The Dynamic Fundraising Process is more art than science

The success of any robust and successful fundraising process centers on four basic steps. They hold true for all levels and types of fundraising, but they are particularly essential for any successful capital campaign or major gift program.

Fundraising is more of an art than a science.

Which means you have to use your intuition and common sense rather than some impersonal or overly mechanical system. It’s important that the process is genuine, sincere and donor-focused. It must, above all things, focus on the person — who they are and what they are interested in — long before the financial aspects of the process come into play.

In my opinion the best process for successful fundraising is somewhat mechanical by design. This mechanical process can only be effective if we focus on the person and not the wallet. This will help us focus on the relationship and not the transaction.

This is an incredibly important distinction because in the new economy, and the emerging online culture, personalized and customized marketing and fundraising will become the norm.

At the end of the day it’s really more about the relationship we develop than anything else.

So if we keep our fundraising process genuine and personal. Focused on the donor as a human being. If we do this we will be ahead of our peers who often view the donor as a private ATM machine that just keeps throwing off cash any time it is requested.

The four primary steps in the fundraising process can be boiled down to the following steps:


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. We may find the major donor prospects within the group of donors we already classify as “major donors prospects” but we need to look far beyond this group; there is often hidden capacity among donors that haven’t yet self identified with a larger gift. Our job is to dig into the other loyal, new and ongoing donors that have demonstrated affinity for the organization and have capacity but haven’t been given the appropriate opportunity to become a major donor. That’s why this step includes a qualification stage which may include comprehensive research and wealth screening of each prospect to determine capacity.


Cultivation of the prospect is the second step in the fundraising process. During this stage the prospective donor can be cultivated and nurtured for a potential solicitation. The solicitation might be in a month, or two years, but either way a well thought out strategy to bring that donor to the actual point of solicitation is critical. A process that is either too fast or too slow will both present problems. Too fast and we might offend the donor; too slow and we might miss an opportunity to a competing organization. This step may require months if not years of relationship building (cultivation) prior to even considering making the approach (solicitation). We can’t get discouraged. It is more similar to farming than anything else. Plant the seeds, cultivate the field, and be patient – but vigilant. This doesn’t mean we plant the seeds and step back — no we plant the seeds and like a good farmer we tend to the field with care, interest, concern, and respect for the circumstances surrounding us.


Solicitation of actual major gifts is the ultimate moment of truth in the fundraising process because it is the culmination of all your hard work. Unfortunately for many major gift officers this is the most difficult or anxiety driven step because asking for money isn’t easy for many people. But if the cultivation of the donor was done properly and the prospect was well prepared the solicitation the ask is much easier and quite enjoyable. It’s really just the icing on the cake; it’s the bountiful harvest and the tangible fruit of your hard work. At this stage the prospective major 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. This must be well orchestrated, very professionally and with a focus on the donor and their particular heart-felt interest. Yes, it’s ultimately about raising support for your cause but you have to connect the donor to the changed-lives in a demonstrable way. You must demonstrate how the donors support is going to directly impact people in a significant and meaningful way.


Stewarding the donor is critical to building goodwill and planting the seeds for future gifts and advocacy. 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. This area of fundraising is so critical to the long-term success of the fundraising program. People are very, very tuned into how they are treated by an organization — especially after a bog gift. No matter how good you are at what you do the donor has heightened expectations regarding how they want to be treated — even if they say they aren’t. We can’t overlook this fact. Bottom-line — thank your donors profusely; demonstrate to them how important they are to your organization and make them feel like they are true advocates of your organization.

Engage them for life not, a transaction!

For some further reading you can read another post in this blog: HERE