The One Trick to Fundraising

Greetings from Toronto Pearson International Airport!  As I write this, I’m waiting for my connecting flight to get to the AFP International Fundraising Conference in Vancouver.  Since the airport has free wi-fi — I knew that I could trust my neighbors to the north — I can share this with you in reasonable real time.

While coming through customs, the customs agent asked me why I was coming into the country and of course I told him about the conference.  He was very curious about professional fundraising . . . it was a nice change to have someone genuinely interested in our work after learning what I do for a living.  After I gave him the 15-second intro on International House and he stamped my passport, the agent asked me what was “the one trick to fundraising” and after briefly considering the question, I told him that there wasn’t a silver bullet.

But as I left the customs area and proceeded to grab my bag, I realized that I know the one trick to fundraising (wait for it) . . . . KNOW YOUR DONORS!  Now I cannot claim that I came up with this bright idea, so I must acknowledge Lynne Wester and the recent ADRP NYC Regional Conference for really bringing this point to the surface for me.  It’s a very simple idea and one that should really be at the heart of all of our fundraising programs.

If you don’t know your donors, you can’t:

  • effectively engage them in your organization’s mission and work, as you don’t know what first attracted them to it or how they prefer to be engaged;
  • easily cultivate them for major and planned gifts; or
  • personalize your messages based on their interest areas.
The only way that you can get to know your donors is to TALK TO THEM!  You can do this through surveys, by picking up the phone on a regular occasion or just asking a few good questions when you see them at your events.

How have you gotten to know your donors?  Did this engagement allow you to deepen their relationship with your organization?

Photo credit — Toronto Pearson International Airport

4 Replies to “The One Trick to Fundraising”

  1. If there ever was a silver bullet, it would be that one! We are always repulsed by selfish people who talk only about themselves, yet that’s what many nonprofits do in their letters, emails, and websites. When I first meet people, I’m always amazed how far the conversation will go if I keep the topic on the person I just met. They don’t want to talk about me at all, but they think we’re best friends!

    That’s what you want the donor to feel about you.

  2. Just wanted to let you know that I like your site. I am not a Twitterer, but I am involved in some new small organizations whose causes I support. Of course, because they are all small, the ED’s do most of the running around for fundraising.

    I am really interested in Board Development. I know of someone who is really having trouble because she is involved in a number of concerns, but I think the Board is sort of running their own way.

    Any suggestions on how to refocus your boards?

    1. Thanks for your comment! Refocusing boards can go in many different directions. In your experience, is the problem with how the board is functioning or how they see their role in a specific aspect of the organization’s work?

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