Fundraising: The art of being out of control

controlWelcome to O.D. Fridays at DonorDreams blog. Every Friday for the foreseeable future we will be looking at posts from John Greco’s blog called “johnponders ~ about life at work, mostly” and applying his organizational development messages to the non-profit community.

In a post titled “In and Out of Control,” John talks about how the idea of control is a myth. There are very few things in this world that we can control, even though we try to do so and pretend that we’re successful.

This conversation got me thinking about the idea of control and fundraising.

Here are all the things fundraising professionals don’t control:

  • whether or not a donor decides to make a contribution,
  • whether or not a donor makes time for you in their calendar,
  • the size of their pledge or contribution,
  • what restrictions (if any) the donor chooses to place on the donation, and
  • how they decide to make good on their pledge of support (e.g. cash, credit, stock, etc).

In my humble opinion, I believe this lack of control contributes to some of the FEAR that volunteers harbor when it comes to asking others for support.

acceptanceSo, what is the solution? John suggests that acceptance is the key.

As I contemplate what this means, I believe it probably has everything to do with understanding what hat you wear and the role you play in the process.

When it comes to fundraising, you can’t control donors, but you can control your actions.

  • You control your case for support.
  • You control your strategies and tactics.
  • Most importantly, if the donor gives you time in their calendar, then you control how much you ask for (and whether or not you even ask).

To more simply state it . . .

The hat you wear is to ASK.

The hat the donor wears is to CONSIDER the request and do what they will do.

Once you accept that you control very little and focus only on those few things that you can control, I suspect you and your volunteers will start feeling better about the entire business of fundraising.


How can you do this? You may consider building into your training curriculum. Educating volunteers solicitors has to be more than half the battle. Right?

Of course, there is another side of this discussion if you want to go there. Friends of mine at my last place of employment were famous for saying that internal consultants may not have any control, but you do have influence.

If you want to go down that road, I suggest checking out Dale Carnegie’s iconic book “How to Win Friends & Influence People“. ENJOY!

Please scroll down and use the comment box to share your thoughts.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

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