The Reason Why

You know this. Fundraising is not simply holding out your hand and asking for money. It’s not about telling someone (or some funder) about all your programs and how much you Questions?really need their support. It is about building relationships, getting the right people involved, finding out what they care about, and helping them toward making a gift that will meet their needs and desires, your needs and, critically, your clients needs. To do that, your fundraising must be intentional and your activities strategic and well planned. That’s why the most important question you can ask at every step of the way is: Why?

  • Why am I asking for this meeting?
  • Why does it matter?
  • To what end (why?) are we doing this or that?

Too often, we just plunge headlong into the pool. We will spend time thinking about what we are doing, but never consider why. A friend recently told me about a workshop she facilitated on planning. The activity she assigned to small groups was to plan a trip to New York. For five or six minutes, there was a lot of buzz around the room as people talked about air travel—whether to fly into Newark or JFK. Hotels—what part of town to stay in. And suddenly she heard someone ask the question she had been hoping for: Wait, came a voice from the center of the room. “Why are we taking this trip? If it’s a theater trip, I want to stay near Broadway, but if it’s for business, I need to know where say our conference will be and stay there.”

In other words, no reasonable planning could happen without knowing the why.

In fundraising, there are a lot of why’s you must be able to answer:

  • Why do I think this person is a prospect?
  • Why would they be interested in this project?
  • Why do I even think he or she might consider a gift of this size?

There are, of course, other questions that need to be asked:

  • Who is the best person to approach this prospect?
  • What is the best way to get him or her involved
  • When should we attempt to approach
  • Where should we try to have this meeting?
  • How should describe what we are trying to do?

In short, before you get to pop the question, “Will you consider a gift?” there are a lot of questions you first have to answer.


Janet Levine works with nonprofits, helping them to increase fundraising results. Learn more at While there, sign up for the newsletter and contact Janet for a free 30-minute consultation.