Laying the Foundation for Your “Friend” Raisers

November 15, 2013 by
Kathy Gaston

How many times have you had someone from a non-profit say “this is a friend raiser not a fund raiser”? While I agree that every organization needs “friends” the tricky part is turning those friends into donors. Every young organization needs to build their donor base with “friends” but it is crucial to know how to turn that base into the foundation of your organization.

As you introduce people to your organization you set the tone for their involvement. Know your friend’s interests and how they align with your organization. Be specific in choosing the right person to fan the flames of their interest – someone who has been personally impacted by the organization. Everyone relates to a heart felt story but potential donors also want to know how their investment (either of time or money) will be spent. 


Share the strategic plan and success stories of your group. Involve your new friend in a program that you think will show them the heart of your organization.

The same way a romance develops, this process takes time and commitment. Once you feel your have their interest, present a way they can help your organization – a new program they can help fund, a dinner they can co-host, an advisory or board membership they are being considered for or a matching gift program in which they can participate. Once they become a donor, they are in a position to help turn other friends into supporters.

In this day of countless “friend raisers” being held every week in your community, you need to concentrate on the bottom line of your organization and turned those attendees into actual committed donors! Ballrooms all over the country are littered with the remains of those who eat versus those who become workers and you hold the key to that conversion!


Kathy Gaston

Kathy joined Lighthouse Counsel after 20 years as director of development at The Oak Hill School in Davidson County, Tenn., where she led two capital campaigns that raised more than $9 million, directed all volunteer activities, and shepherded the annual fund. Kathy is a regular presenter at national conferences of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and the National Association of Independent Schools. She received the Circle of Excellence Award from CASE for overall improvement in educational fundraising and is founder of the Nashville Area Development Directors Association.