statistics.
  7. Determine your takeaway message. What action do you want to inspire?
  8. Good stories are about challenges and conflict. Start with a person and his or her challenge.
  9. Write and rewrite.
  10. Use rich vivid language and give a sense of time and place.
  11. Remember the story arc and pull people along to build tension.
  12. Consider using a powerful image to support your story.
  13. Make it real. Allow the person in your story to have a real name, age, and above all to speak for himself or herself.
  14. Make the donor the ultimate hero of your story.

Why Being a Mentor is Good for Your Health

Are you feeling stressed? Even though it’s only January, are you already feeling overburdened and anxious about the year ahead?

Here’s a solution. Become a CAGP or AFP Mentor for 2014 and you can help lower your stress level, improve your health, strengthen your immune system AND become a more sustainable leader.

Sound miraculous? Read on to learn about the science behind this.

Leadership is stressful. Experienced fundraising professionals have to cope with pressure day in and day out, year after year. This “power stress” is caused by a combination of responsibility, constant self-control and dealing with the inevitable small and large crises that leadership roles demand.

You may not realize this, but stress increases the electrical activity in your brain’s right prefrontal cortex and releases hormones that activate your “fight or flight” response.

Over the years, researchers have gained insight into the long-term effects stress has on our physical and psychological health. Over time, repeated activation of the stress response takes a toll on the body. “Research suggests that prolonged stress contributes to high blood pressure, promotes the formation of artery-clogging deposits, and causes brain changes that may contribute to anxiety, depression, and addiction,” according to the Harvard Mental Health Newsletter.

But it’s not just about you. Emotions are literally contagious. When leaders are in the grip of stress or burnout, the dissonance they create spreads to all those around them.

Leadership experts have found that one of the most effective ways to renew yourself as a leader is through “compassionate coaching” or mentorship.

This type of caring relationship is a win-win situation, with clear benefits for the person being coached and some great, more hidden, benefits for the mentor.

When we act with compassion, helping others develop and grow, we increase the activity in our body’s parasympathetic nervous system. This in turn activates a set of hormones that lowers our blood pressure and strengthens our immune system. At the same time, the activity in our sympathetic nervous system – the fight or flight — subsides.

“When leaders experience compassion through coaching the development of others, they experience psychophysiological effects that restore the body’s natural healing and growth processes, thus enhancing their sustainability. We thus suggest that to sustain their effectiveness, leaders should emphasize coaching as a key part of their role and behavioral habits,” say leadership experts Richard Boyatzis, Melvin Smith and Nancy Blaize of Case Western Reserve University.

Both the Canadian Association of Gift Planners and the Association of Fundraising Professionals have excellent mentorship programs as free benefits to their members. You can learn how to become a CAGP Mentor or an AFP Mentor through your local chapters.

Note: For a thorough review of research and literature on stress, power stress, and leadership see Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee, “Resonant Leadership: Renewing Yourself and Connecting with Others Through Mindfulness, Hope and Compassion” and Richard E. Boyatzis, Melvin L. Smith and Nancy Blaize “Developing Sustainable Leaders through Coaching and Compassion”.

Heather Wardle CFRE is a fundraising and communications consultant in Vancouver ( and is the Chair of AFP Vancouver’s Scholarship and Mentorship Committee. Many years ago, when she made the career switch from book publishing to fundraising, she was fortunate to have two wonderful mentors through the CAGP and AFP mentorship programs. Heather is now an AFP Mentor and loves the opportunity to give back.

WestJet’s Christmas Miracle video and some lessons for charities

I couldn’t resist blogging about a brilliant marketing and customer stewardship campaign – WestJet’s Christmas Miracle video. If you haven’t seen it yet, get out your Kleenex and here it is:

When I looked at the video yesterday it had received about 7 million hits and within 24 hours it had jumped to over 15 million. As I was typing this up, it jumped by another million. By the time you read this, who knows how many views it will have had – but certainly many times more than the 800,000 that the company had envisioned.

Kudos to Richard Bartrem, WestJet’s vice president of communications and community relations, for this heartwarming and creative campaign that does a stellar job of cementing WestJet’s brand in people’s minds. Mr. Bartrem’s modest comment to Forbes was, “We’re pretty thrilled.” No doubt!

Not only has the video gone viral and has been seen around the world in over 200 countries, it has made the news across North America and as far as the U.K., Australia, Japan, Poland and Malaysia.

What I found really special about the video were the comments of the viewers on Youtube who said things like:

  • The most heartwarming ad I’ve ever seen
  • WestJet, that’s advertising done right. Next time I get a chance I’ll fly WestJet!
  • Wow, I already love WestJet and fly with them when I can.  I’m amazed at what they do for their customers.  WestJet, you’re awesome!
  • WestJet, the only way to fly.
  • This is amazing. Who knew that a corporation today would ever go to this much trouble to make dozens of customers happy. KUDOS to WestJet.

Forbes reported that the campaign had been planned since August and was filmed in November. It was quite a logistical feat, involving some 150 WestJet employees.

One of the greatest benefits, that may not be obvious to the average viewer, is what the campaign must do for staff engagement and morale. You can clearly see that the “WestJetters” involved were having a lot of fun as they gathered and wrapped gifts and celebrated with passengers at the baggage carousel. You can bet that WestJet employees feel proud of their company, their service and that campaigns like this, which are clearly fun and playful, also help staff retention rates.

So what are the lessons here for non-profits in all of this? One big lesson is about building donor loyalty. In the charitable sector, our “customers” are our donors, volunteers and other supporters. Just like WestJet we need to keep our customers happy and engaged. Excellent donor stewardship mixed with personalization, creativity, fun and the element of surprise can go a long way towards this. And in case you don’t think charities have a donor loyalty problem, here’s a sobering statistic: commercial business customer retention is 94% vs. non-profit donor retention of 41%. We can and should pay attention to those for-profit companies that are doing a good job in this area.

Campaigns like WestJet’s don’t just spread outwards, they spread inwards, and affect how employees feel about their work and their company. So here’s another big lesson that non-profits and charities can learn from WestJet – how to foster employee satisfaction, engagement and control. WestJet has been named one of Canada’s 10 Most Admired Corporate Cultures four times by Waterstone and ranked as the third-best employer in Canada by Aon Hewitt in 2011. As one leadership expert wrote, “Good managers know that happy employees are both loyal and productive employees.”

It’s no secret that staff retention rates in the charitable sector in Canada are pretty abysmal and this has a profound impact on our abilities to achieve our missions. This is not a tiny part of Canada’s economy. According to Charity Village there are more than 165,000 nonprofits and charities operating in Canada. Together they contribute 7.8% of GDP and represent 10.5% of the labour force.

So here’s the bottom line — to be successful, you need to make your customers/donors and your employees feel good and there’s no harm in getting a few lessons from those who are doing it right.

Bob Prenovost of PM-Volunteers receives Giving Hearts Award

“No kind action ever stops with itself. One kind action leads to another. Good example is followed. A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. The greatest work that kindness does to others is that it makes them kind themselves.”   Amelia Earhart

ripples on water

Last May, I sat down at my kitchen table to write a letter as a small act of gratitude. The letter was to nominate Bob Prenovost, founder of, for the “Outstanding Volunteer Fundraising of the Year” for National Philanthropy Day in Vancouver, BC.

The rules of the Giving Hearts nominations stipulate that the nominee must be informed, so I told Bob of my plan. I’m sure he was rather surprised that a virtual stranger was doing this, but he was too polite to say anything.

I work as a fundraising and communications consultant and, in May 2013, I completed one of’s popular Non-Profit Project Management Training Workshops. Although I had been hearing about PM-V for years, it was my first chance to really see it in action. I was overwhelmed with a feeling of gratitude that these busy professionals were taking their time to share their expertise with non-profits and charities.

The course was amazing – 10 hours of instruction over 4 Monday evenings, with 4 dinners, a take-home workbook, and a celebratory party – all for the amazing price of $100. I was deeply impressed by the generosity, professionalism and warmth of Bob and his team.

I’m happy to say that my nomination was successful and on November 15th 2013 Bob Prenovost will be honoured as the Outstanding Fundraising Volunteer of the Year – an award that he richly deserves for his exceptional leadership, innovation and philanthropic vision.

Maimonides said, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Bob Prenovost’s work with exemplifies these wise words. Through his leadership he has created a committed team of “knowledge philanthropists” that have helped over 100 charities and non-profits in Vancouver since 2009.

PM-Volunteers began with a few scribbles on a napkin. Bob recalls, “In November of 2009, I attended a project management professional development conference. Chatting over coffee at one of the breaks, my colleagues and I mused over how we could combine our ongoing professional development requirements with giving back to the local community. These ideas about how to connect skilled, volunteer project managers with not-for-profit organizations seemed just a bit too interesting not to pursue!”

Within a month, Bob had transformed those scribbles into™ (PM-V), a unique and powerful program in which volunteer project managers give their time, expertise and mentoring to the charitable and non-profit sector in Vancouver.

By teaching charities and non-profits essential project management skills and best practices such as scheduling, budgeting, work breakdowns, risk management etc., Bob and his team of volunteer professionals empower charities to achieve their missions and visions and help ensure the ongoing success of the philanthropic sector in Vancouver.

Here are some of the amazing results that Bob and his team of knowledge philanthropists have achieved to date:

  • over 7000 hours of pro bono professional project management services have been given back to the community valued at over $700,000;
  • 95 community projects have been supported by volunteer project management professionals;
  • 102 non-profit organizations have been engaged and 96% of them would consider using PM-V again for future projects;
  • 100 project management professionals have volunteered through PM-V and 92% of them would volunteer again for future projects;
  • 200 non-profit sector leaders have successfully completed PM-V’s Non Profit Project Management Training Workshops.

Bob envisioned PM-V as a values-based, mission-driven organization that has a triple bottom line — where the volunteer project management professionals, non-profit organizations and communities all win. Here’s how it works:

  1. The volunteer project managers gain insight into the unique challenges of non-profit work and increase their familiarity with a wider variety of projects, while also earning professional development units for their service.
  2. The charities and non-profit clients get practical, professional help with their projects and develop their understanding of the project management process. These skills can be applied to future work across their organizations.
  3. Hundreds of charitable missions are advanced thanks to this special partnership.

Everyone wins!

Bob wrote, “I have come to understand that philanthropy can take many forms. We can, of course, give our money and our time, but one of the most powerful ways to create sustainable and positive social impact is by being a knowledge philanthropist… sharing our knowledge and skills and, in turn, learning from and about the organizations that we choose to support. Through my own involvement as part of a knowledge-driven, capacity-building initiative, I have benefited by gaining a much different perspective on many of the social issues and opportunities in our community.”

The ripple effect of Bob’s vision will be felt across the sector for generations.

An act of kindness is like a pebble tossed into a pond with the ripples spreading outward. Bob Prenovost’s visionary act is like hundreds of pebbles tossed into a pond, again and again. The ripple effect is immeasurable.

I congratulate Bob Prenovost and his team at on their achievements.

The Outstanding Fundraising Volunteer of the Year Award will be presented to Bob on National Philanthropy Day, November 15th 2013 in Vancouver. Tickets to the event may be purchased at AFP Vancouver.

Heather Wardle CFRE is a fundraising and communications consultant in Vancouver at She is a board member of the Vancouver chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and is the Chair of AFP’s Scholarship and Mentorship Committee.

New UN Women campaign uses Google autocomplete to deliver its message

In my last post I wrote about great campaign videos for non-profits. Here’s a great new print ad campaign by UN Women that uses something we’re all familiar with — Google’s autocomplete function — to deliver a powerful message about sexist attitudes that prevail throughout the world. And I mean, throughout the world.

UN Women print ad showing Google autocomplete results for "women cannot" and includes these answers, women cannot drive, women cannot be trusted

The ads show women’s mouths obscured by Google search fields as a result of Google’s autocomplete function. The autocompletes generated were based on searches dated 9 March, 2013, according to UN Women’s website, but they don’t say from which country the search was conducted. The campaign reminds me of Amnesty International’s original “Stop Violence Against Women” campaign that also used photos of women’s faces with the mouth portion torn out.

The series of print ads were created by Memac Ogilvy & Mather Dubai, uses genuine Google searches to reveal the widespread prevalence of sexism and discrimination against women. The searches are:

  • Women should
  • Women shoudn’t
  • Women cannot
  • Women need to

UN Women poster 2013 showing "women shouldn't" UN Women poster "women should"

“When we came across these searches, we were shocked by how negative they were and decided we had to do something with them,” says Christopher Hunt, Art Director of the creative team.

“The ads are shocking because they show just how far we still have to go to achieve gender equality. They are a wake up call, and we hope that the message will travel far,” adds Kareem Shuhaibar, copy writer.

UN Women ad poster women need to

What is completely chilling is when you try this at home.

This is what I saw here in Vancouver on October 22, 2013 when I put in the search “women need to” in Google:

screen shot of Google autocomplete results for  "women need to"

For UN Women, the searches confirm the urgent need to continue making the case for women’s rights, empowerment and equality, a cause the organization is pursuing around the world. UN Women is heartened by the initial strong reaction to the ads and hopes they will spark constructive dialogue globally.

UN Women —  the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women– was created in July 2010 by the United Nations General Assembly. In doing so, UN Member States took an historic step in accelerating the Organization’s goals on gender equality and the empowerment of women. We all clearly have a long way to go.