Getting Them Involved

I’m not a baby person. By that I mean, I am not a woman who sees babies and gets an irresistible urge to hold them.   That often translates to people thinking I don’t like kids. Which may hold some truth, but not completely. Anyway, so here I am at my daughter’s, with two-week-old twins. And the first day, there were so many other grasping hands, I saw but didn’t touch them. They were cute, in that newborn turtle way. But I didn’t feel for them what I feel for my 11-year-old grandson or his mother. The next day, it was me and my daughter for much of the day, so I changed diapers, burped babies, held them when they were fussy. And you know—suddenly they weren’t so turtle-like. In fact, I defy you to find cuter babies.

Being a tad bit obsessive, it reminded me of fundraising and why relational fundraising is so much more effective than transactional.

In transactional fundraising something happens—a mail appeal, an event, a tragedy that makes a lot of folks reach into their pockets—which triggers a response. Hopefully this response is a gift. And then it is over. People lose interest, move away, something else triggers their response.

But get them involved, and you’ll get them hooked. In fact, the more involved, the more hooked they will be.

As you develop your cultivation plan for each of your major prospects, consider what you might ask them to do as much as what you are going to do for them. For every event you invite them to, think about a more tactile way they can get involved. A tour is great; asking them to do something for your clients while on that tour (if possible, and not every nonprofit can do this) is even more effective.

I believe strongly that every cultivation move right from the start should include an ask. Not for money or to commit to a planned gift, but rather to do something for or with the organization.

“Can you introduce two others to our organization?” is terrific, especially if you follow up and have them be part of that introductory meeting. “Would you host a small event” or would you help out at something that is going on at your organization.

The point, of course, is that as with my grandchildren, the more your prospects and donors are involved, the more they will see your organization as “theirs” and the more they will want to ensure its sustainability and its safety.

And that will turn into more consistent and larger gifts.

Janet Levine works with nonprofits, helping them to increase their fundraising capacity and build stronger boards.  Learn more at or email her directly at