Fundraising Isn’t Rocket Science, But It Demands Willpower


“So, what do you do for a living?”

“I’m a fundraiser.”

“You mean you ask people for money? I could never do that.”

Does this conversation sound familiar? I typically have this conversation at least once a week … usually at a networking function with local business executives. What I find most ironic is that it’s typically a sales executive that is saying it, and guess what? We’re pretty much using the same skill set and process, just with some different nuance. I like to say that fundraising is simply sales for a higher cause than profit. But they don’t see it that way. It’s like they think fundraising is some kind of impossible rocket science that they could never master.

Well, the good news is that fundraising isn’t rocket science. There is a large body of best practices for fundraising success that anyone can learn. At its core, every component of successful fundraising comes down to:

1) Developing relationships; AND,
2) Creating and implementing the systems that make sure those relationships get built.

The key is that you have to do both #1 and #2. You have to do them both well. And you have to do them both at the same time. If you just develop relationships then there is no follow through or end goal. If you just develop systems and hang out in your database all day then you aren’t out developing relationships. You need both. You need to do them both well. At the same time.

But that’s it, period. Sure there are lots of other things that you CAN do to boost fundraising returns, but this is all that you HAVE to do. It’s definitely not rocket science, but it is difficult to master. It’s difficult because it takes a ton of willpower and persistence to keep pushing forward. This is especially true in small shops where there’s no one there to encourage you or to check in on your progress on a daily basis. The success all rides on you.

That’s where passion comes in. Working to raise dollars for a cause that you are incredibly passionate about often times doesn’t feel like work. And if it doesn’t feel like work, then that willpower is a heck of a lot easier to muster.

My new favorite response when someone says “You mean you ask people for money? I could never do that” is “Why, it isn’t rocket science … I just develop relationships for a cause that I’m deeply passionate about.” This typically leads into a much deeper conversation about philanthropy and civic duty and gets us back to what we should be doing a networking event, finding common ground.

“So, what do you do for a living?” …