Fundraising from Individuals

Public Fundraising from Individuals is by far the most common form of fundraising, so much so you might wonder why it needs its own category. The main reason is that it helps to distinguish other, more specialised forms of fundraising that follow from it.

The most effective way of asking large numbers of people to give money is to use Direct Marketing. If done correctly it virtually guarantees a steady, reliable, even predictable flow of income into your coffers. That said, while it can be a powerful technique it also requires organisation, diligence, discipline and a significant investment of time and resources.

For most organisations, Direct Marketing only works if there is a certain level of professionalism and planning already in place. It is not seen as an approach that is likely to work well for Ad-hoc committees or groups looking to raise funds for a single or once-off project.

So What is Direct Marketing?

Direct Marketing is a broad term, encompassing a diverse range of activities and practices, making it something that is a lot easier to practice than it is to define. We will make some attempt to define it in later sections. For now however we will restrict ourselves to identifying its potential as a fundraising tool.

Essentially what Direct Marketing boils down to is finding and utilising resources to communicate with your target audience; even if your target audience is spread far and wide, perhaps even encompassing a broad spectrum of cultures, values, beliefs, etc.

Remember we said that fundraising was primarily a question of communication? Well direct marketing facilitates mass communication and on an ongoing basis. And that's really all there is to it. Direct Marketing techniques applied to fundraising might take the form of campaigns, appeals, newsletters, raffles, membership schemes, direct selling through mail order, etc.

Whatever form you use, the important thing is to incorporate 'the ask'; something that many fundraisers fall shy of. More often than not, the task that falls to the fundraiser within the organisation is to overcome people's shyness and reticence. If you can do that much you are already on your way to becoming a fundraiser.

Online Fundraising and Social Media

The emergence worldwide web, accompanied by the growth and spread of new, online forms of communication (Social Media), offer exciting new opportunities for fundraisers to get their message out and raise money. At the same time, despite all this innovation, online techniques do not radically differ from their predecessors. It's only the avenue of communication that has changed. The skills honed by those who earned their spurs working in the traditional milieu, remain valid and have transferred.

Online Fundraising is seen by many as direct marketing for the modern era. Having said that, traditional forms and media remain strong and have not yet been displaced by online techniques; even though many believe that it is only a matter of time.

Managing The Donor-Cause Relationship

Moving on from Direct Marketing-based fundraising we begin to identify certain, more specialised techniques.

The more you practice fundraising, the more you recruit donors, the more you start to build relationships. Some of these relationships develop into Committed Lifelong Giving. This is where Donor Stewardship comes into play.

Donor Stewardship means managing the life span of the donor-cause relationship, not merely for the purpose of Donor Retention; not just to turn once-off gifts into regular, committed giving; but to actually maximise the lifelong value of donor giving without jeopardising the relationship.

Major Gift Fundraising

As you communicate regularly with your donors, you do start to develop strong bonds of friendship with them. They take a close personal interest in the work of your organisation. It is not uncommon for donors to start introducing you to their family, friends, social circles. In other words, they open doors for you. 

Major Gift Fundraising is a broad term that is used to describe the way organisations try to harness the goodwill that is out there - not just existing, but potential as well. It is essentially about developing a strategy that minimises the element of chance, by putting everything on a planned basis. 

The rich plan for the future, the poor plan for Saturday night! is an expression you may have heard before. The important thing to understand is that, all too often the fundraiser's role is not so much to challenge the status quo as to channel existing momentum and good will; with the intention of course that this in turn can be harnessed as a force for good, and change. 

Legacy Fundraising and In Memoriam Giving

We've said before that all good fundraising is about relationship building. The people who support your cause are your fellow travellers. Some will stay with you for a long time, others will drop out. A few will be lifelong companions and will show their appreciation by leaving a legacy in their will that supports your cause.

This requires the most sensitive handling because death is an emotional issue. Simply put, we're all going to die someday! For some people, the legacy they leave behind is their way of saying thank you to those who made living worthwhile.

In Memoriam Fundraising is related to legacy fundraising. It's people's way of remembering a loved-one who has passed on by supporting a cause that was dear to them when they were alive. 


Many organisations that fundraise develop strategies around Direct Marketing (these days using both traditional and online channels), Major Gift Fundraising, Legacy and In Memoriam, etc. 

There is no fundraiser's manual that tells you precisely how, where and when to handle each and every situation you might encounter. It all comes down to experience. The first step towards developing a Fundraising Strategy is cultivating a fundraiser's mentality.

Next: Community Fundraising >>

Or skip to: Fundraising Dos and Don'ts >>