Defining Greatness in Fundraising

Defining Greatness in Fundraising

May 15th, 2015

by Lee Ernst


JGA recently sponsored the AFP Indiana Chapter Spring Conference. Dr. Adrian Sargeant, Director of the Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy, was the keynote speaker and spoke on the topic of Great Fundraising. He asked leading fundraisers and fundraising consultants how they define greatness in fundraising.
I wanted to share some of the highlights from his presentation as this topic serves as a good reminder how others define greatness and success for our field.


  • Understand your role as a leader and how best to utilize your time. Being able to manage people and the health of the organization is key as you can then allow the team to manage the fundraising mechanisms. As one fundraiser said “… they know both ‘what’ to think about fundraising and ‘how’ to think about fundraising.”
  • Use clear metrics for fundraising and implement goals that have finite time parameters. A shared understanding of what everyone is working toward helps create forward momentum and growth.
  • Build a good team that exhibits the following: technical skills, human skills and conceptual skills. People must not only have the expertise but the ability to work with others and the mental ability to problem solve complex issues.
  • Focus on recruiting top people and retain them. Recruit by personality. Look for those that want to grow, have drive, and are comfortable with change. How do you retain your top people? Let them be part of the organization’s success by grooming and mentoring and consider a financial reward if the goals are hit. Help develop them into leaders. Mentor programs and other learning opportunities such as access to board meetings and other organization leaders incentivize staff to learn and grow.
  • Create a great organizational structure. This includes the opportunity for upward management, peer management, and the ability for flexibility when issues arise.
  • Implement a good culture of learning that includes a clear vision. People must be able to march towards the same cause and goals. A good culture also allows for change that is inspired by learning and experience.

In conclusion, this recap should serve as hopefully both an education and reminder of what we, in the philanthropic sector, focus on as we strive to define our own fundraising greatness.

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