YOU are the reason for your results

Published by Reinier Spruit on

Today I want to share what I think is the single most important ingredient for fundraising success. This ingredient can make it, or break it. It’s the multiplier effect. It’s the most powerful element in your fundraising program. Every fundraising program has at least one, some have more, but nobody seems to have enough. Some are good. Some are considered good, but are in fact not.

You’ve guessed it. I’m talking about The Fundraiser. Yes, you.

youWhen I asked my fundraising friends on Facebook what they thought the most important ingredient would be I got back a whole range of answers. Interestingly enough many of them were characteristics and skills a fundraiser should have: passion for the cause, satisfaction in making a difference, a profound love for and knowledge of our donors, persistence, honesty and authenticity, crazy about numbers, a true leader, an inspiring storyteller and an inquisitive listener.

Together they crowd sourced the beginning of an ideal job profile and confirmed my own answer.

Everything you can think of in your fundraising program is driven or influenced by The Fundraiser. We make strategic and operational decisions that drive our program and influence our results. I hope to convince everyone that fundraisers are by far the biggest reason for fundraising results. Good and bad results.

To give away the conclusion: if you are a great fundraiser there is no excuse not to have a great fundraising program. On the other side, if you don’t have great results, you need to up your game…

Normally, if fundraising results are good, the fundraiser gets all the credit. However, bad fundraising results are often not attributed to the fundraiser, but to external factors. Often an excuse is around the corner: the economic crisis, the crowded market or a sleeping board to name a few. That’s just wrong. Although obviously they have an impact, the impact of such external reasons, under average circumstances, is often exaggerated.

When talking to fellow blogger Charlie Hulme about this topic he pointed me towards the ‘Great Fundraising’ report. It highlighted a culture of apathy:

“In a number of cases, for example, the organization had been failing to meet its fundraising targets for several years and thus it was now assumed that the target would not be met and that it was acceptable not to meet it.” (Sargeant and Shang 2013, p.14) 

Charlie went on: “For me it’s an attitude; when isn’t there an economic ‘crisis’, when isn’t the market ‘crowded’? My job is to restlessly search for what can I do differently.” Very well put.

economyThe economic crisis is a great example.

“Because of the bad economy it’s impossible to raise more funds. Stock markets go down, housing prices plummet and consumers trust is almost gone. I don’t think we’ll reach our goals.“

Not true. If you are a good fundraiser, you will raise more funds for your cause. You are in the driver’s seat. You might need to adapt, but that’s very healthy, it keeps you sharp. Don’t hide behind the economy. Don’t hide behind your market research. You can’t change the economy, but you can adapt your program to raise the funds you need. YOU are the reason for your results.

crowdedmarketA crowded market is also often mentioned to describe the difficult times ahead.

“The very saturated market we operate in creates a highly negative environment to raise funds in. Every year it gets more difficult, because there are so many organizations raise funds from the same group of people.”

Not true. Sure, there is competition, but I can also think of plenty pro arguments that the maturity of a market creates a positive environment for your fundraising. Why would you include it in your annual plans? Market information presented like this appears to be the reason for your (future) failing results, which it’s not.

The fundraising market is only one of the many variables that influence the outcome of your fundraising. Other variables are weighing in much more. If you want to give reasons for fundraising programs to fail (or succeed for that matter) you have to review the complete program. Either way, the fundraiser plays a very big role.

BoardDo you have a board or management team that doesn’t want to play ball?

“They couldn’t care less to show up for a donor event. They are afraid of talking to a prospective major donor. We better stop this program, because without them we can’t raise any major gifts.”

Not true. It’s your role to convince them. If you are a good fundraiser you can overcome such an attitude and change it for the better. Involve them in the development of your program. Educate them. Train them. Give them a role. Share your victories. Celebrate successes and discuss the challenges you are facing. Don’t assume they are against you. Lack of knowledge about fundraising often creates non-communication. Fear of the unknown can be overcome. And YOU are the one to do that.

Fundraisers are powerful human beings with an extraordinary capability to raise funds for the causes we believe in. We should always invest in our knowledge and skills. Strive to be better every day, because with our skills we are able to change the world. Believe in the power we have to influence our results. If we do, we will have to take responsibility less often when results are not as they should be.

What do you think? Please leave your comments below!

Reinier Spruit

Reinier Spruit

Reinier is in love with fundraising since 2001. Ever since he's trying to improve his own fundraising skills and those of others. He's one of the original founders of 101fundraising. At the moment working with amazing clients through his one-man fundraising consultancy. Loves running and baseball.


Charlie Hulme · September 12, 2013 at 14:11

Great post mate – re ‘economic crisis’, Oxfam was founded during WW2 and had a v generous response. If that wasn’t a tough time financially I don’t know when was!

Jan-Willem Hoogeweegen · September 12, 2013 at 14:53

Hi Reinier, you are absolutely right! It is always good to consider our own influence and impact to achieve results.Of cpurse taking into account one’s circle of influence versus the broader circle of concern. As leaders we should have vision, give direction (also to people higher in the organization), give room to take own responsibility to the people in our teams, get results and then reflect. To always get better results, for the organization, for the people involved and for the world.
Yes, we can!

Daryl Upsall · September 12, 2013 at 15:01

Well done Reinier. If there is one thing that really annoys me as a fundraiser for the last 30 years is the excuse that it is its is the difficult economy or someone else fault why someone is failing to not only meet but exceed targets. I started FR in the cold economy of the 1980s under Margaret Thatcher raising funds for the Nicaraguan Revolution and then other challenging social and liberation movements, gay and lesbian issues, HIV/AIDS etc. The economy nor the cause was a real problem. Now in Spain, great economy yeh, those top NGOs investing and with dynamic FR staff are booming. The moaners and going down the tube and mostly because they sit on their *#! and do nothing. Ironically we have a massive staff shortage. If you know 500 dynamic, motivated, hard working young people who want to do F2F FR in Spain we have the work for them!

    Reinier Spruit

    Reinier Spruit · September 12, 2013 at 20:33

    Great comment Daryl, thanks for adding your own experience! And if I happen to run into 500 great fundraisers, I’ll let you know. :-)

Jeroen Talens · September 12, 2013 at 16:21

Hallo Reinier, je stuurt mij een nadrukkelijke uitnodiging om je verhaal te lezen en te reageren. Dus doe ik wat ik normaal nooit doe bij artikelen: ik reageer.

Je verhaal is waar, absoluut. Maar het is ook een open deur. Natuurlijk speelt een fondsenwerver een centrale rol in fondsenwerving. En natuurlijk is het altijd gezond om in de eerste plaats naar jezelf te kijken voor je de rest van de wereld (en de crisis) de schuld geeft.

Toch is het een beetje hetzelfde als mij vragen wat ik op vakantie meeneem. En als ik dan heb geantwoord “paspoort”, “zonnebril” of “schone onderbroek” tegen mij zeggen: “fout, fout, jijzelf bent het belangrijkste om mee te nemen.” Ja duh, natuurlijk moet ik mezelf niet vergeten. Maar dat helpt mij geen zier bij het inpakken van mijn koffer! Dat geldt hier ook een beetje. Hoe moet een fondsenwerven verder na het lezen van jouw verhaal?

We zijn het allemaal met je eens. En nu?

Met vriendelijke groet, Jeroen Talens

    Reinier Spruit

    Reinier Spruit · September 12, 2013 at 20:55

    Dag Jeroen,

    Dank voor je reactie.

    Ben het niet met je eens wat betreft de ‘open deur’. Wellicht is dat voor jou persoonlijk zo, maar ik merk dat veel fondsenwervers te veel om zich heen kijken wanneer het om verantwoording afleggen gaat. Opeens is er dan extern iets aan de hand wat een enorme invloed op de resultaten heeft gehad. Dus dit is zeker geen open deur voor iedereen.

    En natuurlijk kan je zonder jezelf niet op vakantie, om jouw vergelijking maar even aan te houden. Maar als jij niet de juiste ‘fondsenwerver’ bent heb je een grote kans dat je: je paspoort vergeet, te laat bent om in te checken, het hotel niet hebt bevestigd, etc. En dan heb je dus geen goede vakantie (of fondsenwerving resultaat).

    Hoe nu verder vraag je. Denk niet dat hier genoeg ruimte is om dat allemaal te behandelen, maar het lijkt me duidelijk dat mijn blog een punt probeert te maken om te investeren in fondsenwervers. Hoe haal je de beste fondsenwervers binnen? Hoe train je ze, welke additionele opleiding geef je ze, hoe beloon je ze? Hoe kan je de beste fondsenwervers binnen jouw organisatie houden en ze niet laten vertrekken naar een ander goed doel? Etc.

    Nogmaals dank voor je reactie!

Larry C Johnson · September 12, 2013 at 16:32

I certainly agree, Reiner. We should own our results. Have you had a look at http://www.theeightprinciples.com/adopting-the-right-paradigm/ , lately. I addressed this issue from a slightly different angle.

    Reinier Spruit

    Reinier Spruit · September 12, 2013 at 20:57

    Thanks Larry, perhaps you can highlight your angle in the comments?

Carol Rhine · September 12, 2013 at 16:54

I couldn’t agree more. I have tracked the performance of several organizations through changes in fundraising leadership and have been able to show that the fundraiser can make a 5+% difference in results when the fundraising program is virtually the same. I have not repeated that tracking lately, but I am sure that it is true.

    Reinier Spruit

    Reinier Spruit · September 12, 2013 at 21:00

    Thanks Carol, great to hear this! Especially from you, who I know has access to this data. Do you know if there is anything solid to publish? You are more than welcome to share this on 101fundraising!

Giles Pegram · September 12, 2013 at 20:31

Spot on. We weren’t employed to organising fundraising activities, we were employed to show donors they could change the world.

Your post tells fundraisers THEY are resonsible for their fundraising, not the economic climate. If we all adopt that mindset, WOW.

    Reinier Spruit

    Reinier Spruit · September 12, 2013 at 21:03

    Thanks Giles! When can the 101fundraising readers expect a post from you? We love to hear more about donors!

Samra · September 13, 2013 at 18:40

Well said! Yes I can fundraiser thousands for Somalia though Syria is in the headline! Because I simply can.

Simona Biancu · September 15, 2013 at 15:20

I am completely “fascinated” from your post, Reinier!
You have had the ability to demolish the most part of defenses I often have to listen to during my very first meeting at the beginning of a new consultancy (it happens, even if with some great exception of NGOs with a high awareness and a clear vision about their points of weakness).
It’s a scientific analysis, and the main outcome is: no excuses!
In my most recent experiences, the statement I have often heard is about the Board. But you’re right: it’s part of a fundraiser role the ability to convince the Board, to encourage it, to be the source of change!
That’s the point, in my opinion: changing is ever a complex matter, but you have to face it in the most honest way you can to produce it.
I’ll take your advice as a sort of guide to be shared to better explain their role to wavering fundraisers!
Thanks a lot,

    Reinier Spruit

    Reinier Spruit · September 15, 2013 at 21:58

    That’s great Simona, I’m very glad to hear you liked it so much!

    Good luck with your fundraising.

Steve Cordes · September 16, 2013 at 17:23

I agree completely. I think the most important thing a charity / non-profit can do in fundraising is to capture people’s hearts – you get that and get them to really care about you and your cause and the money is a natural outcome. It may not be the best way to bring in the big bucks right away, but I believe in the long term, it’s the most sustainable.

Sarah Nelems · September 17, 2013 at 07:25


Adrienne Kamdem · September 20, 2013 at 15:50

You have said it all Reinier. I am still in my early days in of my career in fundraising, but I have already noticed that fundraiser with the right attitude gets results, that is, they look out for different approaches / methods.

The environment shall make the fundraiser more resourceful not defeated. And to quote Charlie Hulme – oxfam was created during WW2 – indeed that was tough financial time.

Francisco Guerrero · December 6, 2013 at 14:08

I was wondering if I could use you hand pic for a T-Shirt I want to show people, with a T-Shirt that they are worth more then they think they are by putting on a T-Shirt;

YOU are WORTH more then you think U are and the YOU being your hand logo pointing

We will be selling those T-Shirt for charity, please let me know what you think.

thank you!
Francisco Guerrero

Randa · December 11, 2013 at 07:11

Hi , stumbled over this page by coincidence ( looking for an image) and it caught my eye ! Very interesting and now im intrigued about fundraising and the positive attitude in this page shifted my perspecitve ( Fundraisers are magicians .. making money out of no money) of an impossible task to one that is agile savvy and smart …. like you said its your attitude…..
Now i need to know the technical how to …..

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