Get Out of the Office

Jeff Brooks, blogger extraordinaire, writes in his Future Fundraising blog ( about the importance of getting out of the office and working in a coffee shop.  As one who works a lot in coffee shops (especially now that my home office is part of a major house remodel), I couldn’t agree more.  But if you fundraising is one of your main functions, I have an even better suggestion:  Get out from behind your computer.  Interact face to face with the people who might or already do support your organization. Many years ago, I worked at an organization where the CEO really believed that my job as Development Director was to sit in my office and be available…to him.  Every day we argued—he wanted to know why I wasn’t in my office and I tried to explain why I wouldn’t be doing my job if I was.

Once, I travelled cross country to meet with donors and foundations that supported our cause.  I came back with checks and pledges equaling almost as much money as we had ever raised before.  You’d think he would have been happy.  You’d be wrong.

If you’ve ever taken a workshop with me or have read a few of these blogs you know that I believe that fundraising is above all about relationships.  And you just don’t make those sitting behind your desk (social networking notwithstanding).  You have to get in front of your prospects and donors and find out what makes them tick.  What good experiences with your organization spur them to support you?  What bad ones may turn them into lapsed donors unless you do something—fast.

In fact, just asking for a meeting to learn about their experiences is a wonderful way to connect with your constituents.  As they talk about their interactions with your organization, they will undoubtedly tell you more about them—their dreams, interests, the way they want to be recognized and cultivated.  In short, in most cases, they will tell you how to best interact with them.

Too often, we treat our donors as if they are cash registers, to be visited only when we want more money.  That, as all the research shows, is a surefire way to decrease your donor retention rates.  And those for our sector are low enough.  Some studies show that up to half of all donors who make a first time gift to an organization don’t make a second.  More than three-quarters of those donors are gone by year five.  That is no way to run a nonprofit.

So take Jeff’s advice—go to a coffee shop. But instead of bringing your laptop, bring a prospect or a donor.  Sit over a double cappuccino and some really good pastries and forge a bond between you, your donor and your organization.  It’s a great way to spend the day.

Janet Levine is a writer, trainer and consultant who works with nonprofit organizations, helping them to increase their fundraising capacity.  Learn more at