Think of your dearest friends. The people who are closer to you than family. Did that bond endure despite silence, inattentiveness and a lack of interest in their lives?

Of course it didn’t! You invested countless time and energy in those relationships.

It is difficult to comprehend that fundraising and friendraising as practices often exist in a vacuum from one another. For an organization to be truly donor-centric – a key way to retain donors – they must focus on building long-term relationships.

After all, friends stay loyal, while casual acquaintances can come and go.

So why don’t fundraisers flex their friendship-creation skills more?

Often times, in search for the elusive magic bullet technique in fundraising, such as the latest Internet technique or direct mail differentiator, we forget that the desire to give within donors is truly generated by a personal interactions between individuals. This may cause some to consider relationship-building as far too simple to be effective in raising money, if they think of it at all.

Instead, we flip the funnel. We work hard to acquire new gifts from strangers, then attempt to build a relationship (if at all). It’s no wonder that new donor retention rates are at an all-time low.

But what if we strove to create friendships first, then solicit gifts? Or, worked harder to build a relationship than we did to acquire the gift. Imagine the lifetime value of those long-term donors!

(Yes, the larger the donation, the better the relationship usually is – but more importantly, the longer the relationships usually lasts.)

Major gift fundraisers have this mastered. Granted, you can’t take every $100 annual donor out to lunch – but you can get to know them as more than a name and a checking account number. Gail Perry has some ideas for how to do that here.

Friendraising isn’t a prerequisite, but if you find your organization lacks loyal donors, it might be time to ditch the sales pitch and nurture existing relationships.

Loyal donors are your organization’s best friends. Hopefully more fundraisers will embrace this simple but powerful concept of using one’s natural friendship-creation skills. It can improve your donor retention rates, and by extension, your contribution revenue.

Give a try! You will be pretty darn good at it!


Jay Love

Jay Love

Co-Founder & Chief Relationship Officer at Bloomerang
A 30+ veteran of the nonprofit software industry, Jay Love co-founded Bloomerang in 2012. Prior to Bloomerang, he was the CEO and Co-Founder of eTapestry for 11 years, which at the time was the leading SaaS technology company serving the charity sector. Jay and his team grew the company to more than 10,000 nonprofit clients, charting a decade of record growth. Prior to starting eTapestry, Jay served 14 years as President and CEO of Master Software Corporation. MSC provided a widely used family of database products for the non-profit sector called Fund-Master. He currently serves on the board of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University and is the past AFP Ethics Committee Chairman. Jay is also the author of Stay Together: How to Encourage a Lifetime of Donor Loyalty.