7 Things the Best
Fundraisers Always Do (and One Never)

Susan E Mangels Senior Vice President Consulting Services at AC Fitzgerald Author

Susan E. Mangels, Ph.D, Senior Vice President of Consulting Services

Much of what highly effective fundraisers do isn’t necessarily rocket science. But good fundraising work is challenging and takes consistent focus, creativity, and fortitude.

We are busy. We’re pulled in many directions every day, so I thought I’d take a minute to think on the very basics of our craft.

What are some things I know to be consistently true about the best fundraisers?

  • They tend to proactivity and action. Top fundraisers are not passive. We are consistently focused on the next step to building a better relationship with each prospect or donor. And we take action!
  • They play the long game. We understand that securing a major gift or legacy gift takes time, and it is not always a direct, linear path to success. For example, a donor ‘no’ to a visit today is often really just ‘not now.’
  • The best fundraisers listen. To build a good relationship with donors, active and thoughtful listening is key. We have to really hear what the donor is saying. Eloquently explaining the case won’t matter much, if we have no idea what interests and intent are motivating our donor today.
  • They consistently execute small steps to get to the big ask. Big gifts come in after many many small steps and actions. Strategically planning cultivation and daily executing on the small steps will create success.
  • They maintain buoyance and resilience. Often prospects are difficult to reach and may even seem uninterested. And sometimes they give a real, hard no. But a successful fundraiser does not get discouraged or stop her consistent, thoughtful, and tenacious outreach.
  • The best focus on the important things and don’t get caught up in the urgent. Many tasks that make progress toward the next big gift are not ‘on fire,’ even if they are essential to making headway. The best fundraisers know this, and they don’t fall prey to the tyranny of the urgent.
  • And they always have unswerving integrity. The best in the business consistently follow through. They call when they say they will. They report and update as promised. And in so doing, they instill confidence and loyalty in their donors.

And as a motivational bonus … Good fundraisers NEVER forget the ‘why’ behind the money they are raising. Successful fundraisers always keep their eyes on the prize – the powerful impact that donor investments make possible.

Our consistent commitment to strategy, creativity, and fortitude isn’t always easy. But our good efforts are setting our organizations up for success. Carry on!

Susan E. Mangels, Ph.D. serves as Senior Vice President of Consulting Services at AC Fitzgerald. She uses her expertise in fundraising, management, and leadership development to oversee our consulting efforts and deliver exceptional service to clients.

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