Fundraising & Dating…a potential marriage?


by Tim Kennedy,  HUB Philanthropic Solutions

I recently read an article shared by a friend on the topic of dating. The article was based on a college story going back 20+ years dealing with a bad breakup then the ultimate avoidance of dating because of the fear of rejection and failure. The article went on to make the point that with rejection also comes opportunity and then ultimately success by getting back in the game which in this case the rejected had to call on quite the number of prospects to land the one.  I never really took into account how dating in many cases correlates very closely to the fundraising world, especially the solicitation process (albeit removing the intimacy aspect of it obviously!).

It may seem like a stretch to compare dating to fundraising but if you think about it through the lens as a fundraiser it actually makes a lot of sense. Effective dating starts with establishing a relationship, getting to know your date, learning details on their background, their education track, classifying their personality, identifying what their interests may be….all things we do when researching a current or prospective donor.

When it comes to stewardship, it’s really not much different. We have to show our suitor that we are interested in them and what they can bring to the table and to our relationship.

And then there is the reality of rejection and failure. We don’t land every gift. We don’t always have perfect solicitation calls (admit it, it’s true!) and we do get rejected from time to time (admit it again, it’s true!). However, with rejection comes opportunity to learn from the donor visit. Usually we get insight on how to improve for next time or what not to say or do again, and hopefully a chance to ask again at some point in the future. From the dating perspective, it’s no different as every interested person may not return a call, email or text, the first date isn’t perfect, breaking up happens and through it all we learn and get a better sense of what makes us happy and what we need to work harder on or avoid in a relationship.

As a fundraiser, we know all too well that the answer is “no” if you don’t make the ask. Fundraising success is built and based on a sound plan, great execution, close relationships and numbers….lots of them.  To execute any fundraising plan, it is subject to a numbers game as there must be a certain number of calls, visits and asks. Give them the chance to say no…don’t give them an out by not asking. All things one must do to land a date!

Whether you are in the camp that sees relationships as superior to numbers or in the camp that believes you can’t have numbers without relationships the bottom line is they are both necessities to be successful at growing the organization and having success with your fundraising.

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”

— Robert F. Kennedy


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