How Fundraising Is The Opportunity Of A Lifetime

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give_away_heartPost written by Larry C. Johnson.

The initial reaction to my title will likely be somewhere between a sense of disconnect to outright disbelief. “You’re kidding, aren’t you?” or “An oxymoron” are likely comments. I stand by my choice. Raising funds for a charitable passion can—and should be—a golden opportunity for you, for those you ask and for those who will ultimately benefit from the cause itself.

How? It’s largely in your perspective and in how you set about accomplishing your task. When you’re asked to raise funds for a charitable cause or organisation, a reaction of anxiety or even outright dread is, too often, the rule. You have a lot of company in this regard. The anxiety you feel comes from a faulty paradigm or understanding of what charitable fundraising is really about, and the fundamental life forces that it sets into motion.

Fundraising Is About People

To place yourself in the right frame of mind, the most essential piece of the puzzle is to understand that fundraising really isn’t about money. Fundraising is about people, and the basic life values they share. Fundraising does involve some sort of monetary transfer, but the transfer, the gift or pledge is merely a material expression of something far more fundamental.

People make charitable gifts because they want to share in a worthy vision, which will help realise the values they hold closest. Fundraisers who appreciate this not only experience far less anxiety of the “ask” but also experience success much more often than those who do not.

Seen as an opportunity to join in a shared mission and vision of a better community, fundraising becomes philanthropy—giving for the love of humankind.

The Truth About Philanthropy

Philanthropy is bilateral, not a one-way transaction.   In this way, donors receive much more than they give. Fundraising that has philanthropy as its aim isn’t about taking or some sort of legitimised begging, it is offering another person the opportunity for self-realisation.

Sound a little high minded? It is. Moving your charitable fundraising activities to this plane and away from seeing it as a “transaction” or worse, an “extraction”, will produce both tangible and intangible results that will astound you.

When you set out to raise funds for a charitable cause or organisation, the most essential first step is to make a thoughtful gift yourself, first. Your passion and commitment must be real. Once you’re on board with a personal commitment, approaching another to ask them to share in your vision with the right frame of mind becomes a great deal easier.

Getting To Know The Giver

Get to know the individual whom you are approaching, even if only a little. Ask questions that avoid a “yes” or “no” answer. “What do you know of our project?” and “What are your own philanthropic priorities?” are questions that will open the door to a meaningful discussion that will reveal to you the individual’s potential interest before you even ask him or her.

By focusing on the other person’s values and needs, you place yourself in the role of offering them a worthwhile opportunity. Even if the answer is “no”, approached in this way, asking for a charitable gift becomes an opportunity to make a new friend. Remember, in philanthropy, “no’s” are hardly ever a firm no. They are more likely “not at this time”, “not in this way”, “not for this particular appeal.”

At the outset of this brief article, I asserted that fundraising isn’t about money but people. Money-or some sort of tangible asset—is involved but it should never be the focus. It’s one of those odd ironies of life, by placing your emphasis on the relationship; the mechanics take care of themselves.

Larry C. Johnson, CFRE, author of THE EIGHT PRINCIPLES OF SUSTAINABLE FUNDRAISING: Transforming Fundraising Anxiety Into The Opportunity Of A Lifetime, has 25 years of direct involvement with charitable fund development and nonprofit management, with 17 of those years at the senior executive level. For more information, please visit

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