Sometimes I need new ideas and outside perspectives to grow and learn new ways to be productive and successful. Today I’m going to share a few ideas I frequently used as a development director. I hope some of these will help you explore new activities that can grow your donor base.

I have been asked how to go from being a development director to being a full-time fundraising executive. For me, the answer is all about mindset.

  • How do you think about fundraising?
  • When do you think about fundraising?
  • What resources do you commit to growing your donor base? 

I don’t know exactly when it happened, but at some point, I began to think like a fundraiser. What does that mean?

It means I saw opportunity in most situations, people, and resources I encountered. I saw needs and solutions in everyday situations. Do you think that way?

Here are some of the ways I generated new donors and opportunities, and ways I began seeing opportunities all around me.

When I was a development director for the YMCA, I would take a staff with me on ‘fundraising drive-bys’ several times a year.

What is a ‘drive-by’ you might ask?

It is time you drive around town, business parks, areas you are unfamiliar with located in your service area. One person drives and one person writes down the name of businesses you did not know were in your area so you can research if they have giving programs or foundations and if they are giving or have given to your organization in the past.

An additional benefit of this process is learning the companies that have a ‘corporate presence’ in your area. Often I would learn of companies that had a packaging facility, corporate office, warehouse or business office in our community. Many times these companies did not have store fronts in our area, but with a corporate presence of any kind, many businesses can and do give back financially.

Drive-bys are an excellent way to learn the businesses in your area and build relationships with co-workers at the same time. You can then do research on websites and 990s to find out more about each company and their potential to become a donor.

Another way you can fundraise while driving is by listening to radio stations like NPR (National Public Radio). NPR always announces the foundations, trusts, grants and individuals responsible for programming along with the mission statement. This information helps me learn about new donors and what they are interested in supporting. Our local NPR station (WFAE) even has a section on their website where you can learn about companies in their service are that have matching gift programs. For most development staff this is priceless information. If you’d like to see what this site looks like, click here.

When I’m driving around town, and I see businesses going-out-of-business, I always inquire about if they are relocating in the county or moving out of town. If they are leaving town, that could mean dollars of support that stay in an area where they have a presence could be leaving. I like to stay on top of the dollars available in our community.

Along the same lines, if I see new construction in town I stop and ask the construction crew what is being built. Often I can learn about the company and if they do an opening night charity donation, or I can be the ambassador in the community to welcome them and connect them to organizations that might be a good collaborating agency.

The list goes on, but I hope you have some new ideas on how to grow your donor base, learn more about opportunities in your community and how to think like a fundraiser.

We have some free webinars coming up in the next few months, and we will be posting those on our weekly newsletters and our website calendar of events.

Our first book, Grant Writing: What the Pros Know, is being edited for a second edition and you can pre-order your copy now and save $20. It will be available in March 2017, and a 2nd new book is coming out on the heels of that in April – May 2017.