Not too long ago, I sent an internal message to my team. As the header, I wrote, “Sales, Sales, Sales – Key to Success: Catch the Sales Fever.” “Almost” achieving goals is not good enough. My team knows, we not only want to reach our goals, but we also want to surpass them. Growth leads to success. Our primary focus is always to grow and dominate the industry. There is no “Plan B,” which means we have to make money.

That got me thinking about nonprofits, and I know there’s resistance to aggressively fundraising. I know fundraisers have to deal with board members who don’t want to raise money, executive directors who don’t want to raise money, and other fundraisers who fret about asking “too many times.”

However, so many nonprofit leaders and donors don’t treat these organizations as businesses. Despite the tax designation, nonprofits are businesses and they require money to grow and succeed.

I’ve never had a problem asking for money, and I think people who lead and work nonprofits shouldn’t be afraid of money. You’re not asking for yourself. You’re asking for the critical services you provide in your community.

Ingredients for Success in Fundraising

If you look as success coming through money and you get comfortable with it, opportunities are going to come much easier for your nonprofit. Everyone on your team should love money and just be cool with it. Money is not a mystery; make more of it and you can do more good.

I think there are two ideas that everyone associated with a nonprofit should remember for fundraising success. It’s not about the science or the art of the ask. It’s about foundation and core, it’s about how you view things and your relationship with the money you need to grow and dominate in your industry.

  1. It’s on everyone. I tell everyone in my companies that everyone is in sales. Even if their job description does not directly have sales as part of their duties, there’s not a position in the companies that in my view does not somehow deal with sales. Why? Every person on the team represents the company.

Every team member that picks up the telephone or sends an email from your organization represents you. If donors have a good experience and understand that the person on the other end cares about them and the work, it helps supporters want to be involved with you.

  1. Hustle: When I sent the note to my team, I have them the dictionary definition of the word “hustle.”




  1. force (someone) to move hurriedly or unceremoniously in a specified direction.

“They hustled him into the back of a horse-drawn wagon”

  1. NORTH AMERICAN informal

obtain by forceful action or persuasion.

“The brothers headed to New York to try and hustle a record deal”

Here’s the deal. Fundraising, like sales, takes energy. You have to want it. I think one of the reasons that a lot of nonprofits never grow or become sustainable is because they don’t want it bad enough.

Sure, virtually all nonprofit leaders care about the mission. But, they don’t focus enough on the money. They care about the programs, and that’s great, but they don’t spend the energy required to invest in and develop their programs, and that’s a sign to me that they don’t want it bad enough. My question to the nonprofit leaders who don’t believe it’s on them to hustle and fundraise, are they really happy to limp along and then complain when they don’t have enough resources? Is that right for the organization and the mission it serves?

Not too long ago, I attended a conference up north about fundraising. I met with many passionate thought leaders who talk about nonprofit sustainability. It doesn’t come from magical thinking. Growth, sustainability and by extension, success, originate from a determined focus on obtaining the necessary resources for success. The biggest resource is MONEY. Period.

Having been in the social sector for a long time, I can tell you that a lot of nonprofit leaders fail in cultivating the two ingredients for success––both related to money.

  1. Everyone in the nonprofit or social enterprise, from the board to the executive director, to every member of the staff is involved in fundraising.
  2. You’ve got to hustle. Things don’t appear magically. You get success when you chip away at the money issue. Every. Single. Day.

The nonprofits that have grown and become sustainable are expert fundraisers. They don’t have an uncomfortable relationship with money. They talk about money. They like money. They don’t feel embarrassed about needing or wanting it. They invest in their operations and team.

What you do and how you do it at your nonprofit crosses the “money bridge.” So, my only suggestion to you is to own it. Get everyone in your nonprofit involved in fundraising and hustle. Do that every day without fail and see how your fortunes change.


Author of “Not Your Father’s Charity: How to Dominate Your Fundraising to Create Your Success” (Free Digital Download)

© 2017 Wayne Elsey and Not Your Father’s Charity. All Rights Reserved.