Why You Need to Revolutionize Your Fundraising

A giving revolution has already occurred. So, the longer you wait to adapt to it, the farther behind you will fall. Even the healthiest, highest regarded institutions are losing community if they still rely on a fundraising mindset. That’s right, it’s the very mindset of fundraising that’s run its course. Who wants to be fundraised for the sake of fundraising results for an organization that consigns them to the single dimension of “donor”?

The more an organization treats fundraising as a handoff function (“Here’s what we want and in the categories we want it; if you’re really good fundraisers, you’ll get it and not expect anything more from us.”), the more futile and philanthropically enfeebling the results.

We can’t lead with fundraising. We’ve passed the offering basket too often with too little to show for it. Our congregations have shrunk. Those that remain are aging and asking why we haven’t found their replacements. We have to put the fundraising cart back where it belongs, behind the four horses of cause, constituency, congregation, and community.

The suggestions below constitute a blueprint for broad change. Yes, we still have to advertise and provide ways for people to give but they have to be preceded and reinforced by much more unconditional engagement around cause and purpose. We have to create more compelling portals of purpose and let more voices and experiences flow into our organizations. We have to welcome them more warmly and respectfully when they do.

Fundraising has to be replaced with co-creation, collaboration, and shared commitment. Those attributes have to be modeled within. That means philanthropic facilitation has to be done in teams. Those of you fortunate enough to have and work in principal gift teams know how effective that model is, much more so than any single fundraiser, no matter how brilliant or dedicated. So, we know what works; we just have to replicate and scale it.

As I seek to build and become a part of a larger community of kindred spirits dedicated to facilitative practices that will reinvigorate the philanthropic spirit, I will watch carefully how you respond to my thoughts and write more about the elements that you express the greatest interest in. Let’s consider this a conversation starter for 2024.

Perfecting tactics and techniques won’t cut it. We can’t nibble around the margins any longer. We have to be a part of building larger collaborative, democratic constructs or watch our organizations become dependent on fewer and fewer.

How to Revolutionize the Way We Facilitate Philanthropy
  • Get rid of the concept of fundraising
  • Stop begging or cajoling for institutional support
  • Focus on cause
  • Build community around contribution to cause with the greatest emphasis on talent and passion
  • Engage potential philanthropic partners in shaping impact-oriented initiatives
  • Philanthropic facilitators work in teams not as lone individuals carrying portfolios
  • Treat first-time givers of any amount as tentative believers and woo them to the cause
  • Treat all givers like dues paying members, seek their “votes” around all important emerging initiatives


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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