“Explain what you mean,” I said. And he tried to do it again. I had asked a Director of Development to define the various forms of fundraising for me. It was a friendly conversation, but I was trying to make a point. So we continued the discussion and even looked up some definitions and wrote them down. I have tried to replicate them here as best as I can remember:

  • Fund development – the planning and implementing of programs that are meant to increase contributed financial support for an organization.
  • Fundraise – to seek donations from various sources for the support of an organization or a specific project.
  • Fundraiser – 1) a person, paid or volunteer, who plans, manages, or participates in raising assets and resources for an organization or cause. Compare DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT; PROFESSIONAL FUNDRAISER; SOLICITOR. 2) an event conducted for the purpose of generating funds. Also benefit; kick-off; special event. See also CAREER FUNDRAISER; COMMERCIAL SOLICITOR; PAID SOLICITOR; PROFESSIONAL FUNDRAISER.
  • Fundraising – the raising of assets and resources from various sources for the support of an organization or a specific project. Fundraising, fund-raising. See also CENTRALIZED FUNDRAISING; DECENTRALIZED FUNDRAISING. Compare BENEFIT; KICK-OFF; SPECIAL EVENT.
  • Resource Development – the practice of identifying, cultivating, and securing financial and human support for an organization. Compare DEVELOPMENT; FUND DEVELOPMENT; INSTITUTIONAL ADVANCEMENT.

(You can substitute “major gifts” for any of the words being defined above and still come out with the same definitions. So keep that in mind for the sake of this exercise.)
Now take a look at all of these definitions. What’s wrong with each of them? What’s wrong is that each definition is about increasing financial support, seeking donations, raising assets and securing financial support. Each one is solely about money.
That is not good. Because as Jeff and I have been saying all along, major gifts is not (just) about the money.
So what is the proper definition of “fundraising”? Here it is:

Matching the passions and interests of people to the needs of the planet as expressed through and serviced by a non-profit organization.

We believe that a focus on helping donors fulfill their passions and interests through the organization is a far better approach – because it has you, as the MGO, treating the donor as a partner, not a source of cash, AND it assures a long and healthy relationship with each donor.
Take some time, in the next few business days, to review your own definition of fundraising and major gifts, and to realign your practice and thinking if it is needed.