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Don’t Confuse Fundraising with Finding People to Ask for Money

A lot of nonprofit organizations come to me wanting me to help them get new donors. Sometimes they want me to just hand them big donors.

Let’s be clear: that’s not my job as a consultant.

My job is to train and coach your organization’s leadership to build a strong donor program that attracts and retains donors who connect with your organization and your mission.

I help your organization’s leaders understand fundraising frameworks and structures, implement data-proven best practices, create systems that ensure that your individual donor fundraising program runs smoothly, and build their skill and confidence.

This means helping everyone within your organization understand what fundraising is. And what it isn’t.

Fundraising isn’t going out and finding people to ask for money.

Fundraising is about building relationships with people who want the kind of impact your organization is offering. And then making sure you’re asking them for donations when they’re ready to give.

No one can hand that to you. You need to build it.

And a donor program that grows your organization requires more than just asking for money.

It took me a long time, as an Executive Director of small political advocacy organizations, to stop focusing on getting new donors and focus on building a fundraising program.

So I know exactly where organizations are coming from when they ask me to find them magical donors giving magical money. (And I had board members who expected the same thing.)

When I started as an Executive Director, my organization was losing donors. For a number of prior years, there had been year over year decline in the number of donors and how much they were giving.

The trend was not good. And I was forecasting significant impact on the organization’s ability to do its work and fulfill its mission.

Getting new donors seemed like the obvious solution to a very big and impending problem.

And it is part of the solution. But a smaller part than you might think for established organizations.

And it’s a much smaller part of the solution if your organization has been around for a few years and has never built a donor strategy to attract and retain your donors.

If you don’t have that in place, you’re just leaving money on the table.

Because your next major donor is already giving to you.

And if you aren’t focusing your fundraising program on taking good care of your donors, then you are losing donors every year who could be helping you build your organization.

Including those next major donors.

Getting a major gift takes, on average, 18-24 months. And those are months of relationship building and cultivation.

These aren’t months of passively waiting as you check off your calendar.

These are months of getting to know your donor and understanding what they care about and how to talk about your work to them in a way that resonates.

These are months of regular communications, sharing exciting news and great outcomes.

These are months of time invested in a fundraising program that will not have immediate returns but will have long-term impact on your organization’s sustainability.

And investing that time is well worth the outcome of an organization growing in financial strength and impact.

If you want to grow your donor program, it’s time to invest in doing it right. Are you ready? Let's find a time to talk.


Megan Amundson is a nonprofit consultant who trains and coaches leaders of small and medium-sized nonprofits to raise more money from individuals.

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