My three words for your 2017 fundraising success

In the week since I chose and announced to the world my three words for 2017, several times the trio has crept into conversations with the good folk with whom I work as a fundraising consultant. Not that I’m surprised. Curiosity, courage, and grace, all three, are key to success in raising money.

Hear me out and then let me know if you agree.


Curiosity. The best fundraisers don’t stop at the “what” of fundraising. They want to know the “why” behind the theories, the strategies, the conventional wisdom of the profession to which they’ve been called — and not just in the early years of their careers. These folks are life-long learners, always striving, always preparing to do the job better.

They’re also curious about the generous folks with whom they’re blessed to work. Exemplary development officers are eager to know the stories that generate the gifts. And in the case of fundraisers working within Christian organizations, there’s curiosity about what God is up to in donors’ hearts through their giving.

Additionally, curiosity fuels a commitment to planning and to attention to benchmarks and data in evaluating the effectiveness of the fundraising program. It’s not just working harder that brings success, it’s working smarter. And smarter comes from refusing to settle for the obvious or easy answer and remaining open to the unexpected.

Courage. The application of this word to fundraising is obvious. I’ve yet to meet a fundraiser, regardless how long on the job, who would turn down an extra dose of courage. In my opinion, a fundraiser who doesn’t feel a bit of stage fright in advance of a significant solicitation call is either naïve or burned out. Courageous fundraisers depend on God with them and they’re not ashamed to admit it.

Courage also plays a part in program planning. In some instances, the bravest move is to let go of legacy programs or methods that have out-lived their effectiveness. At other times, courage shows itself in a willingness to take a risk on a new approach, even when the outcome is far from certain. It takes a courageous heart to go where no fundraiser within your organization has gone before.

Grace.  It’s my experience that fundraising attracts folks who are hard-driving, goal-oriented, and prone to self-criticism. Unfortunately, the insatiable needs/wants of nonprofits and ministry organizations feeds fundraisers’ feelings of inadequacy, of not having done enough, or not having asked rightly. Exemplary fundraisers understand the importance of cutting themselves an appropriate break. They know the freedom that comes with grace – both self-given and received from God.

I think of a comment by a seasoned fundraiser as he looked forward to a visit with the hoped-for lead donors in a capital campaign. “I can’t predict how the couple will respond, although the signs point toward a good outcome. But this I can say with confidence. I and the president have done everything humanly possible to make the visit go well. The rest is in God’s hands.”


There are, of course, many other words that contribute to success in fundraising. Please and thank you come to mind immediately. But in 2017, I hope you’ll consider the three I’ve listed here. Curiosity, courage, and grace: you/me/we won’t go wrong with these – personally or professionally.

What's your take on this topic?

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