10 time-proven laws of fundraising

While cleaning out a file cabinet that hasn’t been touched for several years, I came across “The Ten Immutable Laws of the (Fundraising) Universe,” dated 2003. Scanning the list, I’m reminded that the more things change in our world, the more they stay the same.

In his preface to the 10 laws, author Carl Richardson describes the universe of fundraising as “guided by certain provable statements. Tested by experience, observation, and results, these laws of fundraising determine to a large extend the success of our efforts.”

Technology may have opened grand new horizons for fundraising programs, but there’s much to said for the time-proven wisdom of years past, including the following 10 laws (bold face, Richardson; plain face, me).

Law #1: No group of individuals is waiting to give (also known as the Law of the Nonexistent They). We’ve got to be out there, beating the bushes, taking the message to prospective donors.

Law #2: Fundraising is a conversation between funded and funder.
It’s our job to keep the conversation going.

Law #3: Effective fundraising is a result of telling your story. And then telling it again, again, and again.

Law #4: People give to people. If lives aren’t being changed, not much else matters.

Law #5: Someone must ask for money. We’d like to think our good work speaks for itself, but apparently not in language that most folks understand.

Law #6: An organization cannot thank a donor enough. 70 x 70 may be a bit much, but once is definitely not sufficient.

Law #7: Seek investments, not gifts. Look for donors who actually expect change as a result of their giving, and then let them see the results.

Law #8: Donors are developed, not born. A first gift does not a donor make. Casual giver to committed donor is a slow, evolution of heart and mind.

Law #9: Fundraising out of desperation is futile. Inviting folks to throw good money after bad results and careless planning (the usual roots of organizational desperation) isn’t a compelling case for support.

Law #10: In the best of circumstances, people will do what they please (also known as the Law of Uncertainty). In other words, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink (0r give). To borrow another old adage, don’t count your chickens before they hatch.

It’s a safe bet these 10 laws will be as useful 10 years hence as they were 10 years past and as they are today.  Heed and succeed.


  1. Carol Lytch says:


    Rebekah’s blog reminds me of 10 solid pointers for our work. It’s good to be reminded of what we know already.


  2. Reblogged this on Fundraising Ministry and commented:
    The so-called 10 laws of fundraising remain important reminders and guidelines for all of us engaged in this important ministry. Despite all the changes that have and continue to develop in technology, social media, and electronic communication, it’s good to know that these principles remain unchanged.

  3. These are great. They remind me of an old book by Al Ries and Jack Trout: “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing” which was published in 1993. The examples are dated but the laws are still true. If fact, I find myself using them constantly.
    Of Richardson’s Laws, they seem true today (although I’m revising my thinking on “thanking” significantly but for now, I’ll just agree).
    Thanks for the great flow of terrific content.

  4. Steve, Maybe it really is true that there’s nothing new under the sun. So often, I find myself going back to tried and true from years past. All it takes is a bit of dusting off and sprucing up, and it’s good to go wisdom for today.
    Please do share your thinking on thanking. I appreciate your ideas — and your comments.


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