Book: 8 Simple Steps to Grow Your Donor Base

  • 2015-08-26 10.19.22Have you ever wished that you could avoid (or at least minimize) challenges that you’re facing in developing a solid fundraising base or your organization?
  • Do you feel like you’ve been hitting your head against a brick wall when it comes to getting the first gift – or to engaging your board in the fundraising process?
  • Have you ever been concerned that people in your community just don’t ‘get’ what you do?

There is a better way. This book is a primer to help you overcome these – and many other – challenges. It offers practical advice, step-by-step processes, and insight in to the minds of your supporters and board members.

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You can make a difference in your community and the lives of those you serve – and this book will show you how.

When I started as a Development Director twelve years ago, I wished that there was a book like this one. One that would provide an overview of a development program and help me step-by-step through the process. After I completed developing an online training program, I realized that I had all the content to develop that book for others who are new to the field. I hope this book will help you grow a sustainable fundraising program that will allow you to serve those in need of your assistance. I also hope that it will help make advanced fundraising strategies available to organizations that may not otherwise be able to access those strategies.

Before we dive in to the technical aspects of fundraising, there is one thing I need to say – if there’s just one thing you remember from this book, I hope that it’s this: that fundraising is really an honor – it’s a privilege. And it’s not about the money.

As development professionals, we get to help make people’s dreams come true. People come – with funds that they want to give to a good cause – and with causes that they’re passionate about and goals that they want to accomplish. They are able to do accomplish their goals and dreams through the programs nonprofit organizations offer. It’s truly an honor and a privilege to work with donors to help them accomplish their life goals (and help our community at the same time). It’s really about the mission – and not about the money.


The first chapter provides an overview of the state of giving in the United States as well as an overview of a fundraising program. The next chapter contains information to help you review your vision and the mission. The vision is really the core of your fundraising program (if we don’t know where we’re going, it’s hard to convince other people to come alongside us and join us in the cause). Therefore having your vision clear will make raising major gifts much easier.

The case statement is the document that you’ll be taking out with you when you meet with major gift prospects to talk with them about the organization and the role you are hoping they will play in it. A better name for it could be ‘Your Story.’ The case statement encapsulates the vision and mission, along with information about the programs, organization and leadership of the organization. It also includes information about how the money will be spent and how the community will be positively impacted. This chapter provides guidance for developing this important document.

During the audience section, we talk about narrowing your focus down to specific groups of people – as well as specific individuals. Be prepared to think about specific people and how you might approach them.

Awareness covers many different strategies you might use to raise awareness of your organization. It also helps you focus in on those specific people you are trying to reach.

The next chapter includes information about inviting people to join in your efforts, primarily by asking for a gift. This focuses in on sitting down in-person with someone to ask for a gift. We also cover some cultivation strategies. Rarely will you ask for a large gift on a first visit. You’ll need to spend some time getting to know your potential donor and make sure that your organization is a good fit for them and their philanthropic goals.

The seventh chapter covers the fundraising plan and how to pull it all together. That includes everything from the first six weeks and creating a plan with everything broken down in to a specific time frame with assignments related to who has responsibilities for each step.

And then, finally, the last chapter: working with volunteers and staff. This includes recruiting people to work with you on the fundraising plan as well as engaging your organization’s board of directors to work with you (on both developing and implementing the plan.

There is one recurring theme that I hope you will notice as we go through these materials: everything needs to be donor-centered rather than organization-centered. Fundraising is primarily about helping our donors accomplish their life goals.