How Balanced or Imbalanced is Your Fundraising?

Fundraising should be as comfortable as two people exploring possibilities.

If done wisely and well, fundraising is nothing more than two people exploring possibilities. That entails:

Agreeing to meet to see if there is a basis for joining forces

If so, exploring which issue organizational capabilities align with a donor’s passions

If achieved, blocking out a project around which a collaboration could be built

If achieved, providing ways for the potential donor to gain comfort and confidence with the potential project, both greater conceptual understanding and experiential familiarity

If achieved, reviewing a draft of what each party is willing to commit to

If agreed to in principle, beginning negotiations to iron out the details

If achieved, signing a gift agreement that includes a stewardship and donor engagement plan

There’s no reason for either party to feel awkward or uncomfortable at any point and plenty of opportunities for either to hit the brakes or, if necessary, bail out. This is balanced fundraising.

So what might cause discomfort? Possibilities include:

  • One party asking too much and offering too little in return
  • One party feeling the need to talk the other into what they want and not listening to or fully respecting the interests or boundaries of the other
  • One party being less than sincere about their intentions hoping to lead the other one on
  • One partying thinking they should be served by the other
  • One party promising something that seems unlikely or impossible to achieve
  • One party trying to rush the other
  • One party more concerned about their goals than building a partnership
  • One party being tasked by a more powerful person do something that doesn’t seem natural, right or comfortable

Any or all of these will create imbalanced fundraising. Any or all will eat away at, if not ruin, the partnership.

Good fundraising should be comfortable for both parties. Bad fundraising usually makes both parties uncomfortable.

So how does your fundraising feel? Just like exploring possibilities? Of has some discomfort crept in – and to which of the imbalances do you attribute it? What other factors contribute to imbalance?

The right way, the open way, the honest way is the best in the long run and for the long run – in fundraising and all relationships and partnerships.


Jim Langley is the president of Langley Innovations. Langley Innovations provides a range of services to its clients to help them understand the cultural underpinnings of philanthropy and the psychology of donors and, with that knowledge, to develop the most effective strategies and tactics to build broader and more lasting communities of support. Jim has authored numerous books including his most recent book, The Future of Fundraising: Adapting to New Philanthropic Realities, published by Academic Impressions in 2020. 

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