Fundraising & Development

Fundraising and development are frequently confused as the same thing. Development is about relationships with potential and current donors. This ensures continuation of support and procurement of future support. Fundraising is merely raising funds. Wait? Isn’t that the same thing? No. The difference between the two is when funding is actually procured.


Development is the relationship arm, so this has more to do with future funding. These are your long-term donors who support your cause year after year. They could be one time large donors to help you accomplish a major milestone. This could also be grant funding from foundations.


Fundraising has to do with money raised right now. Fundraising also has no guarantee of future funding attached to it. The likelihood of future funding is small when funded right now. This can be your local fundraising event, gala, or special event. These are occasionally repeat events, like an annual gala would be. However, the donors are not always guaranteed. You may not always know who will attend, although you can invite regular donors who have been nurtured through your development efforts.


Frequently, your development team’s effort involves relationships that also offer name recognition. Donors procured through development often want to receive some form of public acknowledgement for their gift. Some will donate anonymously, but most are interested in the recognition. It is important to ensure your development team is astute in knowing how to identify donors who are seeking the recognition from those who do not so that the relationship is properly nurtured.

Those who want recognition want to know that they are contributing to something they want their names associated with, such as a building, floor, wing, or special physical asset. This can also include concert or event sponsorships. Although, those are typically supported by corporate donors, occasionally private entities will want to have their names presented from the stage and listed in the program notes as the sponsor of the event. Others simply want their names associated with certain recognizable personalities. Know your donor so that you can make the right ask.

Nurture and Maintenance

Regular nurturing and creating of your donor base is the foundation of your organization’s long-term survival. As such, development is a major component to your nonprofit efforts. If the focus is kept exclusively to fundraising alone, then the longevity of your efforts will always remain questionable and stressful. Both are important, but neither can be neglected.

Impact on Grants

When seeking grant support, it is key to have both types of efforts in your coffers. Foundations want to see that you have community support and they like to see you making continuous effort to reach out to the community for additional support. If they see that your organization has stable and dependable on-going support, they feel more comfortable extending grant funding to help you grow your programs. In other words, they don’t want to be the only one.

Fundraising as Start-Up

Think of fundraising as your starting funds, and development as your closing and continuation funds. Every new project will require a fundraising event to draw attention to your goal and bring in new interested potential support. From there, you can foster new and continuous relationships during the event and afterward.

Benefits for Donors

Those who participate in your development efforts are interested in the good feeling and potential recognition they receive for supporting your efforts. There is no purchase of any kind that benefits the donor. It is not a ticket to an event nor an advertising space. Although both can be offered as gifts for their contribution.

Know Your Donors

The most important ingredient is knowing your donors and speaking to them in a manner that suits their personal desires and not to misconstrue that with a sales pitch. If they happen to have an interest in the type of work your organization does, find out more about why it is important to them. Involve them so that they feel like they are part of something larger than themselves.

Whether it’s a Corporation, a Foundation, a prospective Major Donor or the recipient of a mass solicitation, they want to know that the money they give will also satisfy their own needs. Do your research on what they are needing and find a way to bridge the gap. This is especially true with corporate donors who may seek additional marketing that is affiliated with their company image supporting their community’s efforts. The major donor may also be running for government office and wants to have their name recognition in the media demonstrating that they are involved in their community’s needs. There are numerous scenarios, but these will give you an idea as to what it is that donors may be interested in.

Foster Relationships with Foundations

Foundations are not seeking name recognition as much as your efforts falling into alignment with their own mission. Fostering relationships with foundations can make a difference between small grants and larger grants. More importantly, it may also lead to repeat grant funding, but not always. Foundations have boards who determine their giving strategies and no manner of relationship building will sway their own self-imposed limitations. That does not mean that they won’t be able to offer more support in the future.

Being a good steward of funding contributed to your cause is only one portion of what motivates continued or even initial support. Relationships are often a key ingredient overlooked by nonprofits who are new to development. Improve your development efforts by learning how corporations and foundations like to give and this is more easily accomplished through the human connection. Appealing to their needs and making your cause meaningful to them are the key ingredients to development success.