Do It Yourself Fundraising

Guest Post by Marc A. Pitman

Nonprofit fundraising isn’t impossible. It can be an incredibly exciting adventure. Here is a simple plan I recommend to my clients. It can get you off to a good start and keep being used for years to come. To keep it easy, I implore them to “Get R.E.A.L.”

Get R.E.A.L.

The basic model I use for asking is the acronym R.E.A.L.: Research, Engage, Ask, and Love.

RESEARCH: Ironically, the first step of research is to find out how much you need to raise. This may seem obvious but my experience is that most never put a specific dollar amount on their need!

Once that need is determined, it’s important to research how many gifts you’ll need. If you’re attempting to raise $100,000, the knee-jerk reaction is “We just need to find 100 people to give us $1,000.” But decades of fundraising experience show that that simply isn’t how it works. Instead, use a helpful tool like a gift grid. You can make one for free at

As you’re building your prospect list, you’ll want to continue your research. Google can be an incredibly helpful tool. So can your board members and development committee.

ENGAGE: I like to think of this as the dating part of the relationship. It’s important to get to know your prospects before you “pop the question.” While you’ll certainly want to share the story of your cause, take time to get to know them-listen to their story, discover their interests, hear their goals.

ASK: The number one reason people don’t give money to your cause is that they are not asked. If you’ve done the first two steps, this step will be quite fun. You’ll already have the odds in your favor. You know that they are predisposed to saying “yes” and you’ll have had time to shape the ask around their passions. (For more information read How to Ask Anyone for Anything).

LOVE: I originally called this step Live/Like/Love. Loving is easy if the prospect says “yes” when you’ve asked. You simply need to be sure to thank them about seven times before you ask them again.

Fundraising is all about building relationships. The work really starts if they’ve said “no.” The big thing is to not burn any bridges. If you made it all the way to the ask, you had good reason to believe they’d say yes. People will remember you if you’re exceptional at handling a “no.” The timing simply might not have been right. If you keep in touch with them, they just may give in the future.

This process may sound simple, and it should. But it’ll take lots of work to get it done. Be sure to read 5 Things You Need to Know About Individual Fundraising to learn more about building these types of connections.

Remember, every year more than $300 billion is given to nonprofits in the USA alone. Your nonprofit could definitely get a piece of those philanthropic dollars. But you need a realistic goal, a compelling story, and a disciplined approach to fundraising. These simple four steps provide the disciplined approach.

What step do you think you nonprofits need to work on the most?

Marc A. Pitman is the author of Ask Without Fear! and an internationally recognized fundraising trainer. He’s also the founder of The Fundraising Coach, a site with hundreds of free articles to help you raise money for your nonprofit. There you can also sign up to receive his free bi-weekly email newsletter.