Why Friendraising Works Better Than Fundraising

Ok, I’m presenting a revolutionary concept today.

Board members of the Central Ohio Symphony love “Friendraising!”

And this idea just might have gotten me thrown out of fundraising ten years ago.

But now, I really do think that the fundraising profession may be more open to this idea. We’re coming around.

Here’s my revolutionary proposal to you:

I’d rather have Friends to my organization than Donors.

Yes, I’d rather have passionate, die-hard Friends to my cause than donors.

I know, I know – “Friends” are not going to keep your organization afloat.

You need more than friendship – you desperately need money!  Now more than ever.

But stick with me a minute and read on.

Here’s my question back to you:

If you had a bunch of passionate Friends for your organization – what would they do for your cause?

  • They’d stick with you.
  • They’d be loyal no matter what.
  • They’d bring in other friends.
  • They’d spread the word.

And when the going gets tough, where will your Friends be?

When the going gets tough, your Friends will stick with you!

  • Right there with you, doing whatever they can do to keep your cause afloat.

Will your Friends give you money?

  • Of course they’ll give money if they can.

So why don’t we focus on creating passionate Friends for our organization than just donors?

I’ve said this before:

The #1 goal of fundraising is to make your donors as PASSIONATE about your cause as you are.

And Friendmaking is what creates passionate supporters.

I propose to you that friendmaking is a kinder, gentler, more fun and MUCH more effective approach than fundraising.

Friendmaking is a more SUSTAINABLE way to raise money.

Because it puts the emphasis where it needs to be – on the relationship with the individual person.

And because  – most importantly – it seeks more out of the person than just money.

Friendmaking is a winning strategy because it treats donors like real PEOPLE and not like WALLETS.

Friendmaking is good manners because it asks for MORE than just money.

You are asking for the person’s help, their participation, their involvement, their good ideas. And then the money will come.

And we all know the old fundraising adage:

Involvement Leads to Investment.

Try turning your current DONORS into your Friends.

Why don’t you focus on your current donors and make Friends out of them – so they’ll stick with you and renew their gifts.

Why don’t you approach your donors like family – like long-lost friends.

And over-communicate with them. Invite them to special parties and events.

Give them behind the scenes tours.

Give them special donor/briefings about what you are doing and the challenges your organization faces. Ask them to volunteer and help you out.

If you treat your donors like friends, they’ll give more and stick with you longer.

Friendmaking is simply a more successful way to do fundraising.

Board members love “Friendraising.”

You know that I work a lot with boards around the country and North America.

And many board members worry fundraising is all about “hitting people up for money.”

Worse, many volunteers think it’s about “asking strangers for money.”  (Cold calls = fate worse than death!)

We know that fundraising is NOT about asking for money – it’s about changing the world.

Nervous board members think fundraising = cold calls.

When we make it all about money – we lessen our impact.

We lower ourselves.

Changing the world has you standing high up on the hill, shining with purpose and light. You attract people and energy to you.

Seeking money puts you down in the swamp where fundraising is transactional – like buying and selling. It’s easy to repel people.

And good fundraising is emphatically never about money.

We are never just asking for money – we are asking someone to join us to make our community better – to solve a problem – to change or save lives.

Shame on us if we make it all about the money.

Board members have all these myths about fundraising that make it difficult and scary.

Why not try Friendmaking with your board?

It’s a wonderful approach if you are trying to get your board members involved in fundraising.  It’s fun. And it’s accessible.

We genuinely DO want Friends for our organization – whether they give money or not.

I tell board members that their real job is to find die-hard friends for their cause.

I tell them to put the idea of money and asking – over to the side.

Friendraising Creates Energy and Enthusiasm for the Cause

Board members can be very comfortable making friends for the cause, because it removes the dark notion of “asking for money.”

Take the fear away from fundraising.

This idea takes the fear away from fundraising for many board members.

Volunteers can embrace the idea of just piling everybody they know on your organization’s bandwagon.

Volunteers can embrace a fight for the cause. A fight for what they believe in. A fight for what they know is right.

Now THAT’s the way to put some energy behind your board’s friendmaking efforts.

Bottom Line:

Refocus your – and your boards’s efforts on Friendmaking and you just may unleash a tidal wave of energy for your cause.

Comments:  This post is really my personal manifesto – it’s my philosophy and my practice. And it goes over very, very well.

What do you think??  Let me know!

  • Great article, Gail.  I love the idea of “Friend-raising” as much as I prefer “Fun-Raising”. It’s about engagement and passion, not the check! If your supporters care about the mission they might find another way to support the cause in lean times .

  • Anonymous

    Hi Janet, thank!  You are so right – it’s NOT about the check! 

  • I totally agree! I appreciate having this philosphy laid out so siccinctly in a way I can share! THANK YOU Gail, very well stated.

  • Linda Breland

    I agree with you on friendmaking, it is hard for our staff to understand-they expect immediate results.

  • Brenda

    Gail, I love this concept but I have a hard time putting it into practice.  I work for a small organization that does family support services.  Staff members are stretched to the limit and my development department is me and one other person.  So we don’t have many ways to incorporate “friends” into volunteer activities and behind the scenes tours… we simply don’t have the staff to manage the process of making that happen.  Any suggestions?

  • Anonymous

    Hey Deb – let’s create the “Friendraising” revolution! Want to join me?

  • Anonymous

    Brenda put your board to work. If they are afraid of “asking” then they can focus on making friends for the cause. And there are many ways they can accomplish that! 

  • Anonymous

    These people who are expecting immediate results do not understand fundraising, particularly major gift fundraising. You have to find a way to educate them.The longer the time spent “courting” a donor, the bigger their ultimate gift. 

  • Barbara Kavadias

    Hi Gail,
    I look forward to reading your Friday posts!  Great, common sense ideas as always.

    To Brenda, Linda and others who worry about time needed for behind the scenes tours, I have a suggestion.  You don’t need to literally take people around, instead give them newsletter articles or e-mails with “a look at the day of” or “a walk in the shoes of a client” type stories.  Giving people the benefit of your insights, your experiences, your service stories is engaging and motivating.  That is what we do on a fairly regular basis,  though we are planning a mission to Israel to give people an insider look on the work we do there.  We know though we cannot rely on the occasional mission that only a few people will be able to attend, we need to have a wider circle of friends.  We also invite special friends to a free gathering when we have speakers available and conduct conference calls with guest speakers to reach out to friends across the country.

  • Jon Fugler

    Encouraging and refreshing.

  • Trish Roath

    I believe this is the basis of all fundraising. Build the relationship – the money will come. The hard part is encouraging your board and staff to understand that sometimes the money may take time. But when it comes…..it will be worth it.  Love your articles.  Trish

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Jon!

  • Anonymous

    Barbara – excellent suggestions!  Love it!

  • Anonymous

    Several Creating the Future community members (which you are soon to become!) suggested I would want to see this post. This is such an important part of being the change we want to see in our world!

    The conversation about moving beyond money has been a huge piece of the work of the Philanthropy Lab at Creating the Future – a team of people from all walks of the philanthropic world, dedicated to bringing philanthropy closer to its roots in “Love of Humanity” (which truly does not have the word money in it!).  If you are interested in seeing what FriendRaising and other topics look like in action, we hope you will join the conversation at the team’s blog here http://blogs.creatingthefuture.org/philanthropy/

    Looking forward to your being part of the Creating the Future community soon, Gail!

  • Anonymous

    Hildy – YOU are my inspiration for “friendraising.”  I’m really looking forward to joining the “Creating the Future” movement that you have started. We all need to look far beyond money and instead focus on the change we are creating in the world. See you in April at the Consultant’s Immersion Course! 

  • Kevin Monroe


    This manifesto will launch a much-needed revolution. I’m with you and this is NOT about semantics. It’s about the philosophical underpinning which ground the organization and its work.

    I’m really excited that we’re going through Creating the Future Immersion Course together. That will be a blast. 

  • Anonymous

    Yes! Revolution is good! It’s time for a fundamental change. 
    Can’t wait to meet you later this month!

  • Cristiana Ionescu

    so glad that you love ths concept! I’ve promoted in Romania from some years now and it make more then sense and brilliant results! here some input about it : http://dreamcatchersromania.wordpress.com/2011/02/01/friendraising/
    And if you considerr it useful I could send to you a case study about how this concept helped me in 2010 to raise more then 50.000 euro in one day radiodon. Keep friendraising, friends!

  • Anonymous

    Hi Cristiana! I’d love to see the case study. Friendmaking in action – way to go!

  • It’s so easy to lose supporters by simply going after their financial support and yet not truly earning their friendship.

  • gailperry

    Yup, that makes donors feel like ATM’s. And they won’t stick around.

  • Claire Axelrad

    Yup, yup, yup. We’ve got to come from a place of love; not a place of money grubbing. It’s not about money. It’s about impact. Money is merely a symbol. Wrote my own post on the subject if you’ve an interest.


    I say to board members: If you love this place, then why wouldn’t you share this with your friends? Why would you keep it from them. If you found a great restaurant would you keep it a secret? It’s about sharing what makes your life better. It’s pretty simple really.

    Thanks for the post, and for the manifesto, Gail