The Gregarious Fundraiser

By Phil Gérard

What makes a good fundraiser? I get this question a lot. What are the top characteristics recruiters and HR managers are looking for? There are some good articles and books on this topic, even top ten lists of characteristics. I won’t get into that here today. Instead I want to focus on one specific characteristic I believe is crucial – being strategic.

There is a bit of a sense out there that fundraisers are a certain breed. A gregarious one. If you like to network, talk to people, pitch ideas, short, if you can work a room you may likely be a good fundraiser.

There is some truth to that. I have met fundraisers who can work every room. They are not afraid to talk to anyone introduce themselves, pitch something quickly and take a business card. Sure, you cannot make new connections if you don’t meet new people but I sometimes wonder about the effectiveness of this approach.

I have also met very effective fundraisers who are not your typical gregarious types. They do not necessarily work the room well at events, but they are extremely smart and strategic. They focus less on attending every single networking event (that might not have the right audience for you anyway) but more on prospecting, identifying who could have an interest in your cause or specific project. They use events strategically, for example hosting a specific donor or prospect.

While being shy is of course not a top characteristic of an effective fundraiser, being strategic is. As an American fundraising colleague and consultant, Bill Lowery once said at a seminar (and I will remember this piece always) strategic fundraisers strive to find the sweet spot where the interests of a donor and the needs of our organization intersect.

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