How high should you aim?

I did something silly the other day.

On a run I realised I was really flagging. I needed to do something. So when I got home I made a public commitment and I told my wife and even called an old university mate I was going to do a triathlon.

Why a triathlon?

Well I need something that would scare me into action to get fit and run without feeling like a blob. So what could I do? A marathon? No –  I’ve done four “London’s” and it just wouldn’t scare me – I’d probably do the minimum amount of training and get away with it. Now a triathlon would scare me. For starters I can barely swim a length of a 25 meter pool before I run out of breath.

Oh my. That looks painful.

So within a week I entered the 2013 Blenheim Triathlon which will take place on June 8-9th.

But what has been interesting is how I have responded since taking this decision about a month ago. In the last 4 weeks I have stepped up my running,  joined a swimming class, and put my mountain bike into service. I’ve beaten my personal best for running 1km, 1 mile, 5km and 10km, run further than I’ve done for years, and swum further than I have ever. This week I weighed in at 11st 10lbs. It’s been as long as I can remember since I saw that weight whilst standing on the scales. That’s an 8lb fall. And the only thing I did that has made this happen is set a target – one which scares me into action.

So what’s my point?

Targets. What sort of targets should we fundraisers have? As fundraisers you can’t get away from targets. Should they be scary?

What are the options?

You could think of a target then cut it by 25% to something more prudent because your more likely to succeed, and that’s what you will be held accountable for. If you take it too far it’s called ‘sand bagging’ because your expecting the worse (hence fill the sand bags). But then chances are with such a target you probably won’t give that extra bit of effort to go further (a bit like me choosing to run a marathon instead of a triathlon).

You could still have a ‘secret’ stretch target that you keep to yourself. But what I find is having a public target really helps – by sharing my triathlon with my friends and family I now can’t stap back from that commitment. It makes you ask what can we do to make that goal every day. And what’s more everyone else is helping me achieve that goal – my family is supporting me so I can do more exercise and I’ve even got coaching advice lined up from friends. In the same way sharing your ambitious fundraising target with your staff and supporters will align them to help achieve that stretch goal.

So I would advocate having a stretch target and being public about it. It should scare you. After all fundraising requires us to be bold and get outside our comfort zone (by asking for money). I’d also recommend working closely with your finance team so they understand the nature of your stretch target – so they can factor this in their plans (not yours – which should be how to achieve this stretch target). That way you can aim for your goal (and have the resources and support to do this) whilst the organisation factors in a more prudent goal.

Of course I might not complete the triathlon – in the same way you might not reach your ambitious fundraising target. But I’m going to give it a damn good go – which currently means two runs a week and two swims a week (and my bike will be ready next week). And of course I believe I can do it.

A £5million success or an £8 million failure?

Ken Burnett tells a great story about Giles Pegram CBE setting a target for the NSPCC Centenary Appeal. “He aimed high. When one of his trustees baulked at his very ambitious target, suggesting a much lower sum because it would be more surely achievable, his response was to say, ‘Yes, if we aim for £5 million we will get it, whereas if we aim for £12 million we may fail and only raise £8 million. But which is better, a £5 million success, or an £8 million failure?’

So fellow fundraisers (or fellow triathloners) what do you do when it comes to target setting?

If you want to be amongst the first to sponsor me here is my Just Giving Page! crazyhaggis 

Right I’m off for a run.

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