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The 7 Habits of Highly
Effective Fundraisers

by the AFRDS

We asked a number of fund-raising professionals and experienced volunteers what they thought were the most important traits an individual/group should possess to be successful at fund-raising. Here's their list, which we found coincides nicely with Stephen Covey' well known theories detailed in his best-selling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

  1. Be proactive. Motivated fundraisers are successful fundraisers. Truly motivated volunteers never wait to be asked. They're often the first to identify the fact that the playground needs repair or the media center needs more books. Likewise, they're usually the first to take action to meet those needs.

  2. Begin with the end in mind. Successful fund-raising projects and the people who drive them are supremely goal-oriented. They are, from beginning to end, focused on the reason why the group is fund-raising and take every opportunity to remind volunteers of why they are fund-raising.

  3. Put first things first. Strong organizational skills, including the ability to set priorities without losing track of the details, is one of the most common traits found in successful fund-raising chairpersons. Good math skills and comfort in handling money also are important.

  4. Think win-win. Successful fund-raising programs have at their core a trusting relationship between the volunteer at the helm of the fund-raising drive and the company/company representative with whom they are working. It's what Covey describes as the "you help me, I help you" concept. If the fund-raising sponsor and the professional they've hired both believe in this concept, the non-profit group will benefit.

  5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. When problems arise (and they always do), it's great if the person at the helm is unflappable with good people skills. Effective fundraising chairs are good listeners, therefore, excellent communicators and problem solvers.

  6. Synergize. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts; therefore, successful fund-raising coordinators are good at team-building and understand the importance of a diverse committee. Work to make sure that each member's strengths offset the weaknesses of others, with a good mix of new and experienced volunteers.

  7. Sharpen the saw. Exhausted volunteers are commonplace. To stay fresh, keep a good balance between the professional, family and volunteer parts of your life. Heading up a fund-raising drive can be time consuming. Prepare for it. And always have a backup - someone in training ready to take over when your job is done.

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About the Author:

This article is from the Fall 2003 issue of the Fundraising Edge, an online publication of the Association of Fund-Raising Distributors and Suppliers, and is reprinted with permission. Visit their web site at for more information and a look at the complete issues of the Fundraising Edge.

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