The SMART approach to micro-fundraising

Nick Begley

Nick Begley

Senior Marketing Manager

Micro-donation campaigns, which were popularized after their success in American political fundraising, have become mainstream within the wider fundraising scene. The growing number of crowdfunding campaigns – more than six million worldwide in 2019 – has normalized the process for non-political donors as well. So much so that an eye-opening $17.2 billion is generated annually through crowdfunding in North America.

Micro-fundraising campaigns make donating to organizations accessible for people from all walks of life. Although the individual gifts are smaller, these supporters are ripe for continued giving and further cultivation by your team of fundraisers. Organizations that want to build a consistent pipeline of donor prospects simply cannot ignore the future value in implementing micro-donation campaigns.

Be S.M.A.R.T.

A successful micro-fundraising campaign requires strategic planning. We recommend using the S.M.A.R.T. method to ensure that all elements of your campaign are thoughtfully considered.

For those not familiar with this method of goal setting, S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, assignable, realistic and time-based.

S – Specific

Target an area of your organization that will benefit directly from these donations. For college athletics departments, this can be a specific team or scholarship fund. In the arts, choose a program or piece of equipment that is due for an upgrade. You can also offer a menu of choices like the Azuka Theatre has done, so that your donors can direct their gift to the specific fund of their choice.

TIP: Be a storyteller! Use video appeals, powerful images and words that evoke emotion to illustrate how their donations will be used or how people will benefit from these gifts.

M – Measurable

If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage or improve it. Micro-fundraising campaigns must have goals that have measurable units attached to them.Your organization should choose one (or a combination) of the following key fundraising metrics to measure:

  • Money raised
  • New donors
  • New recurring donors
  • Average monthly gift size
  • Average one-time gift size
A – Assignable

Who will do the work? The most successful campaigns – fundraising or otherwise – include a cross-functional team of leaders and doers. Each of these individuals and departments within your organization should be tasked with owning very specific (there’s that word again) elements of the campaign.

TIP: Collecting input and gaining buy-in on the targets and measures from everyone during the planning stage will add greatly to the cohesiveness of the team.

R – Realistic

Given your available resources, can your desired results be realistically achieved? It’s important to strike a balance between a low-bar goal that doesn’t have much of an impact and one that is impossible to accomplish. Time constraints, human resources and budgets should be evaluated in great detail during this stage

TIP: Seek feedback from people that haven’t been part of the process to this point. Ask for honest and critical feedback as a means to give the campaign a reality check before launching it.

T – Time-based

We recommend using a single, set unit of time against which you’ll measure your success. The amount of time you choose – 24 hours, two months, one year, etc. – must realistically tie to the measurements you’ve chosen for the campaign. And don’t be shy about sharing and promoting your chosen unit of time with your customers.

TIP: Campaigns with short durations like Giving Tuesday, have become very effective ways to fill your coffers quickly.

We're here to help!

Our team of fundraising experts would love to provide you with feedback! Reach out to our marketing team at and we’ll connect you.

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