As you may have guessed from the title of this post, we are here today to dispel a common myth about the way that fundraising works.

There is no magical unicorn fundraiser.

In fact, we’d argue that the real work of fundraising—the work that results in the most effective implementation of a fundraising strategy—is mundane, banal, and downright routine. No major gifts officer, development director, or other frontline fundraiser can actually do their job well without hours and hours of administrative work to back them up.

That work starts with prospect research—which, depending on your organization can be anything from diving deep into databases to running a cursory Google search. If you follow the Donorly Blog, then you already know why this work is important. Research helps a fundraiser prioritize their time, determine when and how to cultivate a prospect, and assess how big an ask to make.

The work continues with data management. Once you have helpful information on a prospect, it has to be recorded somewhere—preferably somewhere logical and accessible, such as a database or excel spreadsheet. Having that data on hand will help a frontline fundraiser determine how to address a letter to the prospect, or remind them of that prospect’s last point of contact with the organization.

Using that data, someone on the team has to be in charge of moves management—determining next steps for cultivation as prospects are brought into the pipeline, and making sure that those steps get taken at the right time by the right people.

Once the time is right for an ask, all of the information that has been learned throughout the cultivation process has to be distilled and conveyed to the person doing the asking, to provide for as smooth a conversation as possible. Then, when a gift is made, it gets logged in the database, and someone becomes responsible for ensuring a quick and effective ‘Thank You’ and continued moves management to (hopefully) steward the donor to a repeat gift.

The ask, while an art in and of itself, is only one part of an extensive process.

So, when you’re staffing a fundraising team, consider this: while there is no magical unicorn fundraiser, the most important work is conducted by highly effective narwhal development assistants, associates, coordinators, and managers.



Unicorn” by Valerie Everett is licensed under CC BY 2.0