nonprofit engagement framework

No matter how large or small your nonprofit organization may be, it is imperative that every Board member, staff and volunteer enthusiastically embrace both a donor-centric approach and an enthusiastic role in the overall fundraising effort. The good news is that you don’t have to go it alone. Everyone associated with your organization, regardless of their particular role, plays a vital part in the success of your fundraising. The not-so-good news is that a majority of people — including your passionate, amazing Board, staff and volunteers — would rather have a tooth pulled without Novocaine than ask someone for money.

What’s a Chief Everything Officer or development director supposed to do to get everybody in the organization on board with fundraising with a nonprofit engagement framework? 

First, honestly assess the levels of your Board, leadership, staff and departments. Do changes need to be made to help everyone understand what a donor-centric operating mode is and how to optimize their effectiveness while elevating the overall organization? If this is the case, take a step back to redefine and realign your organization and team, creating and developing this culture throughout the organization. 

If your organization has a strong donor-centric ethos, but most of your Board, staff and volunteers run in the opposite direction when asked to support fundraising activities, invest the time and resources necessary to increase their knowledge and comfort with your fundraising processes. Even after an informative presentation or enthusiastic pep talk, it’s still unlikely 100% of your Board and staff will emerge as fundraising crusaders, so capitalize on the particular strengths that each one brings to the overall effort. 

Although a Board or staff member may not be comfortable asking for a $10,000 donation, perhaps they excel at calligraphy or creating content. As long as they share a donor-centric attitude, they can — and should — play a vital role by preparing handwritten thank you notes. Or perhaps they’re social media superstars or well-known in your community. Leverage their specific skills to delegate explicit fundraising tasks before, during and after your campaign or event. Develop systems and operations that capitalize on these specific strengths and skills so that fundraising and post-campaign follow-up becomes an automatic process that will be successfully deployed each and every time. 

There will, of course, always be 5-10% of any group that become the naysayers or manage to have an excuse not to contribute 110%, so focus on the willing, using their synergy to attract new supporters who will freely lend their time and talents to your fundraising strategy

As with creating and fostering a donor-centric organizational culture, the process will take time to evolve, but with consistency and time eventually it will. A donor-centric culture paired with an “all in!” attitude throughout your organization will guarantee greater fundraising success and higher donor retention rates. 

Your organization’s donor-centric culture, “all in” nonprofit engagement framework attitude, thoughtful and quick thank you notes paired with creative and inspiring renewal appeals will ensure your donor retention rates will remain high to maintain and increase revenue generation levels from fundraising. Even though you’re effectively managing these fundamental processes, there’s no guarantee your organization will continue to thrive, let alone grow, simply through successful donor retention strategies. 

Despite your success in maintaining fundraising levels, economic changes or organizational needs may require more funding just to maintain operations. Moreover, even with optimal donor retention strategies and successful execution, donor attrition is inevitable as personal circumstances fluctuate due to changes in employment, geographic location, age, health, financial situation, interests and/or lifespan. 

Mission-focused cultivation events are key to taking both your fundraising and your organization to the next level. In fact, cultivation events are the single most effective method to ensure the long-term sustainability and growth of your nonprofit. These events are specifically designed to directly and creatively engage a targeted group of donors or prospective donors, those most likely to want to support your organization and its Mission, to stimulate strategic organization-wide capacity building and growth. 

Irrespective of the resources you have available, cultivation events can present your Mission, needs, triumphs and challenges in an innovative, impressive and truly personal way, creating a sense of community through unique opportunities to initiate, establish and foster strong relationships that will develop into partnerships, while sharing a meaningful, relevant experience.  

Effective cultivation events can be as, or even more, time-consuming as fundraisers to plan and execute or as simple and cost-effective as possible. Although they provide multiple benefits to your organization, financial and otherwise, the fundamental objective is to achieve the highest return possible on your organization’s investment of time, talent and money. A comprehensive strategic plan should always include at least one cultivation event annually to promote expansion of your donor base, increase giving levels per donor, and provide capacity-building opportunities.

The real beauty of cultivation events is that your organization and its resources are only as limited as your imagination in creating a relevant, evocative experience for existing and prospective donors that will generate new donors and dollars for your Mission. They can be as simple as a tour of your program(s) in operation or as extreme as an exotic retreat or cruise. External venues can also provide unique opportunities to host a cultivation event, such as a local zoo that has had the recent birth of a rare animal, a museum revealing groundbreaking results of an anthropological project, or a new movie or play that dramatically underscores your vital Mission.

What would you add to a nonprofit engagement framework?

Download our Do’s and Don’ts of Getting Boards to Fundraise eBook to review why your board isn’t fundraising and how to fix it.

Brian Lauterbach
With more than twenty years of experience as a fundraiser, consultant and entrepreneur, Brian has helped hundreds of nonprofits and the professionals who lead them to raise money. Throughout his career, Brian has led the process redesign and integration of fundraising channels that raised $400 million from more than 3 million people. He is the founder of, a 501c3 public charity that provides no-cost and low-cost direct fundraising services to organizations with a small budget but a big vision for their missions and impact.