Yes, you have to spend money to raise money, but…

A lot of money spent on fundraising has little or no effect on fundraising results. And when you spend money on the wrong things, you under-invest in the right ones and put good people in service to flawed, short-sighted tactics. What we do and don’t spend money on reveals an organization’s level of fundraising sophistication and attunement to current and emerging philanthropic realities.

The mega-trends in fundraising are powerful and obvious although there may be geographical variances and anomalies for highly respected organizations. They include:

  • From single-act fundraising to philanthropic partnership building
  • From “corporate speak” to honest dialogue
  • From seeking to draw donors into one place to offering various portals of purpose
  • From mass marketed to micro-targeted appeals
  • From pitches to conversations
  • From strategic pillars to how people can help people

These are the mega-trends because they are the most adaptive and responsive to changing donors’ sensibilities.

You don’t just spend money to raise money, you have to spend money on the right things for the right reasons. You have to spend more on fundraising strategies that are philanthropically preservative and regenerative and avoid those that are tired and depletive.


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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