The Mechanics of Fundraising: How to Maximize Your Time

April 27, 2017

There is always more to do and not enough time to do it, so you must prioritize how you spend your time.

Unless you are Sway from the X-Man, time is never on a fundraiser’s side.

When figuring out how to accomplish your financial plan, you want to think about your time in terms of dollars raised per hour spent fundraising.

Got a chance to sit down with Tony Stark or Oliver Queen? Definitely take the meeting. Peter Parker, the starving freelance journalist, wants to have lunch? Well…while that may be tons of fun, it might not be the best use of time in terms of fundraising. Send him a letter, email, or text.

When figuring out what is the best tool or method to approach a specific donor, or how that donor might fit into your fundraising plan, use this handy cheat sheet and learn how to maximize your time.

Tactic Response Cost Time Target
Face-to-Face High Low High High Donors
Call Time Medium-High Low High Medium-High Donors
Committee Low-Medium Low Medium-High High and Medium Donors
Events Medium High Very High Low, Medium, High
Mail (Prospect) Very Low Medium Low Low Donors, New Donors
Mail (Resolicit) Low-Medium Medium Low Previous Donors
Email Extremely Low Low Low Low Donors
Social Media/Online Extremely Low Low Medium Low Donors, New Donors



Face-to-face meetings are always the most successful, but they take courage and charm. Why are they so successful? Because it is easy to ignore an email or letter, but much much hard to say “no” when you are meeting one-on-one. Face-to-face meetings are for your major donor prospects, or that top 20% – 40% of your donor triangle.


Phone Calls

Phone calls are excellent methods for soliciting medium and large gifts. They are quick and still have a personal touch that is greater than an email, text message, or a blind letter.


Finance Committee

Finance committees can be great, or they can be about as helpful as Buffy’s Watcher’s Council if you’re not careful. The reality is, finance committees can be helpful, but they need hand-holding to keep them engaged and on task.



Events are great opportunities to raise awareness and get people involved, but they are not great fundraisers. There are always lots of logistics and building the crowd takes time and energy. Use events strategically and sparingly.


Direct Mail

Direct mail is not dead! Surprisingly, it is still one of the most successful ways to find new donors and keep existing donors engaged in your organization. Remember, the goal of a prospecting mailer is to break even, or at least recoup the majority of its cost. The real value in direct mail is through soliciting your previous donors.


Email/Social Media

Email and social media are great ways to keep your base engaged and to build your potential donor list. Programs in these categories are quantity over quality. You need to be constantly out there, constantly pushing your message, and constantly asking for money. They are low cost, but also low return in the quantity and amount the average donor gives.

Matt Lyon
Matt’s experience includes overseeing up to fourteen staff members, administering budgets exceeding $1.1 million annually, directing million dollar paid media programs, raising over $5 million for various causes and organizations, and developing and implementing communications strategies that led to dozens of stories in local and national outlets, including the New York Times and Washington Post.
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