The 4 Rules of Fundraising

November 23, 2016

Someone once asked me if I knew the "4 Rules of Fundraising." Usually lists like this are not very insightful, so I was not excited about hearing them. But I have remembered them to this day, included them in training sessions I have conducted, and have used them to help me sort out many of the messes I have inherited or gotten myself into. The 4 Rules sound simple at first, but savor them for a moment.

  1. Renew the base: have strategies to get everyone who has given before to give again
  2. Upgrade the base: identify those who can be approached to give more and make sure an effort is made to get additional or bigger gifts
  3. Expand the base: plan ways to find more donors and get them to give
  4. Add fun: whatever you do (special events, dinners, cultivation events) find ways to change and improve and make it more exciting every year


Okay, that sounds simple and obvious. But then the woman who shared them went on to say, "And those are in order of importance and in the order you do them."

Pow! That made a difference. Now it is a tool for evaluating every single task and timeline in your development operation. Are you trying to think of fun new ideas before you have thought of ways to bring back your current donors? Are you trying to attract new donors when the ones you already have are capable of giving bigger gifts? If so, you can do better.

As I traveled and did training for two national health-related non-profits, I found that young fundraisers tend to want to think of fun stuff rather than raising money. And why not, it's more fun. However, this list showed them the way to success.

I also found that most fundraisers, new and seasoned alike, had no real strategy for Rule #2. Almost no one has a serious plan to upgrade donors. It is the second most important rule in fundraising and, by far, the most over-looked.

So make sure you follow these rules and in the right priority.