Goals, Excuses, & Negative Splits in the End-of-Year Sprint

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I started 2018 by setting a number of resolutions around key areas of personal and professional growth. One I set for myself was increasing the frequency of my runs.

I’ve written before about running, and the truth is that life and work often get in the way of my training goals. But this goal was important to me and I wanted 2018 to be different. So I bought a journal and began tracking my progress each month. 

You know where this is going, don’t you?

Even with the best of intentions, and some concrete moves toward making my resolution a reality, it hasn’t been easy. In truth, eleven months in and I’m not any closer to making the goal a habit in my life. 

This feels a lot like fundraising. As we enter the final stretch of the calendar year I can’t help but reflect on goals, excuses, and negative splits – both in my running shoes and in my advice for nonprofit leaders.

First, the GOALS:

My resolution was to increase my running frequency to three to four times per week. I wanted to figure out this year how to intentionally build time each week to do that. No matter what. Some months I definitely hit that goal, every week.

But travel and work and family schedules continue to get in the way. There have been more weeks than I’d like to admit where I’ve not carved out the time.  That goal still sits in my head as something I continue to try to meet.

Do you set fundraising goals to meet each year?  And are you making a plan for how you are going to reach those goals?

While some of my hindrances to meet this goal are not entirely in my control, the excuses I create for myself are also contributors.

Like me, do you ever make EXCUSES?

During a demanding week, there are sometimes days when I do have enough time free to get a good run in. But enter the excuses. 

I find myself scrolling through other priorities in my mind. Or I create other reasons why I can’t go running that day. Maybe it’s “too cold,” or looks like it might rain; or I actually won’t have time to run and get back in time to clean up nicely for a day of meetings. Excuses are easy to find!  

What excuses are you hearing or saying about your fundraising progress and challenges?  Are they solvable or ones that need a real heart-to-heart evaluation with your board and staff leadership?

I get help from “NEGATIVE SPLITS.”

When I do ignore my excuses and start to run, I set a target for myself. Sometimes it’s just getting through it without complaining! Often it’s focused on “negative splits.” This involves tracking my pace and working to get faster at each interval my app updates my stats. 

I know that when I use negative splits, my overall running gets stronger and I can reach a personal record.  Focusing on those smaller bursts of goal-setting and tracking tends to quiet the excuses nagging at my brain.


Your negative splits are all the activities that help you move closer to your fundraising goal.

What does this have to do with fundraising?

With a month and a half left in the calendar year, this is the busiest moment of the busiest time of the fundraising year. It’s easy to get caught in the eddy of the year-end pace and lose sight of the goals you set for yourself months ago.

Whether or not you have a written development plan to serve as your fundraising roadmap, you have budget goals and have been working hard throughout the year to meet them. But there are always competing demands on your time – especially if you're a small shop.

And it’s easy to come up with excuses for why you can’t apply fundraising best practices to your organization. Especially if you are wearing multiple hats.  It's tempting to default to other internal priorities and the distractions of “putting out fires” in your daily work.


Create your own fundraising negative splits. Whether it’s spending five to 10 minutes every day calling or writing personal notes to your donors, or connecting your board members to your donors, getting to know your donors through surveys, or ensuring your communications ask, thank, and report.

So, put your virtual running shoes on, stop making excuses, and set a goal to move toward your own negative splits that will close revenue gaps and help to put you on a really strong fundraising trajectory.

Barbara O'Reilly