Reliable, Sustainable and Strategic Fundraising – How Emotional Intelligence Can Help Fund Developers Succeed! -

Reliable, Sustainable and Strategic Fundraising – How Emotional Intelligence Can Help Fund Developers Succeed!

March 21, 2017

It is no secret - fund development can be a tough job! Is it personally rewarding? Absolutely! Vital to the success of your nonprofit? Without question! But it is also consistently ranked as one of the top challenges that nonprofits face, and those who are tasked with accomplishing it often describe how demanding it can be. In this blog, we’ll take a quick look at fund development and a key tool that the successful fund developer can add to their tool kit to make their job easier – emotional intelligence (EI).

Fund Development

Ron Strand describes fund development as “…the process by which organizations use fundraising to build capacity and sustainability. Fund development is a part of the strategic marketing of a nonprofit organization. It is concerned not only with raising money, but doing so in a way that develops reliable sources of income that will sustain the organization through the realization of its long term mission and vision.”[1]

Three words, and the questions that they spark for an organization, stand out for me: reliable, sustainable, and strategic.  Reliable – will the funds and resources that you have worked so hard to secure actually materialize? Sustainable – as your organization seeks to develop long-range plans, can you be sure that funding sources that are active today will be available in years to come? Strategic – are your efforts aligned with all of the facets or your organization and leading to purposeful, measurable results? Being able develop strong donor relationships that can thrive through the fund development cycle of identification, cultivation, solicitation and stewardship is a key element in answering these important questions; it also points to the power of emotional intelligence as a tool for fund developers.

Emotional Intelligence (EI)

Daniel Goleman, one of the most recognized thought leaders in the realm of EI, defines it as “…the capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, and for managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships.”[2] While EI is supported by an ever-growing body work, there are common competencies (learned capabilities that can be enhanced and improved) that are included in nearly every model and which can increase the effectiveness of fund developers. Here are just a few from the EQi 2.0 model (which consists of 15 total competencies):

  • Awareness of Self: there is one thing that you always take into any new relationship – yourself! In order to successfully use your emotions, it is helpful to increase your awareness of how they show up and how they are triggered.
  • Empathy: while “you” will be a constant in any new relationship, the person that you are interacting with changes; empathy describes your ability to tune into the needs and feelings of a potential donor so that you can address them effectively.
  • Resilience: fund developers will encounter “no” quite often. Being able to bounce back in the face of setbacks and adversity is a hallmark of resilience.
  • Optimism: optimism gives you and hope and enables you to see the future as a positive, inviting place. When articulating the vision and strategic direction of your nonprofit to a donor, your sense of optimism can be infectious.
  • Balance and Usefulness: while these are not emotions or competencies, they are essential to effectively leveraging your emotional intelligence. There are times when an emotion may be getting in the way because it is “under-performing” (e.g, you have too little empathy in a relationship and our blind to the other person’s needs). But that same emotion can cause difficulty if it is “over-performing” (e.g, your empathy is so high in a relationship that it obscures your attention to your own needs). They key is finding the right balance that creates the most “useful” outcomes (those that contribute to your goals).
Strengthening EI in Your Toolkit

EI models and assessments, such as the EQi 2.0 model, can be powerful tools for better understanding the emotions that healthy human beings are designed to feel and how those emotions can be leveraged for success – both personally and professionally. For fund developers, a strong understanding of all the EI competencies and insight into their level of functioning (over or under performing) can help pave the way for reliable, sustainable and strategic fundraising efforts!

This blog was written by Academy for Nonprofit Excellence Instructor, Everett Marshall.



[2] Goleman, D. (1998). Working with emotional intelligence. New York: Bantam Books