Confessions of a Development Director: I Googled “How to Fundraise”

confessions of a development director fundraising Aug 09, 2021

I am excited to bring you a series entitled “Confessions of a Development Director.” In this series, I share with you emails between me and real-life development directors about the struggles they don’t want their boss to know they have. My email inbox is a safe place where fundraising professionals can as the questions they need to without shame or judgment, AND get the answers. If you would like to make a confession and/or ask a question – email [email protected]. Identities are, as always, confidential. 



I am the director of development at a relatively large Catholic nonprofit. We are extremely tight on budget and it gets tighter by the year and the month. I am afraid of losing my job. I have no idea what I can do to increase fundraising. I am so desperate I even Googled “how to fundraise.” Please help.



Thank you for your question. You are more “normal” than you feel right now. When I was starting out in fundraising back in 2006 and I had to raise money I did the same thing. If you are a seasoned professional, with years of experience under your belt and you are googling this, it's probably for a different reason. Sometimes when we work in a nonprofit we get so close to our organization, to the day-to-day, to the donors, and to the mission that we “can’t see the forest for the trees.” Our perspective is limited looking from the ground. We need a drone.



First, Review the Fundraising Framework – This is the 30,000-foot view -- the four key areas to build if you want to increase giving: 

  • Identify new prospective donors
  • Enter info into and make use of a decent donor management solution
  • Communicate effectively
  • Thank donors and volunteers.

You can download the framework and a quick homemade mini-course here.

Next, Improve One Thing For Each of the Four Areas: Come up with one thing you can do to improve each of the four key fundraising areas immediately. It will take 12-24 months for the fundraising framework have exponential effects, but if you wait that long you can't afford to kick the can down the road any longer. This is the long-term solution and this is your friend. Implementing in these four key areas will give you momentum and small victories that will encourage you to keep going. A lapsed donor reengaged, a donor who refers a friend, a monthly donor who increases… these small victories will reward you as you execute. You WILL get quick results, but they will be self-sustaining over time.

Finally, Get Your Boss on Boss or Board: Present your new framework with one idea in each area to your boss (President, ED, Board, etc.). You seem to be concerned that you may lose your job - but the first two steps in staying employed are having a plan and executing said plan. It is my experience that for development professionals with an executable plan, creating a steady, reliable revenue stream separate from existing gifts and grants can help nonprofits not only meet immediate needs, but also expand their programs, be more self-sufficient, and plan for the future. Executable plans are especially valuable during uncertain times like these.