A giant yellow post-it note, saying "What is fundraising?" in large letters

What is Fundraising?

Over the last few weeks I’ve been working with people completely new to fundraising. It has made me think about what fundraising is and, more importantly, what fundraising is not. Here are some of my thoughts on this. I’d love to hear yours!


Fundraising IS empowering – my (current) preferred answer to the question “what is fundraising?” is that it is the process of empowering people to solve the problems that matter to them. Whether someone is giving £1 or £1million, our job is to show people how their gift can solve a problem and make the world a better place.


Fundraising IS an investment – there is a famous saying that you have to spend money to make money. This is true in fundraising. However, viewing your fundraising costs as expenses in unhelpful. Framing it as an investment is a more accurate description. You will need to invest time and money before you see a return. Remember – some investments take longer to mature than others. It might be a few years before you see a return. You need to be clear about the risks, and what a successful return on investment looks like for your organisation.


Fundraising IS a team sport – the process of identifying potential supporters, building relationships, asking for money and stewarding donors requires a number of people playing different roles. Relying on your fundraiser or fundraising team to do everything is unlikely to get you very far. Your Board members, Senior Management Team, project and frontline staff, volunteers and existing donors can all play a part in building trust and excitement in potential new supporters.


Fundraising is NOT free money – Fundraising is not a situation where “if you build it they will come”. Assuming that putting up a few signs declaring your charity status and having a Support Us page on your website will see the money rolling in is likely to leave you disappointed. Fundraising takes time, effort, skill and money to build relationships, both before asking for support and after receiving a donation. Supporters need (and deserve!) a lot of love.


Fundraising is NOT a one-way street – our relationships with supporters are not one way. It is not about one person giving and another taking. Instead, encourage your team to think about fundraising as a relationship where both parties are giving something. Ask yourself what you give supporters when they donate, knowing that often the answer isn’t a tangible item or benefit.


Fundraising is NOT compulsory – Fundraising is not the only way to secure money for your cause. There is no rule that says you have to fundraise and some organisations are better suited to getting money in other ways. Trying to spread yourself too thin is dangerous. Identify the areas where you are strongest and invest your time and effort wisely.


Do you agree? What is fundraising to you? And what is it not?