12 Feb
  • By Laura Parker
  • Cause in

Why Fundraising is Like Dating

Fundraising is like dating, you don’t get married on the first date…

With Valentine’s Day coming up, I want to share some of my personal experiences about fundraising, as I always laugh about how similar it is to dating. Because I, like most, don’t “like” fundraising (or dating!!), I do my best to make sure I am having a conversation with partners and looking to build relationships. This for me makes it genuine, and relationships work when you are being yourself. I will tell you I don’t bring in unlimited, unrestricted cash donations, but it does help me carry out this function at my organisation, and laugh along the way.


Blind “Dates” Rarely Work

I have written so many blind proposals and honestly I don’t think any have been successful. I have, however, been successful building a relationship into tangible support. Sometimes it materialises quickly, other times, a year later, a contact will reach out. That being said, an introduction ALWAYS helps. With a blind proposal, you are forced into a lot of guesswork – how much do I request, over what period, what fits best with this donor? Stop doing this. When you think about how to best utilise your time, spend your crucial hours on building relationships, not sending blind proposals to “whom it may concern.”


My Advice – if you don’t know who to address the application to, you shouldn’t be sending it.


Don’t ask for him to pay on your first date

Marriage takes time, as does building a relationship with a potential partner. On your first date, would you bring up marriage? Most likely not. Same rule follows for fundraising – you do not ask for money on your first “date.” At that point, you may know a bit on paper, but I would argue you don’t know enough to submit a quality proposal, nor do you understand your partner well enough to “propose.” In fact, it is my rule that I never ask for anything on the first meeting except a visit to our project. My feeling is that if partners don’t want to come to our site, or visit our project, we likely aren’t going to have a productive relationship. In fact, I follow the same rule with Board Members. If they are not interested in coming, I can guarantee they are not going to be an effective Board Member.


My Advice: Never ask for anything on the first meeting.


Know Your Worth

My favourite question on an application is “What is your sustainability plan?” Don’t we all just think – if I had one, I wouldn’t be writing this!! I’ve heard some great answers over the years – “I can think of nothing more sustainable than investing in a child every single day of their life” which I love. “If you support me sustainably, I can be sustainable” which I also like. But really, it feels like you are damned if you do, damned if you don’t. If you have reserves, some funders won’t like it. If you don’t have reserve, some funders still won’t like it. Understand that in order for you to make a match, things needs to align on both sides. It is perfectly normal for dates or relationships to not work out – your values don’t align, your geographies don’t align, or your personalities don’t align. Don’t take that as rejection of your work or your worth, but rather, this wasn’t the right fit. Rejection isn’t always personal. It can be an opportunity to see what funders are asking for, and build those systems or data to have it for the next.

Competition in South Africa is stiff, 200,000 organisations are looking at the same pots of money. If you received that link for the proposal, so did 1,000 others. If you don’t receive the funding, it is not necessarily rejection of your work, but perhaps it just wasn’t the right fit. This happens all the time in relationships, and yes it stings, but we carry on, and we go out again.


My Advice: Rejection isn’t necessarily about you.


I always laugh at the similarities between fundraising and dating, and my main point stands, you do not get married on the first date. You should not expect someone to write you a check the first time you meet them. Spend your time developing relationships, steward them over time, and only then ask for a longer term commitment.


Got your mind ticking? Read more posts from Giving Tuesday SA guest blogger Laura Parker, and send us your tips on turning the attention of fundraisers, we’d love to hear them!


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Laura Parker
Into all things social impact, #GivingTuesdaySA lead, Non-Profit leader, travel lover and sports enthusiast

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