Fundraising for Nonprofits

Inspiring Gifts that Transform

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Everything you know about fundraising is wrong

If you think fundraising is merely raising about money, you really are missing the point. The inspired fundraiser understands her job is to foster greater generosity and gratitude in the world. Development is simply the building of valued-based relationships between prospective donors and organizations. Fundraising is a vehicle for donors to act on these values, bringing joy to themselves and others.

I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Truth is there is no lack of money for good causes. According to Giving USA, last year $295 billion was given away to nonprofits in the U.S. Over 83%, or $245 billion, came from individuals. All research indicates that individual can provide nonprofits with stable and flexible sources of funding, even in times of recession. The single largest barrier to raising money is your own lack of belief in yourself, donors and your good cause. The first step is healing your own negative relationship to money, power and privilege. If you are having trouble raising money from others, let me suggest you start by increasing your own donation.

It is also a mistake to think you must know rich people to succeed as a fundraiser. You already know everyone you need to get started. The fact is that low- and middle-income folks give at a higher percentage of their incomes than those of upper incomes. Successful fundraisers welcome donors of all levels. Statistically speaking the regular, small annual fund donor is the best planned giving prospect.

Too many of us have forgotten that the ancient practice of giving and receiving of gifts has the power to transform the lives of individuals, institutions and communities, and even connect us to what is divine in the world. Fundraisers can:

  • Help those in need to break free of the cycle of poverty, violence and oppression they might face, reminding them there are those who still care.
  • Help donors express personal values, developing a sense of abundance and generosity by learning they have enough to share.
  • Reduce isolation in communities by connecting people who share common values, providing them opportunities to organize for social change.
  • Create sustainable financial support for organizations that have strong community need, yet often little or no perceived for-profit market value.
  • Through opening hearts to the cycle of giving and receiving, connect people to something larger than themselves, which is the core of every spiritual tradition.
Think about the last time you wrote a donation check or spent time volunteering at a nonprofit? How does it make you feel months or even years later to remember? Isn’t this one of the best feelings? Don’t you want everyone else to feel as you do right now? You can. All you need do is ask them for a gift.

You see, asking for help is one of the best ways you can tell someone they are important to you. If you decide to not ask, perhaps you think they are not rich enough or do not care enough about the issue. You may think you are protecting them. In fact, you’ve taken away one of their most valuable rights: their right to choose. The truth is, people only rise to the level of expectations we place them. To succeed as a fundraiser you don’t need to change donors, only your belief in them.

The inspired fundraiser provides donors an opportunity to put their values into action, to become the hero of their own life story, and to make their dreams for a better world come true.

So let me ask you. When you ask someone for a donation, whose gift is bigger: their’s or yours?

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At 8:13 AM , Blogger Maya said...


I think this post is point perfect in its content and your articulation of the idea. I'm glad to have read it. Thank you.

Maya Norton

The New Jew: Blogging Jewish Philanthropy

At 8:16 AM , Blogger David Stoker said...

Right now I'm working at Ashoka and they have a program that is trying to change the way we think about fundraising. The other day I was working on a case study of a group in South Africa that has been quite creative in inspiring participation and involvement from the community which has led to a high level of sustainability.

At 12:44 PM , Blogger Gayle said...

Maya and David,

Thanks for your kind words and comments. Good to know that there are inspired fundraisers like you two out there.


At 6:50 PM , Blogger Rachel said...

Hi Gayle,

This is beautiful in the ideas it presents and is quite educational for my colleagues working alongside me. I am fundraising right now for an all-volunteer run non-profit with no track of support- it's our first ever event. We are experiencing a tremendous outpouring of support for our cause (animals at the Oakland Shelter). We have been passionate (and smart) about who we approach and have been astounded by the amount of support we are getting. That's the evidence that it really IS about spirit and what's in the heart of the one being asked. As a main driver of all this, the river in MY heart may in fact be longer than our donors list!
-Rachel Medanic Working on behalf of SWEET on Feb. 15th for Friends of the Oakland Animal Shelter.

At 8:58 PM , Blogger Gayle said...


Sounds like you've already learned the most important lesson. If you fundraise from the heart, you can never go wrong. Keep up the good work!


At 5:33 PM , Blogger Jason said...

Great article. I think that we have forgotten about what the foundations of fundraising are. I have been thinking through a similar topic recently about should all donors be treated as major donors and will be pondering that in a couple of posts over the next week.

At 6:08 PM , Blogger Gayle said...

Thanks Jason, I look forward to reading your posts.


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