Benjamin Franklin and Strategic Fundraising

Few people in history are as revered as Benjamin Franklin. An intellectual’s intellectual, he was an architect of the US Constitution, an inventor and a statesman. But for our 3rd installment in the “Pioneers of Fundraising” series, we are going to focus on how he structured fundraising for success and was quite the aficionado.

He focused on the prevention of poverty believing that stopping financial hardship before it began was much more effective than aiding in the journey back. Franklin devised a system that enabled himself as well as solicitors to elicit more funds than ever before.

Three Buckets and a Little Competition:

Internally, our team discusses the psychology behind fundraising and the implications of emotions on decision making. In this case the decision is whether or not to contribute. Being a studious sort, Franklin identified that slight competition or jonesing held an extraordinary upside.

He would first create a list of individuals he wished to approach. Digging deeper, he separated these prospects into three buckets:

-Will Give

-May Give

-Most Likely Won’t Give

Once completed, a fundraiser would approach the first group and gather the funds. Moving onto the second bucket, the names of initial supporters would be presented creating a compelling case to align with their peers. And for the “Doubtful” group, a combined list was displayed in hopes of coaxing any possible donations.

As you would imagine, Ben was extremely successful using this technique and raised quite a bit of money for the reduction and prevention of poverty.

While the strategy here may seem simplistic it was ahead of its time and it is our hope that these pieces are inspiring your initiatives moving forward, not just to adopt these tactics but to advance them. If all goes according to plan, hopefully someday we’ll be writing about how your organization set the fundraising world on fire!

Until next time…


Vital Information provided by: “Principles of Fundraising: Theory and Practice” by Wesley E. Lindahl




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