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