Six Fundraising Universal Truths

By Heather Hill

Unexpectedly I was in a heated debate with another fundraising professional over how to reach nonprofit CEOs/Presidents/Executive Directors with a program to help them understand the basics of fundraising.

We sought to equip these vital leaders with basic knowledge to help them both understand and embrace (or, at least feel less afraid of) their role in fundraising, and to facilitate effective relationships between organizational leaders and fundraising professionals.

The contested issue: Universal truths about fundraising. Namely, whether universal truths about fundraising even exist!

To me, this was obvious. Of course, there are core elements of fundraising that hold true regardless of organization type or size. 

Aren’t there?

The counterargument was that leaders are different, fundraisers are different, organizations are different, internal policies and procedures are different, missions are different, and donors are different. What works in one situation probably will fail somewhere else. This person asserted that he had served as a consultant for high-powered executives at big nonprofits and there was nothing one could have learned from another.

Maybe I am biased. As a Certified Fundraising Executive, I had to take an exam that tested my knowledge of fundraising practice–an exam offered in 80+ different countries as a required step in obtaining the only globally recognized fundraising credential.

That exam with questions about fundraising is globally applicable. Further, there’s a fundamentals course offered by the largest professional association of fundraisers.

Are there any fundraising universal truths?

It seems like there was confusion over principles of fundraising and application of them. A matter of “What vs. how.” For example, the preferred communication channel for one donor may not be the same as another, but the act of communicating gift impact and gratitude is still a need for both. 

I wasn’t swayed at the time of the disagreement and, after further consideration and contemplation, I continue to stand firm. There are truths that hold across differences.

Here’s a short list of universal truths about fundraising that organization leaders will want to know:

  • Fundraising is a process, not a transaction.
  • Relationships matter.
  • Relationships take time.
  • Relationships require two-way engagement.
  • Donors give for their own personal reasons. Not yours.
  • Ethics are not an area of compromise.

Strategies might vary but the truths upon which they are based do not. 

Worth knowing, whether you’re the CEO, a CFRE or an entry-level fundraiser.

We welcome your comments about this post on the LAPA blog.

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