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The Importance of Relationship Building in Successful Fundraising

richard-wizanskyRichard Wizansky is a Principal with Bold Moves Consulting, and has raised tens of millions of dollars for nonprofits over the past thirty years, specializing in obtaining six figure plus contributions from foundations, corporations and individuals. In this, our first Passionate Perspectives guest column, he shares his perspectives on the single most important aspect of fundraising – building relationships with donors and stakeholders. Take it away Richard…

The Importance of Relationship Building in Successful Fundraising

The gold key that unlocks the door to successful fundraising is building relationships that endure. The adage “people give to people” is true, whether you are seeking funds from foundations, corporations or individuals. And building relationships is not easy. It takes concentration, focus, charm, wit, intelligence, and perhaps most importantly, authenticity.

How is it done? At BoldMoves, we find that there are innate and learned skills that fundraisers can utilize to establish relationships that lead to successful solicitations and sustainable communications with funders.

The number one skill, of course, is the ability to communicate and relate authentically. This begins with believing in the mission of your organization, being passionate about it, eloquently articulating the impact it has on the greater good and conveying your enthusiasm and sincerity to the potential funder. It also requires you to have a commitment to and interest in people that allows you to engage them without defenses, suspicions or lies. It requires you to be the real person you are and not to be perceived as a prêt a porter money-sniffing development officer out to close a deal. It’s true philanthropy—benevolence toward and love of humanity.

Relationships also require: listening. The ability to know when to be quiet and take real interest and pleasure in what you hear, as well as the skill to follow the bouncing ball of conversation—when to weave and advance the conversation with comments, questions, humor and rapport.

Too often, fundraisers are thinking about their pitch, about the points they want to make in pursuit of their goal, rather than listening to what the potential donor is saying, the cues he or she is giving off, the relevant information they are conveying, the subtext of their comments.

In sum, passion about and commitment to your organization’s mission; genuine interest in people and what they have to say; personal sincerity; and the capacity to listen are the advance fronts in forging, managing and maintaining relationships that will help your cause.

In addition to establishing authenticity in relationships, we at BoldMoves believe that incorporating the following practices into how you work, think and feel will facilitate the creation of winning, sustainable relationships with funders:

  • Know the background and biography of the potential funder and points of potential interpersonal contact
  • Be extraordinarily prompt in all responses to communications from the funder
  • Check in even when you do not want or need something
  • Make in-person visits as frequently as possible
  • Provide detailed responses to requests
  • Focus communications so that you are always the point person from your organization in the relationship
  • Look for opportunities to spend social time with the potential funder

Your own passion, commitment and sincerity when combined with these simple, but highly focused communication methods will help you establish authentic, sustainable relationships that will lead to successful fundraising.

Want to learn more? Connect with Richard at the coordinates below:

Richard M. Wizansky, Ed.D. BoldMoves Consulting, 1103 Packer Corners Road, Guilford, VT 05301,, 802-254-4117


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