Fundraising: How to raise $10,000 in an hour

Back in the clean-cut fundraising job days:)

I’ll never forget how I learned how to raise $10,000 in an hour.

Before I get there though, I have to say that some things you learn the hard way.   In my first couple years of work as a professional fundraiser I learned a lot about how not to do things.

Inefficient Fundraising

Classic example:  In my first year I struggled to lead a sprawling committee of volunteers and hospital employees (I worked for a hospital) through months of agonizing planning for a huge gala event. It was super rough.

In the end we only made a few thousand dollars in profit from the event and I was just relieved to not be in the hole.

Take 2

A year or so after this messy attempt at fundraising I had my first experience of asking a couple for a large donation.

I sat down with them and, after some small talk, asked for $10,000 to support a certain project.  They agreed on the spot.

In less than an hour I had raised more cash than it had taken both me and a committee endless hours and huge stress to achieve with my gala event.

The key to success

What was the difference between these two experiences?  What made one fundraising method effective and the other a dud?

The answer is as simple as it is frustrating to newbies: effective strategy.  “What does that even mean??”

Well, for starters, if you just dive into fundraising with blind faith and zero tactics you may get lucky and raise some cash but generally your results will be terrible.

Getting to the point where you have a relationship with potential donors and you can ask them for $10,000 (or much more) takes careful thinking.

Relationship

You want to woo them to your cause. There are several critical elements in effective fundraising strategy but in this post I want to start with the most important one: relationship.

Let’s get back to my good news with the $10,000 “ask”.  The reason I was successful was that I had a very strong relationship with my donors. They knew why I was visiting them and they were ready to help.

Do you have a dream of supporting a big cause or starting a really innovative new business?  If you do, you are going to need support.

Woo your people

Make sure you surround yourself with the right people, with people that make things happen.  Treat these people right.

Support them and do all you can to understand them and help them out.  Be the best colleague/club member/tennis partner they have.  Hook them up when you can.  Nurture your relationships.  Bring your very capable friends close to your cause. Talk big, share your passion, ask for ideas.  Make the friends that you would like as donors feel invested in what you are doing.  They should feel part of the action, like they and their input matters.  They are your VIPs.

When the time is right, you can ask for their help and chances are they will be very, very helpful.  Possibly even “$10,000 helpful”.

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17 thoughts on “Fundraising: How to raise $10,000 in an hour”

  1. Ok, this is going to be inflammatory, and I apologize in advance (and welcome all the feedback I know is going to come) but it sounds to me that your advice for getting large donations is simply to kiss a lot of behind…

    1. Hahaha! That’s part of it:) But I will say that insincerity is a dead end in fundraising. Sure, you want to wine and dine and woo but if you are fake you can forget any return on all your courting… Also (and I tried to make this clear), this is simply PART of an effective fundraising strategy.. anything more comprehensive would require a customized, book-length guide….

  2. Thanks for this. My wife and I have wanted to start our own school. Fundraising is going to play a big role, especially at the start up. This was some good basic advice that I needed.

    1. Sounds exciting! Donor cultivation is definitely the foundation… I’ll have more info soon… in a different info product format. Stay tuned.

  3. So I’ve never needed to raise funds and have no immediate plans to do so, but what you wrote does resonate with me.

    People that are successful, and those that we look up to because of their success, make it all look so…effortless. And you make fundraising look effortless – but it took you a while to get there!

    As is the case with success.

    And that relationship thing you’re talking about? I DIG IT 100% ! Sincere relationship building takes time. I’ve definitely learned not to compromise my integrity over the years….
    Razwana recently posted…If you were offered a million dollars, would you turn it down?My Profile

    1. Thanks Raz! Fundraising does take a lot of effort but yes, strong relationships are the great enabler. If you have that foundation of trust your are off to an amazing start.

  4. Two points that I might add:
    1. Galas and social events are important even if they don’t make a lot of money. Often, they are publicity and an opportunity to get to know people better. In nonprofit work (I don’t know about hospital work) it’s important to celebrate as many wins as you can. I still hate planning them though.
    2. Before you make a big ask, you most likely need to have something going on. I mean, some people will put in $10,000 for some big idea. But most people won’t. I remember incredulously asking at a “networking” meeting in college: “So basically, you want us to do all of the work and then you get the credit?” Yep. That’s what people want. Struggle through the startup and earn their respect. Have something amazing going on and the big ask won’t be so difficult.

    1. Cara! Of course, you are totally right…

      1) Providing you have the time and the staff or volunteers, galas are great “friend raisers” and can build a lot of good will. Also, with practice, you can make a lot more than when you are just starting out. We tripled our profits the second year we held the gala and the income kept going up in subsequent years. So we did not abandon the even just because it wasn’t the most efficient way of raising money…

      2) And yes, you absolutely need something going on. Something concrete. Simple “talk” or boring goals like funding “operations” expenses are typically not as successful. Raise money for a life-changing surgery for a little kid and you are typically much more effective… People like to come in as heroes at the end when you have done the set-up… just like you said:)

  5. In my experience of fundraising, of course at a much more humble scale, I fully agree that a personal approach is important to mobilize people for a good cause. However, it is important to let people know that you are not only after their money but are interested in their over all well being.

  6. Interesting article Bjorn.
    but like most articles ive read of this nature, its not entirely helpful. sorry to say.
    Common sense articles arnt really effective in my opinion.
    i mean, no where do you mention how to actually do it, where to go, what cost can you expect, what kind of hurdles, what to really avoid, no real examples which one could map to their own situation, whats the best way to approach a donor to actually end up building a relationship with them. how do u find em in the first place?!

    its like saying /

    “How to learn drive in an hour”

    Press the clutch, put the car in gear, press the gas pedal and release the clutch just at the right time..and away you go.
    come on.. some parts missing there no?
    fun article,but lacking a bit of real info in my opinion.

    1. Thanks for the comment, anonymous. And like most comments of this nature, I hear what you are saying:) There’s a lot to effective fundraising and there is usually a long list of “cultivation” steps that you take to get to the point where you have the kind of relationship I mentioned in the post. I have seen philanthropic foundation models where a full time employee (or even a whole department) is dedicated to doing this kind of work. The point of the post was to get people thinking along the right lines. Fundraising can be very, very complex (and you can waste a lot of time on fluff) but it actually comes down to some fairly simple concepts. A lot of people overthink it and then get nowhere.

      Stay tuned and I’ll post more on tactics, I’ll try to tackle one or two concepts and some practical suggestions in each post.

      Thanks again!

    1. Nick, you probably already know them. Either that or you could fairly easily find them. The works comes in cultivating the relationship. There will be more on this in upcoming posts but if you want some specific tips, DM me on Twitter @cutluremutt and we can get you some tailor-made strategy…

  7. Bjorn, I need an hour of your time to discuss an idea, a way for you to make a difference. LOL what do mean you’re busy traveling? We can skype even!

    Nope. Definitely not going to ask you for 10 grand. Maybe Euros haha

    I’ve done a lot of fundraising. Relationships matter so does persistence. and so do creative asks – interesting letters, fun fundraisers, promises of unlimited government contracts and sports tickets (kidding – I think a couple lobbyists are doing federal prison time for that)

    I think if we continue to provide value to people and help them with their goals and aspirations, fundraising becomes easy. NOw, when can do that coffee meeting again? haha

  8. Well Bjorn,
    A topic other than traveling…interesting and relevant. Having done my fair share of fundraising for every kind of youth, school, business and church cause I can say I totally agree with you. Mostly, I watch from the sidelines now and critique (silently) how well or how poorly they are doing with the “event” style. I still support the events because the causes are worthy. But to get back to your point, relationships are the key to almost any success I know exists. Starting with your personal relationship with your God.
    Check out the front page article of the Chico ER today. How to make money while traveling. Made me think of you and Jammie.

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