Try Yes To Fundraising

It’s one of my pet peeves.  People who say can’t to just about everything.  Recently I did a board fundraising training and no matter what was suggested—by me or by a board member—the executive director said, “Oh, we’ve tried that.  It doesn’t work.”

She’s not the first ED or Director of Development to tell me that.  Not so long ago I fired a client because the Development Director told me “That doesn’t work here,” to every single thing I offered.  Really?  It seems to work everywhere else.  I mean, let’s face it, fundraising is not a new field, and while each organization is a little different and there are tweaks and twists needed, there are certain things that just plain work.

But, as with everything, to work you have to work it.

Think about the first time you romantically kissed someone.  How good was that? There are probably some of you for whom it was divine.  Just as there are nonprofits to launch a new fundraising initiative and it just takes off.  But for most of us, that first kiss was awkward, uncomfortable, didn’t live up to the hype or, especially, to our dreams.

Imagine if you follow the advice of my executive director and never ever kissed another person because I tried that once and it wasn’t particularly wonderful.  How ad would that be?

Fundraising, like everything that takes skill—and yes, fundraising requires a certain level of ability—takes time to work well.  It takes practice to do it perfectly (or close enough).  It doesn’t just happen.

I am reminded of a study that was done a while ago with male and female college professors.  In the first year of eligibility to apply for a government grant from one of the agencies (I think, but am not sure, that it was NSF), the same percentage of eligible male and female faculty applied. But when rejected, the female faculty started to stop submitting proposals.  The males continued year and year after. By year 5, the percentage of eligible males submitting way overshadowed eligible female faculty submitting.  The result?  The percentage of males who got funded was way higher than the percentage of female faculty.

I hate this study for all sorts of reasons—my feminist leanings at the forefront—but I love what it shows us about the importance of persistence.

I know that Einstein famously said that the definition of insanity was doing the same things over and over and expecting different results.  But you know, sometimes that is just what you have to do.

Instead of finding reasons why you can’t or it won’t, think about what you can do and what will work. Maybe not the first time, but the second or third.  Certainly, if success doesn’t peek its head over the horizon, perhaps that is not the best technique for you.  But you’ll never know unless you give it chance and perhaps, just perhaps, it will turn out to be the best way to fundraise for your organization ever.


Janet Levine works to help nonprofits move from mired to inspired.  Learn how at  While there, sign up for the newsletter and arrange for your 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 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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