What is Fundraising?

The Institute of Fundraising summarises it best when they say:

The principle of fundraising is to raise money

by asking for it. 

(from The Good Fundraising Guide: Where to Start available from the Institute of Fundraising - free when you join!) 

This statement is straightforward enough - although we could qualify it by saying that fundraisers don't always ask for money. People who donate to causes are called 'donors' (as you might expect!). What they donate might be money but might also be time, resources, expertise, moral support, etc. 

Don't underestimate the non-monetary contribution your supporters make. Although your bank manager might not agree, it remains, nevertheless, a very bankable commodity. 

The term Relationship Fundraising is sometimes used but in a manner of speaking, all fundraising should be of this variety. Fundraising is entirely about managing the donor-cause relationship, building a lifelong partnership, even growing old together! Seriously! 

The fundraiser's motto is a variation along the lines of Luke 11:9: Ask and you may receive but if you don't ask, or if you forget to, you almost certainly won't.

Of course you might get lucky; you might win the lottery or find a wad of cash on the street. However fundraising is really about minimising the element of chance ... and risk. 

The term Professional Fundraising has been coined because there is an increasing trend amongst charities, not-for-profits and similar organisations to put their fundraising on a professional level. This is to be welcomed, not despised. 

People fundraise for charitable, humanitarian, philanthropic objectives but fundraising in itself is neither a charitable, humanitarian nor philanthropic activity. It may be possible for these objectives to be achieved without fundraising but, in all likelihood it will be a lot harder.

Fundraising is simply a conduit, something that adds forward propulsion. Fundraising should never become detached or divorced from the overall mission and purpose that your cause represents. It is important to understand too that a fundraising mission might be ongoing or once-off. 

Finally the practice of fundraising is primarily a matter of good communication. We've said that fundraising is all about 'asking' but being able to ask is a skill you can only acquire with practice. Knowing who to ask, when to ask, how much to ask for and what medium to use are among the key decisions that the fundraiser has to make. 

In the sections that follow we will look at some of the options that are available.   

Next: How to Fundraise >>