What Kind of Fundraiser Are You?

When you find yourself at a meeting with a donor, do you ask that donor for another gift or do you ask the donor questions that will allow you to get to know him or her better?

This may sound like a trick question, but too often, the joke is on us.

We look at fundraising as a transactional activity.  I get in front of you—virtually or actually—and then I ask you for support.  And in many ways, this works.

People do respond to the ask that focuses on what the organization does and why the organization needs funds.  But the effectiveness of your ask—the number of yesses you get relative to the number of asks—is typically pretty low.  And the size of the gift—particularly as it relates the donor’s capacity—is often very small.

But to get larger gifts and develop more loyal donors, nothing beats building a relationship.  When you spend the time you have together learning about the donor, her interests, her passions, what it is she hopes to accomplish.

Note I say relationship and not friendship, for in this case, they are not the same.

Friends are equals.  The information you share is to help you connect more deeply to each other.  You are not motivated by things outside your friendship.
In a donor relationship, on the other hand, you are looking to align your donor’s interests with your organization’s mission. Donors’ not only understand this, they expect it.  Early in my major gift career, a sophisticated donor took me to task for spending too much of our time together talking about a project she was involved with that had nothing to do with our organization or her philanthropy.

“I have friends I can talk about this with,” she told me not unkindly.  “With you I want to talk about my next gift—and learn what is happening with my last one.”

Money is another difference.  With our friends, we’re usually circumspect about financial things.  With donors, however, it is smart to be up front.

Whether you are trying to ascertain their financial interest in a particular project, the level of support they are willing to give to you, or find out where you stand on their philanthropic scale, tell them your purpose.  Most donors will appreciate your candor.

When you ask a donor—or a prospective one—for a meeting and the answer is yes, you know that the (prospective) donor has opened the door.  Do walk through it and allow them to ask you to sit down and make yourself comfortable.

And then, get to the point, and talk about the generosity you hope they will bestow on your organization.


Janet Levine works with nonprofits, helping to move them from mired to inspired—raising more money,  and building stronger staff and board members.  Learn more at www.janetlevineconsulting.com.  While there, sign up for the free newsletter and do contact Janet to arrange a free, 30-minute consultation.





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 http://courses.lmlearningstation.com/. 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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