Standards for Fundraisers?

good-better-bestToo often those involved in ministry see fundraising as a necessary evil and those who do fundraising as akin to used car salespeople.

Some people assume that the fundraiser will tell the prospective donor anything to get a gift and take no responsibility after-the-fact for how the money is used. They may even mistakenly believe that nonprofit fundraisers work on commission: the more people you fool, the more money you make.

Not true.

Like many disciplines, fundraising has its professional associations and established standards of practice.

Legitimate fundraisers are fundraising professionals that are employed or contracted. They are paid salaries that are not related to who they raise money from or the size and amount of gifts they bring in. They are expected to be honest with their donors and represent their organizations and programs with integrity.

Whether or not fundraisers remain with one organization or move around, they are typically very concerned with their reputation. In almost any community, philanthropists talk to each other and compare notes. The word quickly gets out when a fundraiser or their organization breaks the public trust or is caught doing something dishonorable.

Successful fundraisers depend on return donors so they have a great incentive to make sure that promises are kept and programs to be funded are fairly presented. This may include disclosing challenges and struggles.

Part of sound fundraising is the ability of the organization to respond professionally when gifts are given. A best practice is to provide donors with a letter of appreciation and a tax receipt within a week of receiving the gift.

Organizations are also expected to have a database to keep track of donors and their gifts from year to year. You never want a donor to call about a past gift that you know nothing about.

Respecting donor designations for how they want the money used is essential.

Providing candid progress reports and accounting for the money given is expected.

Being available to answer donor concerns and questions is important if you want to sustain a long-term relationship with the donor.

Most of us who are raising money for Christian work see fundraising as a ministry in itself. We fundraisers are the bridge connecting the donor and the mission. We educate and inspire the donor with sound knowledge about the work. We help the donor decide what to support and how much to give. We make sure that the giving process is fulfilling for the donor. We keep the organization informed on what donors think, believe, and feel. Great fundraisers are trusted to be out front for their organization and their programs. They are also trusted by the donors to provide information, solve problems, and ensure that the gifts are used as planned.

People who make significant gifts to your organization are smart and educated professionals. They expect and will judge your organization by how smart and professional your staff is. Your fundraisers are out in front on your behalf. They need to be well trained and reflect the values of your ministry. They also need to have a service mindset respecting and protecting their client, the donor.

Sparrow offers several programs to help you evaluate and develop your fundraising program. This is one area of your ministry where better strategies and practices can yield great rewards.


Michael Friedline
NonProfit Advance Principal Consultant
Sparrow Solutions Consultant



Stay updated on information that could impact you in your local PMC

Subscribe to the PMC Advisor Newsletter