Even if you fundraise perfectly, not knowing this could leave you unemployed in one year.

Don’t believe me? It happened to me.

More than once actually.

I raised more than were ever raised before with events, appeal letters, grants, and more, and my bosses still fired me.

What was I MISSING? 

One little word.

It damaged my nonprofit fundraising career, and I had NO IDEA.

I had a stellar nonprofit fundraising record, and I thought I was safe. But just doing my job wasn’t enough.

Sometimes it’s not about what you do, it’s about what you don’t do.

What WASN’T I doing?

What do successful nonprofit employees do, that I didn’t do?

This is the secret of making your boss like you.

Are you ready?



I was not deliberately building trust with my bosses, and it ruined my relationships with them.


Why would I need to build trust?

The average fundraising person stays between 6-18 months in a role. They hired you, but you might be the 3rd fundraising person in this role in 3 years. They aren’t sure if they can trust you. These other people failed. Why, maybe you might fail too!

Here’s the problem. Most other staff are working at their desk or at the program sites, and you can see them working. But for many fundraising roles, whether you’re a development director or major gift officer, you need to be out meeting donors all the time. So you aren’t around and you are in a highly relational role.

But you’ve got very hard statistical measurements that you need to hit for money coming in. It’s very easy to distrust you if you’re not in the office all the time.


Lack of trust is something that can be seen.

Marc Pitman, founder of the Concord Leadership Group (and fundraising veteran) says, “There are other places I’ve been where there’s one person everybody kind of works around. One person in leadership that everybody tries to avoid dealing with– they all have bathroom conversations. I’ve got your back if you’ve got my back. We’re going in together. It’s sort of building up a front because there is a total lack of trust.”


Why would you get fired after meeting your goals?

Without having a mutual respect between you and your boss to figure out what are things that would be helpful for you, you’re going to run up against unrealistic expectations and a lack of trust.


Why is it that there’s a revolving door in the development office role?

Part of it is because executive directors don’t trust that development directors are doing their work.


How do I know you’re really doing what you say you’re going to do?

How can your boss know that you are actually doing what it takes? Does your boss need education on how fundraising works? It could be that the boss needs education.

It could be that the staff member needs to have some sort of metrics, visit metrics, thank you metrics, other metrics, which is what I always tried to do with my board. Don’t JUST have a dollar goal.

If you live in an agricultural community, this metaphor will speak to you. You can’t just measure harvest. You have to plant seed. You have to tend the soil. You have to tend the plants, weed. Then you can harvest. Then you have to do it all over again so that you can harvest again. If you’re only harvesting, slash and burn is not sustainable.

If you want to start deliberately building trust, DON’T report just the numbers you hit in income.

Tell your boss or the board, “I am planting seeds.”

  1. These are the goals that I had.
  2. These are the number of visits that I had.
  3. These are the number of letters that went out.
  4. These are the number of touches that were made this way.

How do you deliberately build trust? 

Here are 13 behaviors that you can start to build trust. 

  1. Talk straight.
  2. Demonstrate respect.
  3. Create transparency.
  4. Right wrongs.
  5. Show loyalty.
  6. Deliver results.
  7. Get better.
  8. Confront reality.
  9. Clarify Expectations.
  10. Practice accountability.
  11. Listen first.
  12. Keep Commitments.
  13. Extend Trust.


If you would like to learn more on how to apply these behaviors to fundraising, come to the online Fundraising Career Conference, April 17. 19th and 21st.

Learn more here.

Fundraising Career Conference