Values-driven fundraising—positioning your organization for success

By: Melissa Leite

What is “values-driven fundraising” and why does it matter? Values-driven fundraising focuses on understanding the values and priorities of a funder, which is critical to an organization’s fundraising success. Convincing a funder that a need exists should not be the the sole focus. Why should a funder care about your initiative, and more importantly, why should they support your work? What makes your proposal stand out from the crowd?

Traditional fundraising does not always take into account the values of a funder, and, often times, language and terminology that is used in the proposal does not resonate. If you are not conscious about communicating in a way that connects your audience, you jeopardize your fundraising success.

As fundraisers, we are also looking for strategic gifts that are aligned with our mission, and as such, our approach needs to reflect shared values.

We are all passionate about what we do, want to raise the necessary funds to do the work, and make this world a better place. Using standardized language isn’t going to cut it. Fundraisers not only need to do their research, but need to offer an opportunity—something enticing that contributes to the success of a funder’s mission. Show them something they care about and make a fundraising proposition that is too hard to pass up. Customization is key and in order to do this well, you need to do your homework.

Before building a proposal, ask yourself this:

  • Does the funder’s interests align with the amazing work that your organization is doing?
  • And if so, what are their key priorities?

If an opportunity exists, be prepared to articulate how a funder’s objectives align with your work and why a partnership makes sense. When writing a proposal, use mutually understood language and create a value statement that outlines how your organization’s work matches their priorities. Your organization’s value should be conveyed immediately, and most importantly, you should outline the outcomes you will achieve if a donation is made. The outcomes outlined in the proposal should clearly add value to the funder’s mission.

Your proposal should be clear, specific and realistic—never over-promise. Remember, your organization is accountable for the deliverables and you will want to ensure you can report on the impact of the gift.

In taking a values-driven approach to fundraising, your organization can create shared-value relationships with funders and can reap benefits far beyond the initial gift. Making the initial investment of time to get to know a funder’s values can open the door to more long-term funding commitments and alleviate some of the pressure to bring in new funding year over year—a truly important distinction.

Originally posted on AFP Inclusive Giving’s blog. Melissa is a 2016 AFP Inclusion and Philanthropy Fellow. The goal of this program is to build a pipeline of fundraising leaders that reflect the diversity of our communities.


Interview with Tara Marsden, Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs Office

Gitanyow is a community nestled along the Kitwanga River in Northwestern BC. They are represented by the Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs to establish modern treaties and implement First Nations conservation practices and land use planning for their territory. We interviewed Wilp Sustainability Director for the Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs Tara Marsden and learned more about the Gitanyow model of long-term conservation planning, the significance of observing and adopting First Nations values and methods in conservation, and the importance of flexible, multi-year granting.

Community stories share local food successes in northern Manitoba

928 kilometres north of Winnipeg, Manitoba lies Barren Lands First Nation and Brochet. Facing high food costs, the community of just over 600 people expanded on an already existing interest in gardening by building a 14 x 20-foot greenhouse in 2013 in coordination with their local health centre and the Northern Manitoba Food, Culture, and Community Collaborative (NMFCCC). This is only one of many inspiring examples from the NMFCCC 2016 Community Stories booklet, which shares learnings from 18 communities.