Fundraising Discipline

Fundraising Discipline


By David Allen, Development for Conservation


Disž ciž pline: control gained by enforcing orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior

(Adapted from the online Merriam-Webster dictionary.)


Here’s a TRUTH sequence to start your day today:

  • If you include planned giving and family foundations, individuals account for more than 85% of all the money given away each year. If your organization is more dependent on foundation and corporate support than about 15-20% it speaks to the enormity of your untapped potential as much as to your organizational vulnerability.
  • Relatively few donors give the lion’s share of the money. Prevailing wisdom suggests this isn’t 20% giving 80% anymore, but rather 20% giving more than 90%. In my work, I have correlated the giving of $250 and more to 60-75% of money given by individuals and families.
  • Raising larger amounts of money from individual supporters involves building relationships with them – thinking about them as individuals, tailoring specific activities for them designed to pique their interest and draw them closer to the mission, and even recognizing them when you meet them unexpectedly.
  • Building relationships with donors requires spending time with them – getting on the phone, meeting them in person, taking them on a walk, paddle, or other excursion. Engaging them in a mission experience.
  • Almost anything you do will be easier than reaching out to donors and prospects by phone or in person.
  • Doing it anyway involves DISCIPLINE – enforcing a prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior.


Discipline is something you do every Monday. Or Friday. Or every 1st. Or every January. Here are several examples.

  • Make five phone calls to donors you do not know every day.
  • Meet with three donors in person every week.
  • Take a different Board member to breakfast every month. (Let area donors know when and where and invite them to join you.)
  • Research new donors and members making first gifts every Wednesday morning.
  • Write ten hand-notes saying thank you before you leave the office every Friday.
  • Make the first week of every month “follow-up” week. Who did you talk with or meet with last month? Who needs another call, visit, email, nudge? Who promised something that you never saw? What did you forget to do?
  • Take yourself out to see a new project (or revisit a favorite one) every summer. Extra credit if it’s an easement and you include a visit with the landowner. Extra, extra credit if you take a donor or a Board member with you.
  • Write a blog every Tuesday morning!


Discipline isn’t easy. If it were your favorite part of each week, it wouldn’t require discipline! But if you will apply discipline, it will eventually become habit.

And these habits – thoughtfully and intentionally reaching out to donors, getting to know them and their motivations for supporting the organization – will help you raise more money.


What are you doing now that would qualify as discipline?


Cheers, and Have a great week.




Photo by Paul Gilmore, courtesy



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  • Sarah Parkes
    Posted at 12:25h, 02 July

    This is such a helpful post. Thank you! Discipline is a conundrum for me. In some facets of my life, I am extremely disciplined. In others I am rather disorganized. One area that works for me is training for long distance running races. I have a plan and I know what I need to do. I see that I could really benefit from planning in a similar way for the other stuff.

    • David Allen
      Posted at 13:26h, 02 July

      You are absolutely right on multiple levels. Good discipline leads to good habits leads to good fundraising leads to good results. Good to hear from you!

  • Carol Abrahamzon
    Posted at 10:00h, 02 July

    Love this David! Plans and routines are how I accomplish all that I do and this is a great plan, thank you!

    • David Allen
      Posted at 10:44h, 02 July

      Thanks for the comment, Carol. Many folks who call me for help are simply not organized to raise more money than they do now. Establishing routines and imposing self-discipline can help. I knew a major gift fundraiser who had wooden nickels lined up on her desk. When she met with a donor in person or on the phone, she would move one of the nickels into a bowl. By the end of every week, her goal was to have all of the nickels in the bowl. It seemed to work for her.