The important lessons my mom taught me about Fund Raising

Did my mom know that by teaching me important life lessons, she was also teaching me how to be a successful executive and fund raiser? I’m not sure, but I do know that manners were very important to her. Let’s begin with the most important words I was taught.



Thank you

Although simple, they are three magical words, and I have often been surprised to not hear those words in the lexicon of novice fund raisers. Furthermore, those important words seem to have disappeared from our over reliance on e-mail.

Absent those words I knew that I was never going to receive anything I wanted, and thus I learned at an early age to use these words with sincerity. When asking for a gift, either in person or in writing always use “please” and “thank you” – it does make a difference.

Next lesson from mom – always write a thank you note after receiving a gift. And send the note within a week of receipt of the gift. That lesson clearly applies to fund raising.

Mom also taught me table manners and the value of “breaking bread” with guests. She was always hosting guests for dinner or parties. Thus, I firmly believe that you can accomplish more when you engage a current or prospective funder around a meal. But please use the table manners my mom taught me:

Don’t talk with your mouth full of food.

Place your napkin in your lap – and use the napkin.

Pass the food when it comes around.

Start a conversation, ask questions and listen carefully.

I think mom knew that we can learn a lot about people when we dine with them, and that food brings out the opportunity for wonderful conversation. Through this lesson we learn to engage our funders in a dialogue and we learn to care about them as much more than a source of funds.

Thank you mom.

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