25 awesome fundraising quotes

Published by Reinier Spruit on

Often we hear great quotes capturing the essence of the message. They are inspiring! They remind us of the important reasons why we work for charity and how we should do it, or how best practice would describe it…

In December I attended The Annual Lectures, where an awesome line-up of speakers was challenged to deliver their message in 30 minutes. This forced them to be to the point. And I heard some great quotes.

For example, in her session about ‘Storytelling’ Lauren Semple from Aching Arms reminded us of the power of a true and emotional story:

Life is not scripted. Conversations with our donors should not be either.

A heart-breaking message is hard to capture in a phone script. Sincerity gets lost and it might even result in not taking our donors serious. I love the idea. I love the quote.

Another one of my favourites was mentioned in the same session, by Ken Burnett:

There are two ‘i’s’ in Fundraising – they should stand for inspiration and innovation, not imitation and irritation.

Everybody knows what this means and still many of us need to be reminded. That’s why I think this quote is both good and important.

I’ve asked around to fellow fundraisers lately and collected a good list of quotes and one-liners. Enjoy! Please add your own favourite underneath in the comments!


openqmMartin Luther King didn’t get up 50 years ago and say: I have a budget and a plan! – Alan Clayton

If you call yourself Save the Whales, every once in awhile you have to save a whale. – Tom Ahern

The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action while reason leads to conclusions. – Donald Calne

It always seems impossible, until it’s done. – Nelson Mandela.

Donor loyalty is not about the donor being loyal to you, it is you being loyal to the donor. – Harvey McKinnon

Unless you believe you’ll find the cure/right the wrong/feed every child with your next appeal it’s unethical not to focus on lifetime value. – Charlie Hulme

Stewardship at its best engages donors with the impact and outcomes of their investments of time, wisdom, expertise, connections, and money. – Karen Osborne

Retention is the new acquisition. Customer service is the new marketing. – Joe Connelly

Everyone wants charities to spend as little as possible on overhead. That’s backwards. Overhead is what drives growth. If charities can’t grow, they can’t solve problems. So overhead is a good thing. And I’m overhead. – Dan Pallotta

No one has ever become poor by giving. – Anne Frank

The only thing that matters a damn is the donor experience. – Mark Phillips

Innovation isn’t about green bean bags and whacky idea sessions – its a long term business development strategy. – Lucy Gower

Volunteers will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no volunteers. – Ken Wyman

Fundraisers should use pride, not apology, when asking for a gift for a charity that is doing good work. – Henry Rosso

Fundraisers are the catalysts of change. – Unknown

Fundraising is the gentle art of teaching the joy of giving. – Henry Rosso

Most giving is 80% emotion and 20 % rational.  And the best way to get to someone’s emotions is to tell a story. – Unknown

It is impossible to overestimate the motivational effect of conspicuous success. – Giles Pegram

If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. – Jeff Brooks

People will forget what you said. They will forget what you did. But they will never forget how you made them feel. – Maya Angelou


Donors have little way to assess your charity’s work; they use the service you provide to them as a surrogate. – Adrian Sargeant

In good times and bad, we know that people give because you meet needs, not because you have needs. – Kay Sprinkel Grace

We don’t work in the non-profit sector. We work in the for-change sector! – Unknown

And I’ll add one from myself:

We need to value donors as much as we need value from them. – Reinier Spruit

Thank you Howard Lake, Marc A. Pitman, Claire Axelrad, Daryl Upsall, Charlie Hulme, Carla Huskamp, Karen Osborne, Pelagia de Wild, Phil Woollam, Ajay Ochani, Toby Bourke, Ken Wyman, John Burns, Michael Johnston for pointing me in the right direction.

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.


Richard Radcliffe · February 13, 2014 at 15:15

Hi Reinier – great post, marriage obviously suits you! I wish there was a really good quote about breaking all the rules you are meant to “follow”. To me, if you follow all the advice issued by Professional bodies (Institute of Fundraisers, AFP and all other similar national bodies) then you are a sheep. If you decide to do exactly the opposite you become a shepherd leading a flock into a new field. Does this therefore mean we should all ignore most advice given in professional training (which is provided by the above names and others such a me)? Personally I find it thirilling to experience a “Student” who disagrees with every damn word I say!

    Reinier Spruit

    Reinier Spruit · February 13, 2014 at 19:57

    Like! If I see one, I’ll forward it to you, but perhaps someone else knows a good one. Thanks!

    Harvey McKinnon · February 14, 2014 at 15:43

    It’s easy to disagree with everything Richard says. And it makes life more entertaining. And a guy his age can always use a thrill. Of course if it’s too much of a thrill for him then we will finally discover which non- profits are in his will. I hope we will wait for a long time.

    Trump · September 12, 2020 at 05:28

    Thank me!!

Erik Visser · February 13, 2014 at 20:03

Great collection. Thanks!

Nicole Salmon · February 14, 2014 at 11:48

Thanks for sharing these quotes. I have coined two that I use as my guideposts in all my personal and professional interactions:

” You need to be the authentic you before you expect someone to reveal the authentic them.”

“How can you flip a coin and lose when integrity is on one side and authenticity is on the other?”

Paul de Gregorio · February 14, 2014 at 16:26

Mine, for what it’s worth.

‘If you keep on doing the same thing, the same thing will keep on happening’. I nicked that from someone much clever than me.

Jeroen Talens · February 17, 2014 at 12:24


My contribution:

“The ultimate goal of any charity is to be redundant.”

(“Elk goed doel moet zichzelf overbodig willen maken.”)

Claire Axelrad · February 18, 2014 at 12:11

I’m pretty sure the quote about substituting pride for apology in fundraising comes from Henry Rosso, who I consider to be the “Father of modern fundraising”, from his book: “Achieving Excellence in Fundraising.”

Christina Zitka, MA Independent Fundraising and Board Development Consultant · February 20, 2014 at 21:51

The #1 fundraising quote in my book does not appear above:

“The life of man consists not in seeing visions and in dreaming dreams but in active charity and in willing service.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Bill Wickenkamp · February 21, 2014 at 00:35

Reinier, thanks for sharing. Here is one I have personally experienced: “When I give and nothing happens I am disappointed; when I give and something happens I am elated!”

Jack Cipoletti · January 21, 2015 at 03:06

1. Fundraisers who follow the rules may not always be right, but they are never far from wrong.

2. Our need for funds usually doesn’t translate well into why donors should give.

Sonja Habenicht · March 12, 2015 at 10:18

“Generosity means very little if it doesn’t damage your own luxury.”
William Wilberforce

Keeps me going :)

Collins Effah · August 7, 2016 at 19:33

I admire your inspiration and testimonies

Edwin koome · May 10, 2017 at 12:09

Ask and you shall be given

Heather Flanagan · April 24, 2018 at 22:45

This is awesome!

I am writing my very first fundraising letter for the nonprofit corporation I founded, Transortium. I will ask for funding with pride, inspiration, and excitement!

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James Harding · October 16, 2019 at 12:56

Jeff Brooks wins for me, could not agree more: “If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them.”

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Amanda The Adventurer · June 21, 2023 at 09:22

That’s a wonderful quote from Lauren Semple! It emphasizes the importance of genuine and unscripted conversations when interacting with donors.

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In December I attended The Annual Lectures, where an awesome line-up of speakers was challenged to deliver their message in 30 minutes

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