Understanding the Difference Between Fundraising and Development

Sections of this topic

    “Development” is, by definition, the process of creating and enhancing relationships with (potential) donors to ensure current and future funding; “Fundraising” is only about income generation.

    With “Development,” with the relationships you create, you take a major step toward ensuring future income; with “Fundraising,” income generation focuses on “now,” with no provision, no assurance, and little or potential for the future.

    If people are giving provides the opportunity for them to feel good about helping to advance the organization’s mission and services, if they give because they want to please the person who is “asking,” because they want to see their name alongside the names of recognizable personalities, or if they want to see their name on (a floor, a wing, or on the outside of) a building, those reasons, for the most part, have to do with satisfying the needs of the donor.

    If you create/maintain relationships with donors, you increase the likelihood that they will continue to give — that’s “Development.” If all you do is “Fundraising,” you make it that much harder to ensure your organization’s future.

    Fundraising is like a band-aid, Development is closer to a cure.


    “Development” is more about people “giving” to an organization than it is buying a product, a recognition opportunity, or a ticket to an event. “Giving” implies not expecting anything in return … except for that “good feeling.”

    “Development” is also about understanding who your (prospective) (long-term) donors are, and what you have to do to get them to want to support your organization.

    Whether it’s a Corporation, a Foundation, a prospective Major Donor, or the recipient of a mass solicitation, they’re not going to write you a check if you don’t show them that doing so will satisfy their needs.

    Getting a Corporation to want to give to a non-profit is a simple matter of learning, understanding, and acting on the needs of the corporation and those of its decision-makers. Will supporting your NPO help the corporation’s marketing efforts and increase its revenue? Will supporting your NPO and espousing your cause make the corporate leaders look good? … feel good ??

    Foundations give based on their mission and the needs of the foundation leadership. Do you try to create relationships with foundations whose leaders feel strongly about your programs and activities and about the people you serve? Do you know who those leaders are and what is important to them?

    To get individual (potential) major donors to want to give, you have to know them well enough to know what’s important to them. You have to know/understand their priorities and what will make them feel good.

    Just because a nonprofit does wonderful things in a cost-effective manner doesn’t mean that potential donors will want to support it.

    Getting people to want to give, and corporations and foundations are run by people, is about learning, understanding, and appealing to their various needs.

    Have you heard about
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    Have a comment or a question about starting, evaluating
    or expanding your fundraising program?

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