"You Need To Have Red Before You See Green"

Updated: Feb 21

By Debra Thompson, President, Strategy Solutions


All nonprofit organizations want to raise money to support their missions. Some do it well and others struggle to get the necessary levels of support. What is the difference?


One of the key differences we often see is that some nonprofit leaders understand what Francie

Ambuske, one of our fundraising consultants, calls “the Heart of the Art of Philanthropy,” while others don’t. This is the art of knowing how to “get in touch with” your community, your constituents, your prospects, and donors and to “invite them to partner in your mission.”

The desire to give and to give back seems to be inherent in many people, but you have to listen carefully and intently to their passion and interests and “connect their hearts to your cause” before you can expect any meaningful financial support. You need to have red (heart, & passion) before you see green (gift).


Here are some critical success factors in donor relationship building that are often overlooked and leave people wondering why others raise more money:


 Get to know people. Show sincere interest in them and what they are interested in. This

includes meeting them where they are in life and looking for ways to demonstrate how your

mission fits with what is important to them. Relationship building includes realizing that we all

have the same humanity and people have a longing to make a difference. The desire to give

back is a powerful motivating force and people will give to causes they are interested in and

where their investment can make an impact in meaningful ways. Look for and understand where

the “mission match” lies between your cause and their interests.


 Truly believe in your “case for support.” This is much more than simply asking for money. This

includes a full understanding of the resources you need and articulating how those resources

will make an impact on the community you serve. Then you must “make the case” that it is

important to the donor’s interests to support your cause. When you give of yourself to truly

understand the donor’s interests and the donor realizes you truly believe in the case you are

presenting, then doors can open.


 Offer opportunities for donors to make a difference. You want to help people be comfortable

where they are in their thinking, and it is your job to offer opportunities for them to make a

difference. Donors help us further the Vision of our institution. The donor always teaches.

Listen. Intently. There is no magic formula; always look for ways to make meaningful

connections. When they trust us, donors will allow us into their hearts and will tell us what is

important to them to support. And while this is critical when it comes to major donor

cultivation, we should be cultivating relationships with all of our stakeholders and potential

donors at all levels.


 Remember that “We are the donor. We are the family. We are the community. It is up to us to

promote fundraising in such a way that people want to join us in the mission.” This is where

the heart comes in. People want to see the heart and commitment of the board, staff, and

volunteers. Sometimes it is hard to justify a financial commitment when those closest to the

organization are not supporting the cause at a “heart” level themselves.


Philanthropy represents the love of humankind. Where the donor understands and has a love for the

mission, there is a greater likelihood of forgiving. This is where good listening comes in. If you listen well, you can help the donor achieve their goals through your mission. You need to have red (heart, & passion) before you see green (gift).

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