Fundraising is a learnable skill. There are do’s and don’ts. But the key in successful and sustainable fundraising is actually having strong relations with your donors. And that’s not a party trick or something you can create overnight. It’s something you need to invest time and effort in, consistently, strategically and persistently over a longer period. So here’s my Fundraising 101: invest in relations with your donors.

Relations with donors?

Donors are people. They’re not wallets or ATMs or walking cheques. They are not their money. It’s important to keep that in mind. Sometimes we focus so much on our need for money that we can overlook the fact that the person holding the money we want is a person, too. Someone who wants to feel seen and heard as a person, Instead of as a keeper of money that belongs to you (in your mind).

Donors dream

Your donor has dreams. The more their dreams and your vision and mission are aligned, the higher the chance your donor will contribute. The only way to know their dreams is … to know them. To take an interest in them and to listen to them.

Donor mismatch

If they care with all their heart for animals, your work supporting human rights activists doesn’t speak to them. They may think it’s important. But their dream is to create a better life for animals. And so if they’re able to donate, they will donate to an organisation working for animals.



Respecting a donor’s dream

If a donor tells you they love animals and want to support animal welfare organisations – accept and respect this. If your work is for human rights activists, these people are not your donors and that’s OK. They are good people. Your work is good. It’s just not a match.

Respecting a donor’s position

Maybe your donor tells you they cannot donate now. That’s OK, too. They may have things going on in their lives that make it not the right moment for them. Never tell a donor they can – or should – donate, after they told you they cannot. Just because they may have money to buy food or go to the cinema doesn’t mean they’re obliged to give that money to you instead.


Remember, you don’t know their situation. Maybe they’re celebrating the end of a bad period with a night out – after years and years of nothing. You don’t know and it’s not your position to judge.

Make it your business to know all you can

Make it your business to know all you can about your donors. What are their dreams? How do they see your work? What appeals to them? Where do they see overlap between your work and their dreams?

But also: what kind of people are they? Where do they like to hang out? What hobbies do they typically have?

With this information you may be able to find more people like them, who could also be interested and able to support your work.

Real interest

Building strong relations as key to fundraising success only works if it’s based on real interest. And if you’re really interested in the person who happens to be (maybe) your donor, everything else follows easily from there. It’ll not be hard to respect whatever they say. Conversations flow more easily (even if you’re an introvert – listening is key anyway!).

Consistently, strategically, persistently

If you take a real interest in your donor as a person, it’s easy to treat them as a human being consistently. (Instead of eyeing their money only). Consistent interest will help you generate information and data that you can use for strategic decisions. Where to go to find more great donors? How to address them? And also: planning out your communication with your donors strategically. But you’ll also need persistence in this. You’ll need to keep going even if you don’t see success straightaway. Just like you cannot speak a foreign language perfectly in 5 minutes – building a solid relation with your donors takes time. Give yourself grace for that.

How I can help

Grab my free resource Build a Solid Base for your nonprofit:

If you’re looking for ways to generate money that’s not from donors, check out my workshop 7 ways to generate unearmarked income for your nonprofit. It’s available on demand – so you can jump right in and get going! You can find it here:

Watch my video to learn How to build strong relations with your donors.

Want to know more and ask questions?

If you want to discuss this more and maybe share your donor outreach plans – jump into my nonprofit support community and get input from a wide range of peers and from myself!

Here is how you can join my free nonprofit support community

You can join my free nonprofit support community on the Heartbeat platform here. This group is a safe space for open exchange and discussion on potentially sensitive topics like boards, nonprofit management, fundraising, etc.

You can visit the community via a browser or via an app. Here is the link to download the Heartbeat chat app in the Google Play store.

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