A Funder in Motion Should Stay in Motion

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Jun 22

James J.G. Pérez

A Funder in Motion Should Stay in Motion

by James J.G. Pérez

Who remembers Isaac Newton’s first law of motion…

If you need a hint, here is the formula:


For those of you that did not use the internet to search for it, Newton’s first law of motion says that an object at rest will stay at rest unless affected by an outside force. Maybe because my father, a manufacturing engineer, used to try and get me to do physics problems for fun, this has been one of my personal and professional mantras since my teens.

Newton is giving us really great life advice. If you do everything the same as you are doing now, nothing is going to change. If you don’t want things to change, great! If you are looking for change…something needs to give.

One of the first things I teach clients in development coaching workshops is that you are more likely to be abducted by aliens while hanging out with Sasquatch, than you are to receive an unsolicited, out-of-the-blue gift of any size from an unknown person. A large number of organizations wait for the donor, funder, foundation, corporate partner, or even paid member to contact them about making a gift.

The next thing I reflect on with coaching clients is whether they are currently “putting out a fire” with their funding requests or are following a donor strategy that was compiled at a team meeting. Most, but not all, fall into that first category.

This is passive and reactive fundraising, and it is not where we want to be. We want to be dynamic and proactive.

A dynamic and proactive fundraiser splits their portfolio into thirds:

  1. Solicitation - whom am I asking this year?
  2. Cultivation - whom should I ask next year and how can I cultivate that relationship?
  3. Stewardship - whom did I ask last year and how can I maintain a relationship with them?

This fundraiser spends their time reaching out to their solicitation segment to set up donor meetings to put together well researched and crafted proposals that demonstrate the donor’s interest and where it aligns with the vision of the organization. Dynamic and proactive fundraisers take the strategic vision laid out by the Executive Director and Board, identify key funding priorities, and cultivate prospects who have expressed interest in those areas. They reach out, invite, encourage, and inform the donor of the progress within their area of interest. Finally, they spend time stewarding the donors in their portfolio that made a gift the previous year, actively sharing impact reports and updates.

The dynamic and proactive fundraiser must be set up for success by the organization as a whole. Funding priorities must be laid out in a strategic plan or an annual development plan, somewhere that is easily referenced and can be recited on the spot. When we fail to create a big picture framework, we run from fire to fire, leaving our development teams mentally, physically, and psychologically exhausted.

If we keep putting out fires, we will never have the time to step back, write a plan, and galvanize a new future. We will stay in motion down the same path unless a force affects a change. In human terms, a relationship will stay motionless unless we reach out.

The message is simple –if you don’t ask, they won’t give. Without a vision for the future, you only exist for tomorrow, which will not inspire a donor.

Newton may have written the laws of motion three hundred years ago, but I think they are just as relevant today and can be applied directly to our profession.

If you’d like to learn more about how you can apply these principals to your development plan, check out our new cohort learning program. During these sessions, participants will learn and gain confidence in understanding the foundations and essential principles of fund development. Registration is now open! Click here for more info.



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