Getting It Right

Successful fundraising is a matter of getting a lot of things right.  Having the right person asking the right prospect for the right project at the right amount at the right time. This is true regardless of what kind of fundraising you are doing.  What changes is the definition of what is right.

For example, to get a corporate gift, the right person is typically someone high up in that corporation, while the right person for a major gift is a peer of that right prospect. The right person for an appeal, on the other hand, could be a client, a program manager, a board member.  Usually—though this is often who signs the appeal—it is NOT the director of development.

The job of the development team—which should include board members—is to figure out what is right for every situation.

Right prospects are not just those who are wealthy.  They are the people who are passionate about what you do.  The right amount for that prospect just might be a great deal more than their last gift.  But for that to happen, you have to be clear what it is—the project—they want to support.

Timing, of course, is always critical in fundraising.  I once had a scheduled solicitation meeting with a couple who had given all kinds of positive signals about their intention to be a lead gift for our campaign two days AFTER the man was summarily fired from his high-paying job. Clearly, timing was not ideal, and indeed, though the meeting was kept and their interest still high, the consummation of the gift took 17 more months.

Too often, those involved in raising the funds don’t spend the right amount of their time ensuring that all these rights are aligned.  Joe and Selma have been making an annual gift of $1,000 for several years. This is good and a sign that they could be destined for bigger things.  However, deciding to get a meeting with them—which they happily accept because no one from the organization has been in contact with them before—and then asking them to support a pet project of yours (or your boss’s) to the tune of $100,000 may not be your smartest move.  Indeed, you need to make many moves before you get to that ask. And yet, I see this kind of fundraising (I call it “slash and burn”) all the time.

As you go forth to raise funds for your amazing organization, recognize that the right gift will come only after all those other rights are in place and you have taken the time to ensure they are and, even more importantly, that you know what is right for your donor.


Janet Levine Consulting works to move nonprofits from mired to inspired.  Get inspired at  Sign up for our newsletter and contact us for a free, 30-minute consultation.