Fundraising How To: Support Your Fundraisers

During the Harvard Business School capital campaign, Howard earned – and wore proudly – the nickname “Professor Road Warrior,” logging approximately 1,000 one-on-one meetings, and speaking to more than 5,000 people in group settings on behalf of the effort.  

He is quick to point out, however, that he had lots of help, from a talented and tireless Development team as well as alumni, faculty, and HBS leadership.

Philanthropy is the lifeblood of many nonprofits, and fundraisers need support as they work to address the four big donor questions, and get people to give … and give again to your organization and cause. Here are some of the challenges, and how to address them.

“Are you doing important work?” challenges you to articulate what you do in a clear and compelling way; that requires effective communications and public relations. You also have to figure out who cares about your cause (“Are you doing work that is important to me?” is the real question); that requires good prospect research and analysis.

“Are you well managed?” challenges you to present a sustainable economic model; that requires industry knowledge and business expertise. Assuring donors of your organization’s integrity and fiscal responsibility also is critical; control systems and transparency in all financial matters are necessary to accomplish that.

“Will my gift make a difference?” challenges you to show your organization’s impact; getting beneficiaries in front of donors at meetings and events can help (e.g., SummerSearch students, NPR radio talent). Reassuring donors that their gifts will be and are being used as they intended requires good contract development, processing, and oversight.

“Will the experience be satisfying to me?” challenges you to pay attention to every step of the getting-to-giving journey; that requires hiring staff, recruiting volunteers and building a culture that values donors, and paying attention to details that may seem trivial to you but matter to the donor (e.g., dietary requirements at a dinner event).

The tables below summarize what we see as key fundraising support activities. Some are fundraising-specific, and some are foundational. Each of them has a role to play in individual fundraising success.


Depending on your organization’s size and structure, and your fundraising strategy, these activities may be performed by small or large development groups, people in other parts of the organization, or external partners, or volunteers. 

We clearly view fundraising support as a critical enabler rather than wasteful overhead. You obviously want to minimize costs, but the real key is to give your fundraisers what they need to be successful at raising money for your cause, now and into the future.

This entry was posted in Fundraising How To's. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.