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Fundraising, Management Issues/College Honors Program Fundraising


I was recently elected as the head of Fundraising for my college's Honors Program for a full one-year term. As I'm sure you know and can guess, the Honors Program is for students who choose to excel, take pride in their education and develop excellence in their life and leadership skills. I am seeking direction as to how I might go about developing a solid plan of action for a successful term as head of Fundraising? I am not so much asking for ideas, though they are welcome, but they can be found all over the internet. More than that I am asking for some crucial insight that may help me to really understand what I am doing, and secure the highest amount of outside donations (particularly goods for raffles, events, etc) and profit for my college's Honors Program during following year in which I will be of service. I have never had a position like this and I would really like to develop my professionalism and expertise over the next year, while also producing impressive results and creating an impressive personal record for when I apply next year to four-year universities. I hope I have outlined clearly the expertise I am looking for and any thoughtful help would do wonders for me


Dear Wade,

I am sending you my philosophy of fundraising which was sent to a specific client many years ago.  Accordingly, I ask you not to ever refer to the Cenacle.  If you use any material, attribute it to Rob Taylor, Founder, The Marlin Group which is a private consulting company.

Best of luck to you on your project.


Throughout my fundraising career, I have found there is an “Art, Science and Craft” of fundraising.  In that spirit, I am recommending that The Cenacle pursue fundraising fundamentals that are utilized by the vast majority of charitable organizations who have successful fundraising programs.  

The Cenacle should accelerate its transition to a “comprehensive development program” in a manner consistent with its existing organizational culture.  There are certainly multitudes of ways the science of fundraising can be implemented.  It is important, however, that the fundraising program blends with The Cenacle’s culture.  While the fundraising program, particularly successful ones, slowly alter the culture, the “art of fundraising” is how one insures the fundraising program does not overly disrupt the organization’s mission.  The program must be implemented (“craft”) in a manner that produces results while rallying the various elements of The Cenacle community to support the effort.   After all, everybody agrees that raising more money is a paramount goal.

In general, I endorse the fundraising “science” perfected by a variety of educational, health care, social service, cultural, and spiritual institutions.  In this model, we initially seek to identify and prioritize our prospects, explain why we warrant financial support, ask for specific gifts for specific purposes according to the prospects interest and financial ability, and reinforce that gift decision in a manner that fosters repeat giving.

The first step of the fundraising process is to determine who has the inclination to support our mission and vision for the future.  Our ongoing goal is to place our message before as large a target audience as our budget permits, giving the audience an opportunity to respond with a donation.

While this is the most expensive part of the fundraising process, it is essential to “Cast the Net.”   What The Cenacle must recognize, however, is the fundraising process does not end here, it is only the beginning!  

Attracting new donors, retaining current donors and increasing the size of the average gift are central to the successful direct mail program.  

Having determined who is interested in supporting The Cenacle, one must ascertain who has the interest and resources to give at higher levels.  By establishing a series of giving levels, highlighted by a $1,000 Intermediate Giving Club, we establish a program that has proven to be the heart and soul of nearly all successful development programs.    

This program has been extraordinarily successful with community-based hospitals, universities and cultural organizations.  It also has enjoyed substantial progress among Easter Seal Societiesthroughout the United States and social service agencies such as the Gateway Charitable Foundation in Chicago.  Many other charities are aggressively moving in this direction, and as a result, the demand for experienced fundraisers who can create and implement successful individual giving programs is at an all-time high.

Eventually, having determined who is able and willing to give at the $1,000 level, The Cenacle must seek to identify and involve donors who can make even larger gifts.  Major individual gifts must be the ultimate goal of all development programs. These gifts consist of cash or come in the form of an estate or planned gift.

Case in point, in Nashville, Tennessee the Easter Seal Society moved beyond special events to seek $1,000 gifts.  Within a short time, they had more than 200 such gifts and had received a gift of $50,000.  Unfortunately, this same donor had given Vanderbilt University $4 million!  To make a long story short, the Nashville Society began to assume this donor could also make a big gift to them.  With a planned marketing strategy to follow, they sought to further involve this donor with their work.  About 15 months later, they received a gift of $1.5 million.

By focusing on the three-step fundraising process outlined above, The Cenacle will begin to identify and build strong philanthropic relationships that will lead to many more large gifts from individuals, corporations and foundations.

Ultimately, one must always remember that the entire development program is geared to generate major gifts.  By prioritizing the way one utilizes limited human and financial resources, The Cenacle will fulfill its fundraising potential.

Corporate, business and foundation gifts play a strong role in a successful fund development program.  A program that seeks to identify and solicit prospects can pay handsome dividends.  Volunteers and donor contacts can help open doors to the decision makers who control the purse strings.  

Finally, development support services should be developed to form a cohesive integrated program.  Systems to support prospect identification, ongoing prospect management and donor relations will be complemented by auxiliary communications support vehicles such as direct mail programs and publicity efforts.  An appropriate database software package is essential, and pays for itself.

Rob Taylor
The Marlin Group
Conesus, NY  

Fundraising, Management Issues

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Rob Taylor


During the past 25 years I have helped scores of non-profit organizations experience dramatic fund-raising growth by improving the manner in which they identify, cultivate and solicit individual and institutional prospects. I am willing to provide fund-raising advice to colleges, social service agencies, hospitals, and cultural organizations.

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