Is Your Fundraising Transactual or Tranformational?


This is the true joy in life, being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one. ~ George Bernard Shaw

I think fundraisers are among the most wonderful people in the world. They raise money for important causes. They are out-going and fun to be around. Their passion is inspiring and contagious. They’re on a mission!

Most fundraisers know that it’s about more than just money; it’s about helping people invest in making the world a better place – It transforms those who benefit from programs and services. It transforms the giver. And it transforms the fundraiser.

I’ve heard it said that fundraising is part science and part art. I believe this to be true. 

In many ways the science of fundraising is more tangible. You apply a formula. Measure the results. And test them by changing one variable at a time. These methods work and are easy to monitor.

The art of fundraising is more ambiguous. It doesn’t really fit into a formula. How does one measure the level of relationship,  hope or the overall well-being of a donor?

The science of fundraising allows you to set a campaign goal. You either meet that goal or fall short.

The art of fundraising builds relationships and partnerships. It is open to opportunities that may not fit into a neat and tidy formula.

Here are four things to think about when practicing the art of fundraising:

Asking for, and getting money is transactional. Take it up a level. What does your organization do? How do you make the world a better place? How does it transform your beneficiaries, your staff, your volunteers, your donors and you?

Understanding your donors’ values is the beginning of knowing what motivates them to give. Your organization has core values. So do your donors.  Hint: Your values and theirs don’t necessarily have to be the same. You may value a compassionate response to those with substance addictions for example, and they may value education as the answer to the issue. How can you empower them to make the world a better place for those who have addictions while employing their value of education?

See yourself as a peer. It can be daunting to have a conversation with someone who is wealthier than you, or more educated than you, or a famous celebrity. Strip your roles down – you are two human beings having a conversation. You are their mentor, a facilitator – helping them to use their resources to fulfill their dream for a better world.

Listen. I don’t mean repeat back to them what you just heard them say or interject with a story that relates to theirs. I mean, stop talking. Shut up! Listen for what they value. Listen to what their dream for a better world looks like. Be open to new ideas and ways to work together.

Do you have a transformational fundraising story? Please share it below or contact me here if you would like to write a guest post for The Other Bottom Line blog.

The purpose of this blog is to facilitate discussions that will help us all to better engage with our communities. Your participation and feedback are most welcomed and valued. Please join the discussion below.

resource: The Generosity Network by Jennifer McCrea and Jeffrey C. Walker



  1. bulldog

    I think to be a fund raiser you have to be a special type of person… one that God created for just such work… I like to equate them to nurses…

  2. Kerwyn Hodge

    No doubt professional fundraising requires that one become many things to many people. As you say, its an almost alchemical blend of science and art. Yet those very same skills go into so many facets of life (relationship building, social selling, team motivating, etc.). So we need to focus on making our interactions in general less transactional and more transformational. Thanks for sharing this, Diana!

    • The Other Bottom Line

      I have been thinking along those very line Kerwyn. Every relationship, whether personal or professional is about people and what motivates them and the unique gifts they share. When we apply just science people feel manipulated or played – I know I do when I’m the recipient of it.

  3. Ed Freedom

    I’ve heard it said that meanings are in people. You can have a canned presentation that may speak to the 80% but not do as well with the other 10% on each end. On a case per case basis I believe a rifle shot approach can be more effective than a shotgun blast. The one-on-one can take it up a level as it is more personal. Just my two cents; enjoyed the piece.

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