Fundraising VeritiesWhat Makes a Great Fundraiser?

Founder and Executive Partner Jerry Panas gives us his treasured insights on what makes philanthropy work with a series he calls, What Makes a Great Fundraiser. Jerry gives us his 70 Verities from his best selling book, Born to Raise.

The Verities

Is there a “fundraising type”? Outgoing, people-oriented, backslapping, extremely well organized, goal oriented, brilliant. This magnificent creature probably doesn’t exist.

It’s really hard, perhaps impossible, to know what makes an ideal fundraiser. If you were designing the perfect fly-catcher, you probably wouldn’t design it to look like a frog!

I interviewed nearly 50 men and women I consider to be among the greatest in the country— each, the ultimate fundmeister. They are all winners.

blue rule

Verities #45 - The Elusive Characteristic


It’s almost impossible to define. My fundraisers were tall and short. Thin and not so thin. Of all ages.

Verities #44 - It Takes Hard Work


The difference between winning and losing, and being the best and being the near-best, is hard work. It is important to dream. But it is sublime to dream and work.

Verities #43 - Your Creed is to Grow or Go. It’s in Your DNA


Peak performers live with high uncertainty and constant change. On a high wire without a safety net. They somehow seem to take it all in their stride.

Verities #42 - Follow my Rule of the Eight I's


This may seem over-simplistic, but take a look at my I's. They truly encompass all of the vital criteria necessary to be a highly successful fundraiser. It is your Magna Carta for fundraising.

Verities #41 - It’s Not the Years that Count


We were doing a search for a client recently. I reviewed the credentials of a candidate who had been in the field for 17 years.

When I did some extensive checking, I find that this person has indeed been in the field for 17 years. But then I talked with references. I find that he has had 17 times the first year’s experience. He hasn’t developed, hasn’t grown, and shows no promise. He rusted in the first year.

Verities #40 - You Must Sacrifice


Our work is demanding. It may require severe compromises in your personal life.

Verities #39 - Fundraisers are Resolute


One of the attributes I found in every one of my great fundraisers is that they are resolute. Determined. Dogged and undaunted.

Verities #38 - The Great Fundraisers are Problem-Solvers


They understand that every grand opportunity is simply masquerading as a problem. It is a mystery waiting to be solved.

Father Hesburgh, former President of Notre Dame, told me about how he solves a sticky problem. That’s when it’s something he simply can’t get his arms around.