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Patience: A Fundraising Virtue?

Patience: A Fundraising Virtue?

January 24, 2021
David Snow

Is patience a fundraising virtue? Absolutely! 

Patience, however, is not the lackadaisical approach of cultivation meeting after cultivation meeting with a donor while not moving the relationship deeper. It is not timidness or reluctance to make an appropriate ask for the appropriate amount at the appropriate time. Patience is not standing still or treading water.

Patience is following a well-constructed plan and staying focused even when the organization’s leadership, both staff and volunteer, is clamoring for quick results.

Patience is knowing that relationship building takes time. Patience is using a systemic approach to gain insight into a donor’s true interest and motivation. 

Patience is knowing that trust is not built quickly. It is a commitment of time by the development officer to assure a donor that you are there to assist in the realization of their philanthropic objectives while advancing the mission of the organization.   

It is the quiet ability to actively listen to the donor following a penetrating question. Only through listening will you understand the prospective donor and their desires.  

A well-thought-out cultivation plan is a step-by-step approach that cannot be rushed simply to meet immediate needs of the organization. Other than in a true emergency fundraising effort such as after a natural disaster, a rushed approach will result in no gift or a smaller gift from a less-than-fulfilled donor. The short-term gain is a disservice to both the donor and the organization in the long term.

Just as patience is needed in the cultivation efforts to secure a major or planned gift, it is also needed in the carrying out of a campaign plan. All campaigns — whether an annual support campaign or a major capital campaign — require a systematic, sequential approach. Failure to follow such an approach will result in prolonging the campaign timeline, volunteer burnout, stressed-out staff and often failure to meet the goal of the campaign.   

All too often, organizational leadership will not want to invest the time and resources in donor research and a campaign feasibility study, wanting instead to jump into campaign mode and start asking for gifts at random. This is a recipe for disaster! It is the professional development officer’s responsibility to resist the pressure and clearly articulate why asking in such a manner is inappropriate and will not result in the organization’s desired goal.  

Exercising patience in development and execution of a well-developed plan, whether for the cultivation of an individual donor or a major campaign, will result in a greater likelihood of success. 


David Snow

David brings more than four decades of experience in executive and development leadership in healthcare, education and social services. He is an expert in annual support campaigns and endowment development strategy, with the unique perspective of a staff member, a volunteer and a major donor. Most recently, David served as chief development officer of the YMCA of Greater Houston for 10 years, doubling its annual campaign to nearly $8 million, significantly growing the endowment and leading $50 million in capital campaigns. He previously led institutional advancement at The Dominican Campus (Aquinas College, St. Cecilia Academy and Overbrook School) in Nashville, Tennessee, where he led three successful capital campaigns to fund campus expansions. Prior to his development career, David was a healthcare executive for more than 20 years, during which time he was involved as a volunteer on a number of nonprofit boards and deeply involved in their fundraising efforts. David currently serves on the board of John Paul II Preparatory School, the Advancement Committee for Aquinas College and the Development Committee of the Diocese of Nashville. He currently serves on the capital campaign cabinet of YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly, Black Mountain, NC. David is a graduate of Indiana University. David’s favorite quote: “The results of philanthropy are always beyond calculation.” —Mary Ritter Beard