Join With Me

You know this: Successful fundraising is about building relationships. And the best relationships are those between peers. That’s why volunteers are so critical to fund development and why organizations where Board members are partners in the development process are the most successful. The best ask is “Join with me,” and the best elevator speech is the one where a donor May I join you? shares his or her passion for the work being done with the potential supporter.

That’s why, whether you are staff or volunteer, you giving matters.

As a young development officer in an organization where fundraising was staff-driven, I found my first asks difficult. Both the donor and I knew that this was my job and that made my ask less than compelling.

Then I made a gift. Not a large one by my prospects’ standards, but definitely a stretch gift for me. Once I made that commitment, I found asking a whole lot easier.

The next gift I solicited was hundreds of times larger than the gift I had made. Still, I could say in all honesty that I had made a very significant commitment for me, and I hoped that we could count on the prospect to do the same.

They did, and months later admitted that the fact that I had made a large (for me!) gift definitely influenced theirs.

The communal aspects of fundraising is one reason I always suggest that my clients ask both their staff and their clients to give. I encourage this even when staff is underpaid and when clients are at or even below the poverty level.

Size of gift really does not matter. What matters is being able to say to donors (and funders, especially) that the work your organization does is so important that your staff and your clients consider it a privilege to support the organization. And you are asking this donor to join with you and them in making a gift.

My best boss used to tell her staff that she would never ask us to do anything she wouldn’t do herself. That statement—and the proof of the truth of it—made her staff extremely loyal. We never complained about what we had to do—we knew that our boss was right there with us, and that made us want to make her proud.

Likewise with giving. While commitment to your cause or organization is critical, so is making your donors feel that they are part of a larger community. Join with me is the best way to express that community—and to invite them to be a part of something larger and more important than their one gift.


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