Five super sleuth tips for fundraisers

publication date: Feb 13, 2018

Being a fundraiser is like being a detective: you're always on the hunt for the real story, the real connection, the real impact that your organization has on the world.

What you see on the surface is rarely what's happening. When you dig a bit deeper, ask a few more questions, there is always a lot more at play. Your organization speaks through your donors to their deep-rooted core beliefs. It takes time to discover these values and beliefs. It takes great detective work!

Here's 5 tips to help you become a fundraising sleuth. Wade through the mystery so you can successfully raise more money for your mission.

1. Be curious. People rarely share a juicy impact nugget unprompted. Take the time to ask questions, probe, and lean into a meaningful conversation. If the answer feels superficial, keep digging.

2. Treat everyone as an ally. When you're seeking information, assume that everyone is on your side. Be friendly to others and assume that they will be friendly back. When you hit resistance to share something meaningful (and you will), do the opposite of backing away: engage and lean in to understand what's really going on.

3. Bring your notebook. Write everything down. Names, connections, passions - everything! You never know until the mystery is being solved what will be important. Write down follow-up questions that you want to ask. Make lists of other people that you want to interview. Everything is interlinked, if you take the time to notice.

4. Look in unusual places. Have you talked to reception lately? These front-line staffers hold the key for information and stories. Be creative and seek out unusual situations, events and people in the pursuit of truth.

5. Find your heroes. Every charity has people who do amazing things because of their passion for the cause. Find them, get to know them, and create ways to bring them into the fold. They will become your secret detectives, your Watsons to your Sherlock. And they will be loyal to your cause. Forever.


Put on your Sherlock Holmes detective hat. Who will you interview today? Who can fuel your mission, your case, your community impact bucket? Follow these 5 tips and start engaging today.

Chavender's vision is to help more people do more good. Founder and president of Chavender, Jenny Mitchell (CFRE, DMA), works closely with not-for-profit leaders to change the world - one mission at a time. Chavender assists clients, across Canada and the U.S., to inspire their donors and achieve their fundraising goals through personalized fundraising coaching and training. Connect with Jenny at or through her website at

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