What can fundraising professionals learn from a 3-year-old?

Yesterday, I was meeting a friend and someone I recruited to the Boys & Girls Club of Elgin board of directors almost a decade ago for breakfast. Well, I was a dunderhead and accidentally showed up 30 minutes early. While I was sitting there twiddling my thumbs, I couldn’t help watch this mother and grandmother having breakfast with their 3-year-old boy. By the time my friend showed up for breakfast, this young boy had blessed me with a fundraising epiphany.

After finishing his breakfast like a good little boy, he politely asked his mom if he could have a scoop of ice cream. She reluctantly agreed only because he had been so good. He turned his big baby blue eyes upon the waitress, who melted faster than any dish of ice cream, and he placed his order.

There was immediate joy and celebration!

The boy stood up in the booth and started jumping around and clapping his hands. I must admit that I haven’t seen a “victory lap” quite like this one. When the scoop of chocolate ice cream arrived, his mother reminded him of how important it is to use a spoon. After a minute or two, the spoon was abandon and this young boy had his face in the ice cream sundae dish.

Here is what struck me as I watched this unfold: this boy had a passion for ice cream. He didn’t care who knew it. He also didn’t care who witnessed it.

So, what in the heck does today’s blog post have anything to do with non-profit work or fundraising professions?

You need to discover your inner fundraising child and not be afraid of showing everyone your passion for fundraising and your agency’s mission!

Donors can smell a fake a mile away! Fundraising professionals who don’t love interacting and engaging with their donors are miserable people. They are typically ineffective and do serious damage to their agency’s resource development program before moving on to different pastures.

So, take a moment today and ask yourself the following questions:

  • When you wake up in the morning, do you get excited thinking about sitting down with a donor later that day?
  • Do you take it as a personal challenge to help donors figure out what they’re passionate about and link those interests with philanthropic opportunities?
  • Does hitting a special event or annual campaign goal give you a thrill unsurpassed by most other things in life?
  • Do you enjoy being able to share news with donors when program staff achieve program outcomes and community impact?

If you answered YES to these questions, then congratulations because you are in the right place. If this isn’t you, then I encourage you to do some soul-searching. Try to look like this boy I found on YouTube who is also enjoying his ice cream experience (however, he doesn’t come close to the boy I saw yesterday at Colonial Cafe).

Where do you find your passion for non-profits and fundraising? How do you know if the non-profit mission that you’re working for is the right one for you? I would consider it an honor if you would share your story on the DonorDreams blog. Please use the comment box below. Perhaps, your story will inspire others to discover their inner fundraising child.

Here’s to your health!

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


  1. I know this is not the typical fundraising professional response, but it’s the truth! As a non-profit professional and a Follower of Christ, I saw and experienced in my own life and attitude what happened when I chose to genuinely chose to relinquish control of what I held most dear – not the least of which was cold, hard cash! Giving became an automatic response to what had already been done for me. It was no longer about how little someone else had or how tremendous the need presented.

    My “ah-ha!” moment came in recognizing that I had been given way more than I deserve and that the best way for me to show my gratitude is to, in turn, GIVE! My modest contribution, freed from my white-knuckled grip, placed confidently in the hands of capable and passionate people, who genuinely have a passion for caring about others, has a far greater impact on mankind that it ever would if it were still mine. A modest $5 a week in my purse has a mysterious way of morphing into Pumpkin Spice Lattes at Starbucks, then having to be burned off by running an extra mile or two later on. But in the bank account of a local non-profit, it becomes a backpack full of food for third-grader who has to fend for himself over the weekend while his single parent struggles to work all three jobs and still keep the lights on. That same kid, who shows up to school with a full tummy, ready to focus and learn, will be more successful, will go on to pursue his passions, and – with any luck – will learn to appreciate what investing in others can do for him.

    Strangely enough, every $5 that I choose to live without is never even missed. Somewhere, somehow, I still am able to provide well for my family while providing more and more for others. It’s a mathematical anomaly!

    For me, first and foremost, the idea of helping people appreciate the freedom in letting go is what excites me. Igniting the power of caring is why I continue to LOVE fundraising!

    1. That is an awesome testimonial, Autumn. Thanks for sharing it!

      My ah-ha moment came in my first year as a fundraising professional for the Boy Scouts of America. I was soliciting a friend and scared to death. So, we got stuck on the “chit-chat” part of the solicition. However, I found that we were talking about our summer camp experiences and the impact that scouting had on both of our lives. When I realized that donors have passions and it is my job to help them connect their philanthropy with their passion, I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t a vulture or purse-snatcher. Fundraising became a NOBLE career path for me.

      More importantly, I became a “dream maker”.

      Thanks again for sharing your passion. Now please excuse me because I need to go back to my chocolate sundae and jumping on the couch in my home office. 😉


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