Fundraising's Magic Bullet

As I was talking with the Board it struck me—not for the first time in my career—that they really weren’t interested in the process.  What they were looking for was the Magic Bullet:  that one thing that would (without too much work) raise every penny they needed.  And, minus the parenthetical wish, I actually had the answer.  I really do know a magic bullet for fundraising.  Ready? Do something.  Do anything.  But do it consistently.  If it isn’t working, don’t stop doing it—assess why it isn’t working.  What needs to be changed?  Then change that.  If it is working, ask what else can we do and then (yes, you’ve got it) do that also.

Too often fundraising is something that no one actually gets to.  It is discussed.  Classes are taken; consultants hired; meetings with other organizations set up so that you can learn their secrets.  But getting to it?  As someone said in a slightly different context:  they are planning to plan to create a development plan that will somehow raise money.

Do I sound frustrated?  I am.  I can’t remember how many meetings I’ve sat in where people talk about all the possibilities and all the things we could do.  Not will do; not are doing.  Just could.  Might.  Maybe.  Some day.

Not all organizations, of course.  Some do a great job.  Some plan their work and then work their plan.  But for too many organizations, fundraising is a sometime thing.

We start and stop.  Try something…once, then bemoan the fact that it really didn’t accomplish what we hoped.

Let’s try something.  If yours is one of these organizations, pick one thing from the many that have been discussed, parsed, dissected and tell your board or your staff that THIS is the magic bullet. Commit to it for a significant period (three years if it is an annual event; perhaps less time if it occurs regularly---for example, we will each have two meetings a month for the next seven months).  During that time, assess results.  Tweak method.

Watch how—over time—it gets better.  And ride the crest.  As people are excited about doing something; add another something else.  But do not stop doing the first thing.  That is crucial.

If you remain faithful;  if you keep doing/assessing/tweaking/adding, pretty soon you will have a comprehensive, diverse fund development program.

And that, my friends, is the real magic bullet for fundraising.

Janet Levine consults and trains nonprofit organizations, professionals and volunteers, helping them to be more successful fundraisers.  Learn more at