The 11 Pillars of Fundraising Wisdom

Here are a few tips from Ken Burnett on fundraising that we want all charities to keep in mind. Print it out and stick it on the office fridge!


Never forget that people give to people, not organizations, plans, strategies, or proposals.

Blindingly obvious, of course, but so frequently forgotten by your competitors that it’s worth keeping at the front of your mind. Focus always on the ‘people’ aspects, one person helping another in need. Make everything you send specific and personal, true one-to-one communication.


Everything derives from your mission.

Remember Walt Disney’s instruction to his managers, to build Sleeping Beauty’s palace first, so that everyone would constantly and clearly see the dream.


There is much more fundraising than money.

If you start by asking for money you won’t get it and you won’t deserve it. Focus instead on needs and achievements, on reporting back of results promptly and effectively. Learn to say ‘thank you’ and ‘welcome’ quickly and well, for these can be the fundraiser’s most effective tools.


At the heart of fundraising there must be integrity and trust.

Cultivate and build these in everything you write, or say, or do. Remember you don’t enhance trust and confidence by irritating people.


Fundraising is more about inspiring than about asking.

We have the best stories in the world to tell and the best of reasons for telling then. So our motto should be ‘The truth, told well’. Never send donors anything that isn’t inspirational. And cultivate in your organization the lost art of storytelling. Fundraisers should be the world’s best storytellers.


Donors will give more for longer if they feel good about their giving.

Always be a pleasure to do business with. Seek to delight your donors, not just to please them.


Be aware that people support nonprofits in spite of as much as because of fundraisers

(this is not so much to remind you to be modest about your role in the scheme of things, but to warn against the dangers of how your professionalism might be perceived through your donor’s eyes). At all costs avoid slick marketing and the hard sell. Make effective communication the heard of your fundraising strategy.


Respect your donors, for they are wise, generous and kind.

Never take them for granted – they don’t have to do this.


Be a wise and prudent steward.

Practice accountability and take it to your donors continually and consistently. Really believe in your donor service. Always go a bit further than they might reasonably expect.


Let your sincerity and your commitment show.

Donors too often perceive fundraising as a professional art. You will gain much if you show donors that your enthusiasm for and commitment to the cause are every bit as deep as theirs.


Learn the art of listening and cultivate the ability to really hear.

Show your responsiveness by acting upon what you are told.


What would you add to the list? Send us a note.