Basic Building Blocks For Effective Fundraising

Over the years, I’ve facilitated hundreds of workshops, seminars, trainings and retreats mostly about fundraising.  Whether I’m speaking with development professionals, board members and other volunteers, or people just interested in learning more about the subject, I’ve noticed one commonality.  Novice and expert alike are all looking for that one technique, the one thing that will turn the tide and bring charitable dollars rushing in. Tell us, they all say, how to:

  • Make the ask
  • Give the perfect elevator speech
  • Find more donors
  • Get a (huge) grant
  • Convince some other person to do the fundraising

Or they want to know why they have to think about all that when (fill in the name of the wealthiest person in your community) should be supporting you.

But it doesn’t work like that.  At least not consistently or sustainably.  And while I hate to always be the bearer of bad news, the truth is that fundraising takes work—lots of it.

And, as everyone who has ever played with blocks knows, simply piling one on top of another will get you first a shaky tower and then, boom! All fall down.  But if you create a foundation, then go up from there, you can build a strong edifice.  Likewise with fundraising.  Start with these basic building blocks:

  1. Fundraising is all about relationships—with people, with the organization, and with the cause.
  2. Like all relationships, it takes time and nurturing. Honestly, even if you have the perfect elevator speech and memorized the parts of an ask, you will not be successful if those are the only ways you interact with someone.
  3. It requires consistency. For fundraising to be successful, you must be constantly reaching out—to your existing donors, to new prospects, to your volunteers.
  4. You must be positively passionate. Not only do you need to believe that your organization is truly making a difference, you must be able to talk about it from its strengths.  Most organizations have issues, problems, things we wish would just go away.  But that’s where your focus is, the message you will be getting out there is one that subliminally says, “Don’t support us.”
  5. Along with being positively passionate you have to really believe that when you ask someone to become involved with your organization you are providing an opportunity for them to be involved with something special.

If you start with these building blocks, you will find that you will be creating a strong and sustainable fund development program.



Janet Levine works with nonprofit organizations, helping them to build their resource development capacity.  To learn more about her, her online grantwriting class and Get Ready, Get Set, Get Grants the only grantwriting book you really need, check out  You can buy the book directly at