Funding Change Consulting Blog Advice

Everything I Know About Fundraising I Learned From My Dog, Part 1

Hello fabulous fundraisers,

Five years ago, I wrote what has become my most popular and most remembered article: Everything I Know About Fundraising I Learned From My Dog. To bring a slice of fundraising joy (and cute dog photos) to your week, I’m republishing that article here. Enjoy Penny’s wisdom (and her sweet, soulful eyes) below. And stay tuned for more from my Penny girl soon!

1. Nothing is more important than trust and loyalty.

Penny was a rescue. Her litter was born on the street, and she lived at a wonderful shelter in Louisiana and two foster homes before I adopted her. It took time for her to fully trust me, and trust that she had found her forever home. I put in the time and didn’t ask for too much too soon. And now she never leaves my side.

You may not want your donors literally not leaving your side. But how about never leaving your organization? That’s the ultimate goal, right? Having donors for life means taking the time to earn their trust. And then continually demonstrating that you remain worthy of that trust. 


2. Love and appreciation are most memorable when unexpected.

Penny made a serious impression the first time she sneaked up on me and licked my face. I won’t forget it and I told anyone who would listen about what my new puppy did.

The most memorable thank you is unexpected. How can you show appreciation to your donors in a unique way that they won’t be expecting? Or how can you take something they are expecting (like their acknowledgement letter) and make it memorable?


3. Never pretend to be something you’re not.

Penny doesn’t know how to be insincere or dishonest. Dogs are good like that.

You should be equally true to your mission and honest with supporters. Positioning your organization as something it’s not to win funding is never a good idea. And when it comes to bad news, sharing it with your donors will garner respect for your truthfulness and transparency.



4. Have a great welcome strategy.

Penny runs to the door to greet visitors. She wags her tail so enthusiastically that it’s a full body wiggle. When she was a puppy, if she really loved you, she’d pee a little.

You also need to welcome new donors in a friendly, enthusiastic way so they know you’re happy to have them. Whether or not you pee in excitement is up to you.


5. Don’t give up if you don’t get what you want the first time you ask.

Penny is often ready to play before I am in the morning. Going back to sleep doesn’t do much to dissuade her. She waits and tries again.

This is the same approach you want to take with your donors. Saying no to what you ask may simply mean “not now” — not “never.” So don’t give up.



6. Ask for one thing at a time.

If I asked Penny to “sit” and “heel” at the same time, she would have no idea what to do and probably do nothing.

Likewise with your donors, if you ask them for two things at the same time — to donate and volunteer, to give and make a phone call, etc. — they’re also likely to do nothing. You get one ask per communication.


7. New and exciting gets attention.

The first time I was with Penny when she saw a squirrel, I thought she was going to break the leash. She was so excited by this new playmate. (The squirrel, as you may have guessed, felt differently.)

New and exciting is also appealing to your donors. What is your organization doing that’s newsworthy? What exciting achievements have your donors made possible? Be sure you’re effectively sharing this with your supporters so they understand the impact of their gifts.


8. Figure out what is most motivating.

Penny loves cheese. When it comes to treats, there’s little that motivates her more than cheese. This is powerful information to have…both for motivating and rewarding her.

There are probably a lot of reasons why someone might give to your cause. Once you understand your donors and their individual reasons for donating, you’ll be better able to speak to those motivations. And that will certainly boost your fundraising results.


(Check out Part 2 of Penny’s advice to fundraisers here.)

Tina Cincotti, owner of Funding Change, is a donor communications expert and general nonprofit nerd.
June 26, 2018


Comments · 3

  1. These rules are absolutely outstanding. It definitely applies to the fundraising world. Further, these are concepts are of great value to awaken appreciation for dogs, our beloved and loyal companions. Thanks Tina for such a treasure.

Leave a Reply



Don't miss out! Subscribe and share with your colleagues!