Elmer Fudd and Fund Raising
By Walter Hansen

In the last few days, several clients have called me with questions about how the current economic conditions in our country will impact their current fund raising plans.  It is clear that the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, the takeover of Merrill Lynch, and the bailout of AIG, and the $700 billion bailout are creating what is being called the FUDD factor.  When I first heard this I thought of Bugs Bunny’s protagonist in the cartoons in my childhood!  The FUDD factor is Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt, and Doldrums in the minds of donors.  At this point these are no longer just psychological issues.  This was made clear to me when a woman during an interview for a feasibility study said, “I’ll make a gift when I can afford gas to visit my grandchildren.”

So, what do we do?  I hope these thoughts help.


  • Do not panic.  Stay the course.  If people are saying “no” when asked for a gift, attempt to discover if that means “now,” “forever,” or to the Case Statement.
  • Stay in touch with your donors.  Good communications will give confidence to those who have already given.  If you do not have a Campaign Newsletter, develop a simple one that will show progress, highlight success and clearly indicate that you understand that current conditions of the economy and how it impacts their lives.
  • Energize your volunteers.  Thank them, share success stories with them, ask for their ideas, criticisms, and suggestions about how best to move forward.  As them to reach out to others to become part of the effort.  Ask new donors to become volunteers.
  • Be flexible.  If a donor wants a longer pledge period agree readily.  If your demographics consists of seniors, Planned Giving should be part of your approach.  Older donors may be unwilling to make a cash gift in this environment.  They may be willing to make a gift in their estate plan.
  • Be available.  There are, sadly, no secrets to successful fund raising.  Be available to donors, prospects, and volunteers.  Invite them to coffee, visit with them when appropriate, call them, return their calls in a timely fashion, and remember their names.


  • “Frontload” the process.  In this environment, donors will be very cautious in making gifts.  To secure gifts your base should have opportunities to create the Case Statement and campaign strategy.  How can this be accomplished?
  • A Feasibility Study?  In many cases a “Case Statement” is developed by a Strategic Planning Committee, Parish Council/Finance Committee, or School Board.  After the Case is developed, a Feasibility Study is conducted.  Potential donors, community leaders and others are interviewed to get support for the Case, look  for leads for leadership and major gifts, ask for an anonymous statement about the gift level of the interviewee.  Is there another option?
  • The Commission Model?  This model replaces feasibility studies, strategic planning groups, and efforts by leadership to develop a Case Statement and Campaign process.  Briefly, the Commission Model involves your existing leadership, consistent donors, volunteers, and others you have looking to involve, in a series of meetings that analyze your current situation, establish priorities for the future, establish cost factors, develop a Case, and be the platform for Campaign Leadership.
  • Get buy-in.  If you want to succeed, BUY-IN will make the difference.  The wider your initial approach to a campaign is the more successful it will be.
  • Be Brave.  The most difficult aspect of the current fund raising environment is replacing Fear with Faith, Uncertainty with Confidence, Doubt with Certitude, and the Doldrums with Hope.