Magic Bullets and the Myths of Fundraising

Fundraising, so many people say, is changing.  It’s different than it used to be.  There is crowd funding, social media, mobile, online giving.  And I think, Yeah?  So what?  No crowd will fund you if they don’t know you.  No one will be on your social media or move to donate if you haven’t somehow connected with you.  Mobile, online—OK, I’ll date myself:   I remember when giving via credit card was “taking over” checks as the vehicle for getting gifts. Vehicle—that’s an important word.  So the method, channel, instrument of moving money may be morphing, but you still have to get people to you and provide them with a good reason to support you and your cause.  Fundraising hasn’t changed—it’s still based on relationships—just some of the means are different.

It’s that myth that says if I can find the perfect technique, then funds will come flowing in.  But the perfect technique is just a function of planning, consistency, and follow up.  It doesn’t matter the method—it’s making sure you are:

  • Identifying probable prospects (people you have reason to believe have the capacity to make a gift, care about what you do and is someone with whom you have a connection)
  • Reaching out to them in a way that will resonate.  That means knowing your prospect pool—and that means, yep, having some sort of relationship that will allow you to figure out the best way to connect
  • Nurturing them and bringing them ever closer to the organization
  • Asking them to support you—clearly and appropriately
  • Recognizing their generosity

And then starting the process all over again.

The problem with many of the so-called new ways to fundraise is that they are very arms length.  The cost to raise those dollars is high—sometimes prohibitively so.  Even if you are making money, you have to ask could you do it more effectively, efficiently and with greater sustainability?

New methods may be appropriate for your organization—or you may be chasing rainbows.  Don’t simply follow every fad; consider which (if any) will work for you and especially your donors.  On the other hand, don’t dismiss something out of hand because it’s not tried and true.

In other words, fundraising is still what it’s always been—a mix of hard work and passion, with maybe a little magic thrown in.


Janet Levine works with nonprofits, helping them to increase their fundraising capacity.  Learn how she can help you and your organization at or email her directly at