7 requisites for doing fundraising well

I find it fascinating how the questions that come my way run in cycles. In May the phone calls and emails were all about board self-assessment. This month the queries have tended toward fundraising.

I’ve heard from ministry entrepreneurs seeking advice on how to build a support base for their start-up organizations. I’ve fielded calls from CEOs or board members of nonprofits that have been around for a while, but without much interest in fundraising — until now.  I’ve also chatted with fundraisers eager for help in kick-starting a stalled program.

business_race_head_start_1388Although no fan of boiler-plate counsel, when it comes to naming the necessary requisites for running well the fundraising race set before you, I stay close to my script. Oh sure, I personalize, tailor, and mix things up a bit. But whether an organization is just beginning, finally getting serious about, or wanting to do a better job of fundraising, the following is my advice, and I’m sticking to it.


Although asking and receiving get the attention, there’s a lot more to fundraising than meets the eye. Take the back stage tour of any exemplary development program, and you’ll find the following.

1.  A proper perspective on fundraising. In my experience, if organizational leaders aren’t thinking right about fundraising, the development team has a tough go of it. Time and energy is wasted working around wrong-headed assumptions about asking for money.

Success comes as board members, CEOs, and staff get it right about what fundraising isn’t and is. A proper perspective on fundraising is foundational to everything that follows.

As I tell anyone who will listen, fundraising isn’t begging, a necessary evil, an after-thought to the real work of the organization, or a cure-all for what ails a nonprofit. Within the context of Christ-centered organizations fundraising is about inviting others into an exciting mission. Most important, fundraising is ministry.

2A compelling case for support. This statement includes the why, what, and how of the ministry’s work and does so in ways that touch hearts, stir passions, capture imaginations. The case statement also shows the organization as competent and able to do what it says it will do.

3.  Attention to infrastructure. Rather than playing catch-up in mid-stream, it’s better to put the infrastructure pieces in place before sending out that first fundraising letter or scheduling an initial prospect call. In addition to fundraising staffers, at the top of the list is a donor software system and tech support.

4.   A budget that matches expectations. It costs money to raise money, and especially so if your goal is to encourage donors to grow in faith through their giving. If you’re not willing or able to fund your fundraising, you probably shouldn’t be out there asking.

5.  A board that understands and embraces its role. Board members must first give their gifts before expecting others to give to the ministry. Board members need to make their networks available to the organization. It is a great blessing if at least some board members assist in nurturing relationships with donors.

6.  A plan for creating and nurturing a loyal support base. Drawing generous folks into relationship with a new ministry — any ministry for that matter — takes time, persistence, patience, and a penchant for networking. Write it all up in a plan and you’re on your way.

7. Thick skin. You’re going to hear “no” as often (or more so) as you hear “yes” over the course of your career as a fundraiser, so brace yourself.  Rejection is hard to take for even the most self-confident among us. But as in falling off a horse, it’s important to saddle up and ask again.

No ministry is too new to fundraising or so long in the game to ignore the above checklist. Take a few minutes to assess where your organization stands on each point. Then focus on where the organizations is weak, celebrate where you’re strong, and (re)commit to fundraising as ministry. Donor hearts are waiting.

If you’d like to talk about the 7 requisites listed here and/or your organization’s fundraising challenges, contact me at Basinger Consulting. I’ll get back to you within 48 hours.


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