Running a small fundraising shop can be overwhelming – there are SO many fundraising strategies to choose from and only so much time in a day to do any of them effectively.

Plus, there’s some new, awesome tool on the internet nearly every week.

When you have limited resources of time and money, how do you decide what strategy will give you the most return on your investment?

The answer is simple – focus on building relationships.

No matter what strategy you choose, it all boils down to relationships.

Think about it.

  • Want to hold a successful event? You need relationships with volunteers to serve on the planning committee, businesses who will sponsor and people to attend.
  • Want a grant? You need a relationship with a foundation.
  • Want a successful appeal? You need relationships with donors who will click the “donate now” button.

Get it?

Now for some bad news.

You can’t build relationships sitting at your desk.

You can’t get to know people by sending out appeals or social media messages. If people don’t feel connected to your organization, chances are they won’t pay much attention to you.

You need relationships.

Need to start some? Or strengthen some?

Here’s what you can do:

  • Meet people. Relationships start with an introduction, so make sure you’re putting yourself out in the community where you can make new friends for your nonprofit. Speak to the local Rotary clubs and church groups. Mingle at networking events. Just get out of the office because you’ve already met everyone there.
  • Become an excellent listener. Most people want to feel heard, your donors included. Ask them to share why they support your nonprofit. Invite them to email you to share their story of philanthropy. Make a thank-you call and invite their feedback. Get used to ALWAYS listening to donors so you can pick up the little cues about what they value.
  • Invite donors to get involved. Find ways for donors to do a small task for your nonprofit that will make them feel good. Ask them to judge a competition, deliver toys at Christmas, or walk a shelter dog that doesn’t get much attention.
  • Host small events. Gather a few donors for a small, intimate dinner party. Share the impact your organization is making. Then FOLLOW UP with attendees to hear their thoughts.
  • Show up where your donors are. Do your donors attend other nonprofit events? You bet they do, and you should, too. It might give you a chance to chat with them when you aren’t busy trying to work your own event.

Your relationships with your donors are your most precious resource.

Nurture them. Grow them. Strategize about how to cultivate and solicit those donors.

Don’t forget to pull in other people close to your organization who can help you build relationships, too, like Board members and volunteers.

There are lots of ways to raise money but everything comes back to the strength of the relationship. Strong donor relationships mean better donor retention and higher average giving.

Do everything you can to strengthen those ties and watch the rest of your fundraising get easier.

As part of Bloomerang’s Content Donation Program, $100 was donated to Horse Haven of Tennessee.

gift acknowledgment program

Sandy Rees
Sandy Rees is the Founder and Chief Encouragement Officer at Get Fully Funded. She shows leaders of new and small nonprofits how to fully fund their dream so they can make the difference they want to make in the world. She has helped dozens of small nonprofits go from “nickel-and-dime fundraising” to adding 6 figures to their bottom line. As a trainer, she shows her students how to find ideal donors, connect through authentic messaging, and build relationships that stand the test of time, so that fundraising becomes easy and predictable. Find out more at