Five Tips for Fundraising Leaders

Over the years, through personal experience and observation of good and not so good practices, Howard has learned a few things about being effective and comfortable in the role of a fundraising leader. Here are his top five tips:

  1. It’s not about you. Fundraising shouldn’t be about you personally, or even about your institution. It should be about what your organization can do in the world, in partnership with a donor. Your role is catalyst and facilitator.  Because you are representing a mission, you are not begging. You can and should be proud of the work you are doing. You are making the world a better place, and giving other people the opportunity to join you in that effort.
  2. Everyone’s a fundraiser. Your organization, top to bottom, is a sales team. Because critical donor interactions can begin with anyone, every staff member and volunteer must believe in your mission, and feel a part of fundraising efforts—even if that’s not in their formal job description. 
  3. You’re the model. Look at your own attitudes and behaviors, because people are taking their cues from you. Remember: a leader is someone whom people want to follow. That’s especially important to remember when volunteers are involved.
  4. To be a good leader, listen. That also holds for donor interactions. I like how my grandmother put it: “God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason. And, if you try to talk out of both sides of your mouth to make up for it, that won’t work.”
  5. It should be fun! If it isn’t, you’re playing the wrong role, or not doing it right. I have a horror of cold calls; I like lots of information. Well, the people around me understand this, and help me with it. An executive director I know is fabulous at generating excitement and winning supporters, but can’t make an ask to save his life. Again, he gets the help he needs: a development officer is always close at hand when it comes time to make that ask.
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