The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Fundraisers

Every non-profit fundraiser is different. We each have different strengths and weaknesses, and we each have our preferred strategies and tactics. And that’s ok – every non-profit is different, each with their own unique development needs… thus, there’s room for almost every type of fundraiser imaginable.

What I have noticed, however, is that there are seven key traits that are shared by the most effective development professionals… those who are most likely to meet or exceed the goals laid out by their organizations. How many of these habits do you share with them?

1. They Pick Up the Phone

Every highly effective fundraiser I have ever met used the telephone as a primary fundraising tool. When they need to get in touch with a donor or prospect, they don’t send an e-mail first… they pick up the phone and make a call. Then they follow up with an e-mail.

Successful fundraisers love the phone because it puts them quickly and directly in touch with their donor and helps to build the relationship they have with the person on the other line in a way that e-mail cannot.

2. They Focus on Metrics

Good fundraisers know that they don’t have lots of time and resources to spare. They will never be able to get every possible fundraising activity done… so they have to spend their time doing what works. The only way to know what works, and what doesn’t is to track metrics and return on investment (ROI) for all fundraising tactics.

3. They Ask for Referrals

The single best way to generate new prospects for your non-profit is to ask your current donors, volunteers, board members and friends to introduce you to their network. Great fundraisers know this, and make it a point to ask board members and donors for referrals at least once per year.

4. They Diversify Revenue Streams

Woe to the non-profit that relies on just one or two revenue streams. When one of them dries up, the organization goes into a frenzy, programs suffer, and heads roll.

Highly effective fundraisers spend time and energy diversifying revenue streams for their organization. If the non-profit relies on grants and events, good development pros launch a major gift program or an annual giving campaign. Even within a singular tactic diversification is key. Thus, if the organization’s major donor program receives 50% of its funding from a single large donor, great fundraisers push to meet new prospects and increase major donor revenue streams.

5. They Strengthen their Board

Efficacious fundraisers know that their non-profit’s board of directors can and should be a major source of development support for the organization. For this reason, successful development professionals work hard to strengthen their board of directors.

In order to strengthen their boards, highly effective fundraisers provide training, support and encouragement to board members, organize board giving campaigns, and constantly seek out new supporters who are capable of joining the board and making a positive impact.

6. They Prioritize Work

Highly effective development professionals follow the 80/20 rule, and spend most of their time focused on those activities that offer the highest rewards for their non-profit. They test new things, keep what works and cut the rest. When they have too much work on their plate, they delegate what they can, and spend their time focused on the strategies that will raise the most for their organization over the long term.

7. They Practice Their Craft

Great fundraisers are constantly working to become better at what they do. This means that they read fundraising strategy guides, attend non-profit seminars, conferences and training opportunities, and work with their peers to practice things like making asks and writing better fundraising letters. Honing your skills can mean the difference between being a mediocre fundraiser and really knocking it out of the park for your organization.

Get Your Free Copy of How to Hold Great Fundraising Events

Sign up for The Fundraising Authority Newsletter, and getHow to Gold Great Fundraising Events your free copy of How to Hold Great Fundraising Events: A Step by Step Guide. This 10 page special report will guide you through the entire process of running a profitable fundraising event for your organization. Click here to get your free copy today!

Leslie Allen

I really like this list and I have one more to add. Highly effective fundraisers are voracious researchers and connectors. They want to know what their donors are into and how they can connect the dots to other prospects and new ideas. They are constantly building a web of support, opening new doors of opportunity for both the organization and its donors. That’s the real fun part! Thanks for the great post.

Heather Stewart

Great list – 3 and 4 are particularly crucial in finding donors and building a sustainable approach to fundraising.

I’d also say that good fundraisers are excellent communicators – particularly when it comes to listening: to donors, board members and other non-profit staff.

Thanks for posting!