Fundraising--It's Not Hitting On Someone

In the Sunday LA Times, Liz Weston in her Money Talk column answered a question that asked, “What are your thoughts on charitable giving?”  She said a lot of things that were fine.  Quoting Ken Berger of Charity Navigator she suggested larger donations to a few charities rather than “scattershot donations to a bunch of causes.”  Fine.  But then, apparently quoting Berger again, she wrote that “Because smaller donations don’t benefit charities as much, some are tempted to increase their ‘yield’ by selling your information to other charities or repeatedly hitting you up for additional contributions.”If Berger really believes that fundraising equals “hitting you up,” he has no business rating charities.

Most charities I know don’t sell their lists, though I am sure there are those that do.  I suspect that those tend to be large, national organizations with lists in the tens if not hundreds of thousands.  Most nonprofits, however, are small (as in  having operating budgets of seriously less than $1 million), and every potential donor is worth far more than the money that could be gotten from selling the name.

And no, they aren’t useful so they can be “hit upon.”  Good fundraisers know that you are never, ever hitting on someone.  Nor are you ever begging them to give you anything.  What you are doing is creating a relationship and providing an opportunity to be involved with work that is meaningful.

It probably is not meaningful to everyone.  And that is the greatest challenge for a nonprofit—finding those individuals and organizations that care about what you do.  But “hitting on” them?  No.  That’s not what we do.

When industry leaders like Mr. Berger, however, use those expressions (which may be Ms. Weston’s.  That doesn’t make it right, but a bit more understandable), it makes all of us cringe.  It’s bad enough that too many board members fear fundraising and worry that they are doing something akin to hitting on their friends.

In my board trainings, we spend time talking about attitudes and how they affect effectiveness.

“Forget about money,” I tell them.  “If you get them interested and involved—or more interested and more involved for those who have already made a gift—the money will follow.”  I know that is true.

“Hitting on” any one for any reason is, frankly, disrespectful.  It is being the boys in the singles bar—who want something but they don’t want that sometime to be lasting, meaningful, or particularly important—all things we really should want with our donors.


Janet Levine works with nonprofits, helping them increase fundraising capacity.  Learn more about how she can help you and your organization at