The four steps of the fundraising process

There are four basic steps to any success fundraising process. They hold true for all levels and types of fundraising, but they are particularly essential for a successful capital campaign.

In my opinion, fundraising is more of an art than a science – which means you have to use your heart, intuition and common sense rather than some impersonal, mechanical process.

That being said, the generally accepted process for successful fundraising is somewhat mechanical by design– but– and its a big but – this “mechanical” process can only be effective if we focus on the person and not their wallet. This will force us to focus on the relationship and not the transaction. At the end of the day its really all about the relationship and nothing else. If we add to the process a genuine and personal interest in the donor as a human being we will be far ahead of our peers who often view the donor as a private ATM machine that just keeps throwing off cash any time it is needed.

Identification – Identifying potential donors is the most essential aspect of any fundraising campaign. It is an obvious point yet it isn’t always considered the keystone of the fundraising process; without prospects there can be no solicitation. This step also includes a qualification stage which includes comprehensive research and wealth screening of each prospect/donor to determine capacity and propensity.

Cultivation – Cultivation of the identified prospect is the second most important step in the fundraising process. During this stage the prospective donor is cultivated and nurtured for the potential solicitation. Too fast or too slow can both present problems. This step may require months if not years of relationship building (cultivation) prior to even considering making the approach (solicitation).

Solicitation – Solicitation of actual gifts is the single most difficult part in the fundraising process. At this stage the prospective donor is approached with a specific request for support, usually in the form of financial support, although it could be a request for a gift-in-kind. Typically the solicitation meeting, or series of meetings, is handled by two or more people – one of which is the person that made the introduction. This must be orchestrated very well.

Stewardship – Stewarding the donor is critical to building good will and planting the seeds for future gifts. During this stage the donor’s gift is acknowledged and the donor is also regularly informed of the progress of the project and the results that were attained from their individual gift. Donors of all levels need to be stewarded to varying degrees depending on their level of financial commitment and involvement.