This book is dedicated to the thousands of professional fundraisers and tireless volunteers who I have had the privilege of working with over the course of my career.
The Vigilant Fundraiser got its start as the 12-Step Fundraising Program. Over the years I have developed a number of best practices I consider integral to the success of a fundraising program. I want to thank Jim Hilborn for encouraging me to take the program and create this book.
This is where it all started for me. It was one of the first things I learned as a fundraiser, and to this day I think it’s both powerful and yet simple. You want to be a successful fundraiser? This is where you start: with a case for support; with leadership; your donor prospects and an executable plan to make it all happen.
When doing any kind of presentation, I still tend to structure the talk around these four headings. For me, it succinctly tells the story of how we get “from here… to there.”
You also could consider this the core of the 12-Step Fundraising program. Somewhere along the way I realized that while Case-Leadership-Prospects-Plan were the anchors or starting point for the work I was doing, there was more to the fundamentals of fundraising that needed to be documented.
Fundraising is an organic process. You don’t reinvent the wheel around the core activities of fundraising. You will find more success once you understand that there is a fundraising wheel and the 12-Step Fundraising program is what the wheel looks like. What is needed in managing this process is vigilance.
A vigilant fundraiser will look for opportunities within the 12 steps that allow you to set your organization apart from all the others who do what you do. There is logic to what we do. I want to help fundraisers be more logical in their approach to revenue development. Being vigilant means using all the steps; executing 7 steps out of 12 isn’t going to cut it. Recognize cause and effect. If your donations are declining, it means you aren’t being vigilant.
Competition for both the dollar and the volunteer is high. Now, more than ever, is the time for being strategic and more logical to save time and money. When I first came onto the fundraising scene in the early 80’s there was very little competition. Now every fundraising initiative needs to have a communication or awareness-building component to it. That starts with a Case for Support — Step 1.
And talking about volunteers…well, it’s all about the volunteers as far as I’m concerned. We need volunteers! Our volunteers act as door openers when an organization can’t afford major gifts officers, they are our board members and our ambassadors in the community. They provide history and continuity when staff moves on and they are often the life-blood that fuels an organization to grow and achieve.
I don’t claim to have all of the answers, but the successes I’ve achieved have been accomplished through trial and error and applying a common sense approach to what I do. I have been using and sharing a philosophy — articulated in the 12-Step Fundraising program — for many years. In publishing this book, I wanted to give back what I’ve learned and encourage a best-practice approach with as many organizations as possible.
I approached this project as I do much of my work — by recruiting a team of skilled professionals who bring experience and passion to the challenge at hand. Thank you to Victoria White, John Phin, Jennifer Hilborn, Sarah Varley, Gina Eisler, Lee Pigeau, Liz Rejman, Paul Nazareth, Peter Barrow, Ed Sluga, John VanDuzer and Jim Watson for contributing their talent and time to this book.
These veteran nonprofit gurus understand that success depends on doing more with less. I think you’ll find that in most professions, those who find success do so by keeping their eyes open and an ear to the ground. In my experience, the same can be said for the vigilant fundraiser.
It’s not work if you love what you do.