The 7 Step Framework to Create a Fundraiser That Actually Raises Funds

Let’s set one thing straight. Is it possible to raise funds without a big fundraising event?

Absolutely! Look at any natural disaster (a hurricane, tornado, tsunami) or tragedy (a school shooting, home fire, deadly car accident). When there is a need, people will find a way to give with or without an organized fundraiser.

What if we’ve been fundraising all wrong?

Many of us have been trying to attract donations by putting on a great party (gala, walk, golf tournament, etc.), but what if we never needed the party at all. What if all we needed was a good cause and good people who were empowered to spread your message?

It would change everything!

After a decade of putting on one too many frustrating fundraisers, I decided to make a major change and I became a student again. Here’s the one huge lesson I learned.

Raising funds alone DOES NOT WORK!

After years of working under some of the very best fundraisers in the business, I put their advice to work as I built out a first year event with a team. The results were astronomical. I raised 25x more money in this one single fundraiser than I raised in any other fundraiser the 10 years prior.

My largest fundraiser prior to this maxed out at $20,000 and now in our first year we were netting $500,000. That is five with five zeros!!!

Year two we net $600,000 and year three we net $715,000! After raising millions of dollars for this one organization, I started raising millions of dollars for other organizations and helping ministry leaders become fully funded using the framework below. For the first time in my fundraising career I had FREEDOM to raise more funds than I ever thought possible!

Here are the 7 Steps:

  1. Focus Your Vision
  2. Run Your Research
  3. Enlist Your Team
  4. Enhance Your Brand
  5. Deploy Your Team
  6. Organize Your Ask
  7. Make Your Difference

The steps in this framework are nothing miraculous, but the results clearly are. This process will ultimately lead you to fundraisers that no one else can compete with. You’ll finally have the freedom to put on the fundraisers that don’t suck the life out of you and actually raise money.

Focus your vision

I’ll get into all the steps in future posts, but for now let’s start with the first step. This is the step that everything else hinges on.

I know a lot of fundraisers who are not trying to rake in the big bucks. They are just trying to pay the bills. For just a few moments, let’s go ahead and silence the bills and just dream a little.

Let’s focus on two things:

  1. Why do you/your cause exist (mission)?
  2. What’s your long-term goal (vision)?

Ask yourself this question:

“What big problem do I want to solve?”

Your answer: ___________________________________.

You go to work every day to solve a big problem. Your goal isn’t to pay bills. Your goal is to solve a big problem. Most likely this problem still exists today because no one else has solved it and you believe you can.

Donors follow BIG vision not line items on your budget.

People want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. They can be entertained by social media, concerts, sports, etc. They don’t need you to be a party planner. They just need you to tell them WHY they should care and your vision should be so good they can’t imagine NOT being a part of it.

Here’s your “more donors” formula:

Clarity (on the problem you want to solve)

A Plan (to solve and fund it)


People (volunteers/donors will want to be a part of it)

I imagine you’ve sacrificed a lot to do the work you do. If you sacrificed and said yes to your cause, don’t you think others will to?

We’ve got to move our focus back to “WHY” we raise funds (your mission/vision) and away from “WHAT” we do to raise funds (walk/gala/bake sale, etc.).

So how do we do it?

Start by asking people for their help and not their money. If you need help raising money, ask people who are good at making money for their help!

If you want to lose weight, you ask people who are healthy and in shape for their help. If you want to raise more money, ask people who are good at making money for their help. Come with realistic expectations just like any other area of your life. The trainer can’t make you skinny the first time you walk into the gym and a wealthy donor can’t solve all of your financial problems with their first check either.

The great thing about people who are gifted at making money is that they don’t always get to use their gifts for a great cause. As the leader of your cause, you have the unique opportunity to invite people in. I will caution though. Do not invite someone to sit at the table if all you want is their money and not their advice. Between you and me, a wealthy individuals advice is way more valuable than any single check to your cause will ever be.

As you focus your vision, remember why you do the work you do. You didn’t get into this work to pay your bills. You came to create a movement that others will following. Once you shift your focus from the dollars to the donors, you’ll be able to create fundraisers that may or may not be attached to fundraising events and donors will be attracted to your cause because of your cause and not your fundraiser.

Let’s go invite the donors in. Give them a voice and their friends (and their dollars) will follow!

To get a full description of every step of the framework, check out my book, Fundraising Freedom, or listen in to episodes 38-45 of the Mary Valloni Show podcast.

To download the first chapter of Fundraising Freedom for FREE, visit

6 thoughts on “The 7 Step Framework to Create a Fundraiser That Actually Raises Funds

  1. I Love the part about “getting their advice”! I have learned this lesson lately. It makes for a better relationship in the long run as well! This is great!

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