Trust is the word of the day.  It is the fundraiser’s most important attribute. Trust is critical in every juncture in a relationship with a donor.

138 Winter QuartersTrust comes into play when a donor is considering:

  • whether to welcome you to her home when you call to ask for an appointment
  • how much to reveal about the complexity of her family tree and the money that grows on different branches
  • how much to show you her excitement about your organization’s work
  • how to respond to a solicitation
  • when she is deciding what names to give you when asked for other prospective donors

In other words, every time you turn around, the donor determines how much room you have to maneuver based on how much she trusts you.

If you attend first to being worthy of a donor’s trust, everything else will be a lot easier.

Philanthropy and indulgence


Pope Leo XWhen Pope Leo X (whose birthday was earlier this week) rebuilt the Basilica of St Peter, he had a trick up his embroidered sleeve.  He offered indulgences (essentially the forgiveness of sins) in exchange for contributions.  History does not look kindly on him.

21st century fund raisers don’t tend to offers escape from hellfire in exchange for a donation.  But we are in the spirituality business.

There is no shortage of marketeers trying to persuade each of us that we will be happier if we buy their product.  “You deserve it” is a refrain that we hear with mind numbing frequency about a vast array of THINGS.

Yet, over and over again, people stare at that dollar which they earned or inherited — that dollar which is safely in their own possession — and decide to put it to work making the world a better place for someone else.

And we fund raisers are the conduits of that decision.  We do not make the decision, but we invite, encourage, facilitate, honor, recognize, and celebrate it.

The literal meaning of philanthropy – the love of humankind – seems more and more aptly to describe the business we are in.  So take a moment away from reconciling bank deposits, entering gifts in your database, and mail-merging thank you letters.  And bask in the delight of knowing how important you are.



The Importance of Being Flummoxed – When the Road of Cultivation is Blocked

There are times in your cultivation journey, my friend, when you will run into a brick wall.  When you get mixed signals from the prospective donor, or no signals.  When the prospect is not telling you to go away, but not inviting you closer, either.  It might be tempting to second guess every contact you have had.  It might be tempting to delete the prospect from your list.  I recommend a third alternative, which is to park the prospect with a “flummoxed” label, which is number seven of the six stages of cultivation.

Keep in mind that the universe is fluid.  Maybe there is someone in your network that is in the prospect’s network, but you don’t know it yet.  Maybe an event in the prospect’s life will suddenly make your organization more attractive.  Maybe an event in the organization’s life will give you a new reason for reaching out.

Flummoxed is not a comfortable state of mind, but if you can tolerate it, an exit will often present itself.