I’ve heard a lot of descriptions of fundraising over the years. In a recent interview with a major gift prospect for one of my clients, I heard him say that effective major gift fundraising combines the elements of elegance and brute force. His statement is, of course, hyperbole, but he’s right. These fundraising tactics are equally important. His point was that fundraisers constantly need to push forward with sophistication and dynamism to unpack a donor’s interests and inclinations, and to make an ask. Without all the elegant lead up, using brute force alone will not work. So, how do we really achieve the fine balance between elegance and brute force in fundraising?

Elegance, the long-term relationship

The elegance is in the messaging. Today, there are so many channels to deliver an organization’s value proposition – direct mail, email, social media, digital ad buys, one-on-one – that it is difficult to discern the message that triggered the gift. Often these donor touch points are not coordinated efforts that employ both philanthropic and traditional marketing strategies. On top of that, marketing and fundraising departments tend to jockey for control of the message. It may be time to reach across the aisle to create unified and motivating messaging to engage individuals new to your organization and to keep those already engaged, interested and incite them to do more. The message on the outer envelope should link to the digital ad in a search engine, to the banner on the website homepage, to the donate page, to the Facebook account, and to the monthly e-newsletter.

S&W was built on the idea that marketing and fundraising are intertwined – one drives the other. Creative and sophisticated marketing efforts are increasingly important in developing long-term relationships with donors, and as fundraisers, we need all the tools that are available.

Brute force, the short-term solution

Brute force is in the ask, and you cannot be afraid. One-on-one and peer-to-peer solicitations can never be replaced. A good fundraiser is proactive about creating these opportunities and providing volunteer leaders with the tools to make an ask, while convincing them that asking can be fun. All of the build-up, leads to the moment when a fundraiser waits for a “yes” or a “no”. Regardless of the answer, the ask is an instant – it happens and then you move on to steward the donor or to continue to cultivate the prospect, leading you right back to devising elegant, yet forceful fundraising strategies.