How can you make the right fundraising decision every time?

When I work with founders, CEOs and board members, what I often find is that people don’t realize that the world of nonprofit fundraising isn’t separate from every other world in your life. It’s tied to it, intimately.

The right fundraising decision comes from face to face connections with individuals.

Want proof? According to the Giving USA report that comes out every year, 72-75% of money raised in the US is raised from individuals. Not corporations. Not bequests. Not foundation grants. Individuals. Individuals are your biggest potential source of support. And individuals are driven to give by relationships.

This is why I am emphasizing community to you.

As my fundraising heroine Kim Klein says, you already know all the people you need to know to raise all of the money you need to raise.

Fundraising is tied to your family.

It’s tied to your friends.

And it’s tied to everyone you meet throughout the day.

You are not an island, and fundraising isn’t about being as productive and efficient as you can be in the isolation of your desk, as much as that would be a comfort to us introverts!

Fundraising is about all of us, together, in community.

Everyone you meet has had to ask for something in their lives, because we all live in community together.

Fundraising is about relationships, and it’s about community. It’s about the joy, fulfillment and peace that comes with feeling as if your life has meant something bigger, something beyond yourself. It’s about becoming angry about an injustice, and working to stop it. It’s about looking for a way to assuage your guilt at having so much. And it’s about peer pressure too, sometimes.

When it comes right down to it, it’s about being asked, more than once, to give, by someone you know and care about.

Fundraising is about doing your best, every day.

But how can you know what the right thing is to do, every day?


Believe it or not, you have to see how you feel.

You can’t just power through and pretend you feel like working on every aspect of fundraising, every day. The quality of your work will suffer. You will raise less money, and anyway, you’re not equally good at every aspect of fundraising. Nobody is.

Whether or not you believe me, I am here to tell you, fundraising is not about forcing yourself to do things.

It’s about connecting with your values, your passion and your energy level and emotions in this moment to decide what you will do.

So how do you make the right fundraising decision?

First, how do you feel?

Maybe you feel low energy.

You can go out and take a walk, maybe distribute a few flyers/brochures about your nonprofit at the local coffee shop. This is still being active in the community, even if you don’t talk with anyone. It’s a place to start, a place for people to connect with you.

You can also check your nonprofit’s social media and respond to people, thanking them or even seeing if your donors have birthdays and wishing them a happy birthday on Facebook.


Maybe you are tired of sitting at your computer.

Stand up and look in a mirror, and smile, and call a donor just to say thank you, or to share some news that is exciting about your nonprofit. Yesterday I got a phonecall from a nonprofit founder where she told me they got a $30,000 donation! I was so happy and excited for her, and we did a happy dance there on the phone together. It was a relationship building call, but it also was a friendship call.

You see, you can try to separate emotions from work, and friendships, but you can’t separate them in fundraising. These two are essential for the work.

I’m not saying that you should be friends with all of your donors or all of your co-workers. I am saying that when you have a chance to reach out and make a real connection with someone, that will do more for your nonprofit than a thousand direct mail pieces. Read an article in the Agitator about how to help your donors have more positive experiences around your cause.


Maybe you feel angry.

Maybe you’re tired of being worked so hard for such crappy wages. And I hear you. A lot of us are angry about this. And you have to ask yourself, what could I do better in this situation? Could I have negotiated my salary? Could I still negotiate a raise? The answers are Yes and Yes. Even in a small nonprofit. Even in a buyers market for jobseekers. If you’re not sure how to do this, come to our Virtual Fundraising Career Conference April 6th-8th.

Or maybe you’ve just heard a story about your cause that incenses you. Why does it have to be so hard? Why are we sliding backwards? Chances are, your donor needs to hear this story, if they haven’t heard it already. NOW is the time to write that e-newsletter or direct mail appeal. Write it now, while you’re still angry. This will have more power and punch than any committee or group-writing exercise for your cause. This is something you need to get into the world, and make sure your donors hear it. They will respond, and feel more passionately about your cause than ever before, because you were willing to be real with them about your anger too.


Maybe you feel bored.

This is a sign that you are not doing the right thing for you in the moment. If you’ve been looking for grants until your eyes cross, or sitting there entering donations until you want to scream, you’ve GOT to get up and do something else. Get up and print and fold some brochures. Go out and watch your programs. Take a program staff member out for coffee, if they can spare the time. Get to know someone around the office. Chat with an intern and ask them about their life outside the nonprofit. What do they like to do for fun? Look up some networking events and see if you can sign up for them. Get a drink of water. Often when we have a headache or just don’t feel like doing things, we’re dehydrated.


Maybe you feel full of energy.

Quick, how to use this energy?

If you’re looking to make deeper connections with donors, see if you can send a quick email or text to a donor and ask them if they’d like to meed for coffee in the next couple weeks.

If you’re working on a sponsorship deadline for the big event, see if you can send an email or call a potential sponsor up and ask them for a brief meeting to see if there’s a fit between your event and their business needs.

Do your favorite fundraising thing and watch yourself soar!


Do you have any advice about how to make the right fundraising decision, every time? I’d love to hear it!