The Obvious Donor

I often joke that the obvious eludes me.  I tend to look for hidden pathways, arcane byways.  It’s not that I think the obvious is bad, just that it is, well, obvious.  Though I have come to realize that obvious to one may be hidden and arcane to another. That seems to be really true where fundraising is concerned.

People responsible for fundraising—and that includes Board members as well as staff—often skip the obvious next steps in the fundraising process.  We have a great event.  Instead of thinking about how to follow up with event attendees, we think about the next event.  A donor makes a significant gift.  We don’t develop a plan to keep that donor in the loop, seeing how the gift has made a difference and along the way, learning about other things the organization does.  We thank then once and then move on to other prospects, other gifts.

I also often joke to the people who take my classes or hire me as their consultant that I know that they are looking for a magic bullet—and I am going to give it to them. Only it’s no joke.  The magic bullet of fundraising—or rather one of the magic bullets—is simply this:  Do something, and do it consistently.  If you do that, you will raise money.

It works better if you think of that something as part of a process that moves people from interest to involvement and back again.  Just as most donors move up and down the famed fundraising pyramid, from occasional givers to annual and/or major donors, and up and down the spaces in between, people move from learning to caring to giving and back and forth again.


The obvious we forget the most is that the likely large donors are your loyal donors.  They are also the most likely to leave you in their will.  So while you are on the constant hunt for new prospects, new ways to engage people, new techniques to encourage them to give, don’t forget about what is right in front of your face.

Take care of those who have supported you, thank them, re-engage them, keep them close.  Make sure the obvious supporters don’t elude you—and you will be rewarded many times over.


Janet Levine works with nonprofit and educational organizations, helping them to increase their fundraising capacity and keep their existing donors happy.  Learn more at and while there, sign up for the free monthly newsletter.