You may have heard of Steven Covey’s habits of highly effective people. But what about fundraisers?

What’s one thing you could do, each week, each day, or each month to be more effective in your role, whether you’re just starting out or you have 10 years of experience?

I give you: 18 Habits of highly successful fundraising professionals

Let’s hit it!

1. Call one donor per day. Just to say hi. Why? Because fundraising is about relationships. This is one of the easiest ways to become a good fundraiser. Call your most loyal donors, and get to know them. When you start creating relationships, you help this donor want to keep giving to you.

2. Send at least one thank you note per day. Why? Because donors love to be thanked. It’s true! Don’t believe me? You must read Joyaux and Ahern’s book, Keep Your Donors. And then check out Claire Axelrad’s free resource on how to do donor thank you calls.

3. Have one donor meeting a week. Why? Because again, you need to know your donors to build relationships with them.  When you build relationships with your donors, they are more likely to give you major gifts. What are major gifts? Just the best way to fundraise, NBD.

4. Send one grant proposal per month. Why? Because it’s not the best way to raise money, but it will help your nonprofit in the short term if you do get a grant, as you start to build relationships with your donors.

5. Stand up when you have phonecalls. Why? Because your energy will be higher and it will transmit into your voice.

6. Have a mirror in front of you when you have your phonecall. Smile into the mirror. The person on the other end will hear your smile, and that will make them feel happier to talk with you.

7. If you have a problem with someone at work, don’t talk about it with someone else who works there. It will come back to you. Save your complaints for people who don’t work where you work.

8. Make a habit of checking the Grantspace database in your town once a month, just to see what new opportunities are out there.

9. Have a 5 minute meeting with your boss on Monday where you both stand up and you tell them what you think the 3 priorities for the week are. And they can tell you if you’re right or not, and you can course correct before the week even begins.

10. Say no to more meetings. If people want you to go to a staff meeting, ask, “Why is it necessary that I attend this staff meeting? Which of my objectives for the week will this help me meet?” For more details on getting out of meetings gracefully, check out Alan Kay’s Fry the Monkeys book.

11. Write one newsletter per month, or more, for your nonprofit. The more you keep in touch with your donors, and tell them how special they are to you, the more you will become a charity that they will remember when you do ask them to give. Remember, out of sight, out of mind.

12. Before you go to that fundraising conference, ask yourself, what is the purpose of this conference for me? Who do I want to meet there? How can I arrange to meet them during the conference? My friend Vanessa Chase swears by this method of going to conferences. What you want to learn is less important than who you want to meet, and for more details on that see Black Swan by Nassim Taleb

13. What if your board members don’t want to fundraise? Guess what? Nobody’s board members want to fundraise. Okay, we’ve gotten that out of the way. How can you help them enjoy fundraising? A highly effective fundraiser will run, not walk, to buy Gail Perry‘s book, Fired Up Fundraising, which will tell you everything you need to know about how to help your board members get excited about fundraising for you.

14. Start learning about major gifts. To be the most effective fundraiser you can, you need to learn about major gifts. Why? The most effective way to fundraise, bar none, is face to face fundraising. It generally has a 50/50 chance of success. Every other way has a diminishing return. Here are a few posts to get you started in major gift fundraising, from Amy Eisenstein, an author of multiple books on fundraising, and a recognized expert in major gifts.

15. Go to business networking events, once a month or more. Why? Because when small business owners and mid-size business owners see you enough times, they will want to know more about you. You might be able to get a connection that will lead to a sponsorship, a board member, or a cause marketing partnership. To get started on the right foot with that potential business sponsor, read Win Win for the Greater Good by Bruce Burtch.

16. Remember to take frequent breaks, and leave work by 5. I know, it’s too busy during the day and you get most of your work done after hours, or before anyone comes in. But you don’t want to get into this habit. Your job will eat up your life.


17. Go do something fun after work. Like visit a teashop! One of my favorites is Tea Chai Te in Sellwood. It’s in a converted red caboose! It used to be a bookshop.

18. Stay positive. No matter how much more progress you wish you were making, each day, write down at least one thing that you’re happy that you accomplished.

Oh man I looked at this list and it’s like a reading list. HOWEVER. Reading a lot is important. If you’ve already mastered everything related to fundraising, then… you’re a damn liar. I read a lot. I never think I know enough. Fundraising is always changing. Check out some of the books above, even if you think you know everything. You might get one more tool from each book to add to your toolbox.

Any other habits you’d like to add? Feel free to leave a comment! I’d love to hear what you have to say!

If you want 65 more fundraising career resources, just go here.

If you want 99 more nonprofit leadership resources, click on over here.