The Rules Remain


The board member sighed.  “What you are suggesting is old fashioned fundraising,” she said.  Things have changed so enormously.

“Tell me more,” I said, knowing exactly what she would say:

  • More people are giving online
  • Mobile devices are how people connect today
  • Social media is how we keep up our relationships
  • The younger generation engages differently.

Oh, sigh.  True, and yet completely false.  Yes, online giving IS gaining more traction.  But I am old enough to remember when the same was being said about credit cards.  “More people are giving via credit cards,” my board told me way back when.  And yes, that was true, too.  But so what?  That was a method by which they paid for something we still had to convince them was worthwhile—and had to get them to the point where they could utilize the payment method.

Credit cards no more raised the funds than websites do.  It’s still a matter of connecting the prospect with something that matters to them.

Someone wiser than I once wrote that successful fundraising is “the right person asking the right prospect for the right gift for the right program at the right time in the right way.”  That has not changed.

So yes, mobile devices are the way we connect—and social media is important for some.  And yes, the younger generation is generally that “some.”  But fundraising—successful fundraising –remains a contact sport where we connect with our prospects and keep our donors close. The rules of engagement haven’t changed; only some of the tools may be different.

Gifts are made because a person (or an organization) feels connected to your organization and believes that what you do is important.  Unless someone reaches out, however, they won’t feel connected and they probably will have no clue what you do.  So social media can be important for those who use social media, but more than likely they will follow or like or even see your social media site because someone they trust asks them to “join with me.”

Once they do, they may be compelled to go to your website and make a donation.  And that is wonderful and terrific.  But it could be just a first, small step.

Larger donations still come about because of personal contact.  A relationship that allows you to find out about the donor’s hopes and aspirations and a way to connect those to the things your organization does.

No matter how much the tools change, the rules remain. People give not because you have cool online tools, but because they care.  And they care more the more you connect with them.  And the closer your connection, the more they will contribute so that they can be part of the wonderful things your organizations does.


Janet Levine works with nonprofit organizations, helping them to increase their fundraising capacity and connect more closely with their prospects and donors.  Learn more at or contact her at to find out how she can help your organization flourish.


About janetlevineconsulting

For over 20 years, Janet Levine has worked for and with nonprofit and educational organizations, helping to grow their advancement programs. Her consulting company, Janet Levine Consulting, serves a wide range of organizations from small, all-volunteer agencies to major national organizations. She regularly teaches courses in non-profit management, fundraising and grant development, both face-to-face and online at In addition to her nonprofit work, Janet brings years of experience as a business and sales manager in the for-profit sector. She has an MBA from the Graziadio School of Business at Pepperdine University.
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