Are you looking outside of yourself for the answers? I dare you, right now, to be your own fundraising guru. How does that look?

Recently I checked my library account, and I checked out over 100 books in the last year. Did I read them all? No! But did I skim all of them? Yes! I read most of them. I love learning!

To be a fundraising guru, you must love learning.

You must love reading, and you must read a lot! Not just books about fundraising! Books about leadership. Books about how to get your team to work effectively together, even if it’s a team of board members or a team of volunteers. On this page you’ll see some books I highly recommend. These books (Fundraising the SMART Way, by Ellen Bristol, Grit, by Angela Duckworth, Cashvertising by Drew Eric Whitman, Failing Forward, by John Maxwell, NOW Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham, Conversations for Creating Star Performers by Hayashi) can help you be your OWN fundraising guru.

Why would I, a fundraising consultant, tell you to do this?

Hey, I know it seems counter-intuitive for me, a nonprofit fundraising guru, to challenge you to be your own guru, but that’s EXACTLY what I want you to do.

Why am I doing this?

Because I don’t have all the answers. Just because I’m an expert doesn’t mean I’ll know how to solve your problem. Here’s a list of fundraising and nonprofit leadership experts with specialties, who each know how to solve specific problems you may be having. But no one consultant is going to have EVERYTHING you need.

Ultimately, because I don’t have the time to help everyone! And you are the authority on your own life.

Another thing you can do is attend webinars- to learn! Here’s a list of my upcoming webinars. And here’s a big list from Wild Apricot!

How did I start becoming a fundraising guru?

When I started out in fundraising, I always wanted more knowledge.

I always wanted more awareness of what to do in grantwriting. In sponsorships. In nonprofit marketing. In fundraising in general.

But aside from a couple of workshops, no one stepped forward to teach me, in the beginning of my fundraising journey. Does that sound like you too? 

I just had to claw my way through articles and fumble through just doing it myself.

So I got some grants. I got some sponsorships. I got some knowledge of how to run events through doing them. I did marketing so much that it became second nature.

But I never thought that one person had all of the answers. Except maybe Kim Klein. And she never claimed to have all the answers. Just one, which is, focus on personal individual asks in giving, because everything else has a diminishing return.

I wrote my first book based on my fundraising experience, with all the tools I had made or gleaned from years in fundraising.

Marcus Aurelius says “Trust the doers!” not the academics! And I agree!

You learn more from 3 years of full-time hands on fundraising than you would ever learn in a 7 year fundraising PhD program.

Here’s my challenge to you- If you were a fundraising guru- what would be YOUR solution to your fundraising problem?

Because you know your unique situation. You know the pitfalls. The constraints. The strengths of your team. You know so much about what has worked and hasn’t worked for your organization.


Where do you go next, after reading books?

Knowing this, where do you go from here?

Recently here’s where I went.

I went to a rural community foundation and taught their grantees. At least, that was what I was supposed to be doing.

But instead, I was a facilitator. In the FIRST part of the workshop, I had everyone teach each other.

We looked at how to keep your donors. We asked the simple questions:

  • What worked?
  • Why do you think that is?
  • What did not work?
  • Why do you think that is?
  • What would you like to try?
  • What do you see as a barrier to trying something new?

People learned a lot from each other. One thing-phonecalls, worked for one group, while it didn’t work for another group. They contradicted my proclamations about social media. And I loved it all.

As you can see, the right questions can lead you further than all of the theory in the world! That’s why I encourage you to read Shawn Hayashi’s book, Conversations for Creating Star Performers. Here’s my review, and some sample questions to get you started.

So often we look outside ourselves for the answers. We look at other people to give us approval. John Taylor Gatto (RIP), author of “Dumbing us down” and “A Different Kind of Teacher” tells us why.

Ask the right solution focused questions

Alan Kay recommends that you help your team stop being problem focused and start being solution focused.

Here are some more questions for you to try- from Fry the Monkeys by Alan Kay. Learn more about his book and get more questions here!

A. What’s working that we don’t need to change?

B. Suppose we did more of that and the problem went away, what would be happening?

C. Suppose we got there; what would be the first small signs that we made progress?

The right questions can truly make you your own fundraising guru. YOU are the authority on YOUR problems. And YOU have the power to solve them!

Are there any other questions that you like to use to uncover solutions instead of focusing on problems?

Please leave a comment!