I.G. Insights
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I.G. Insights

What Fundraisers Want

Insights from I.G.’s Field Guide to Relationship-Based Fundraising (available for free download here)

Relationship-based fundraising. The more we speak to non-profits dealing with changes stemming from Covid-19, the more we understand how vital it is to master this.

This year, in partnership with the Ford Foundation, I.G. created a free Field Guide to Relationship-Based Fundraising, designed for — and with — fundraisers around the world. The Guide is an accessible fundraising toolkit, with activities, case studies, tools and best practice templates to help organisations build strong relationships with high-value audiences such as Trusts and Foundations, Governments, Multilaterals, Corporates, and High-Net-Worth Individuals.

What struck me most when we spoke with more than 25 organisations across Asia, Africa, and Latin America during the design process was that — no matter their size or location — non-profits face very similar challenges, and need very similar support from their donors. Here are the top five things fundraisers said they want:

More Unrestricted Funding

Non-profits want to be more flexible and autonomous with how funds are spent to create impact. They also want to spend less time reporting and accounting, and more time actually focusing on delivering their programmes. But how do you secure unrestricted funding, especially when you don’t know the donor well? Check out Section I, Part B of the Guide for our recommendations.

A Diverse Income Portfolio

Non-profits want to diversify their donor portfolio to build a sustainable range of income streams. However, when you are used to fundraising from specific donor audiences, how do you expand your practice beyond this? We know this can feel daunting, as it means playing the ‘long game’, where the return on investment is not immediately obvious. Designing a fundraising strategy to include new target audiences needs to be backed up by thorough and evidence-based research to assess its feasibility before implementation. Check out Section I, Part A of the Guide for more guidance on how to conduct strategic research.

Expanded Team Capacity

Capacity is a sore spot for most non-profits, particularly small- to medium-sized ones. Fundraisers around the world share the same feeling: there’s always too much to do, and not enough people (or time) to actually do it. In some cases, they lack specific skills; in others, they just don’t have the time or resources needed to complete specific tasks. But how do you choose what activities to prioritise when everything feels urgent and vital? Check out Section II, Part A of the Guide for more guidance.

Supportive & Authentic Communication With Donors

Donors can be extremely different from one another. Even when dealing with the same type of audience, individual preferences are what ultimately determines the ‘rules of engagement’. We’re often asked for the most effective way to communicate with donors — and while there are certainly best practice tips, the key to effective (and efficient) communication is understanding what each individual donor wants, and balancing that with the boundaries of what you can provide. Check out Section I, Part B for more communications guidance.

A Stronger Network of Donors

The majority of funding for non-profits doesn’t come from searching online requests for proposals (RFPs). More often than not, opportunities are generated through relationship building. But how do you start building a network when you don’t have an existing one? According to the ‘six degrees of separation’ rule, we are only six (virtual) handshakes away from each other! Check out Section II, Part B of the Guide for recommendations on how to bridge this gap.

From the many conversations we’ve had with non-profits, it’s clear many think relationship-based fundraising is an ‘art’, which cannot be taught. While a good part of this ‘art’ is unquestionably intuitive, fundraising is also a ‘science’, which can indeed be taught — and this is exactly why we created our Field Guide. You can download the full Guide (or individual sections) here. We’d love to hear your thoughts!

PS: Do you want to learn more about what fundraisers want? At I.G., we work closely with both small and large non-profits, and are very familiar with the sector’s needs and challenges (many of us have been fundraisers, too). If you haven’t heard it yet, one episode of our very own podcast, What Donors Want, is entirely dedicated to What Grantees Want.



News and views from I.G. Advisors, a London-based strategy consultancy focused on social impact.

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