Fairway Fundraising

Driver. Fairway woods. Hybrids. Irons. Wedges. Putter. Each of the clubs in my golf bag has a specific purpose, a set of shots it is designed for, and they all work together to get my ball to the hole.

Leadership gifts. Major gifts. Annual fund. Donor relations. Development communications. Each of these fundraising programs has a specific purpose, and they all must work together to get to the fundraising goal.


Whether you’re a one-person development shop or a large team of specialized fundraisers, if you’re looking to build a comprehensive fundraising strategy, take a few tips from the golf course:

  1. Drive for show, putt for dough. Every golfer loves to spend time on the driving range whacking balls as far as they can go. It’s exciting to see a pure drive sail off the tee and compete to see who can hit the farthest. But the shortest shots, the ones that you can make consistently, will be most critical to keeping scores low on the course. A huge leadership gift, much like a monster drive, might get the most attention, but a good golfer knows that is just one shot per hole. Good fundraisers know that in most organizations, the majority of gifts come in through the annual fund, even if they aren’t raising the bulk of the total dollars. These gifts are an important part of the fundraising pipeline and a strong fundraising program needs to know how to consistently close on annual gifts just as well as they go after the big shiny major gifts.

  2. Know the course. Before I step up to the tee box on any given hole, I’ll check the yardage to determine club selection, and maybe even use a range finder to get a more accurate distance and target to map out my strategy. Then I’ll choose the appropriate club and take my shot. Similarly, if you have a new prospect, you wouldn’t just throw a generic $1,000 proposal at them without doing some research to see if that was within their giving history or capacity. You may need to adjust your ask amount, or learn that your proposal is more likely to be accepted if you customize it to your donor’s interests.

  3. Don’t forget the follow through. I am particularly guilty of decelerating on my putting stroke and not having a clean follow through, causing me to miss putts that I should otherwise be able to make most of the time. Too often, we neglect to follow through on the simple gifts, resulting in donors feeling neglected and missed opportunities that should have otherwise been a sure thing. Follow through throughout the gift closing process, as well as ongoing stewardship, is just as critical as making the initial ask.

Building a comprehensive fundraising program that utilizes all the tools and strategies you have available means a more sustainable gift stream and less time worrying about making goals and more time to squeeze in a quick nine holes.