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Fundraising Training Exercise: What Drew You to This Work?

Excerpted from Train Your Board (And Everyone Else) to Raise Money

Many boards and committees are all business and devote little time to discussing the personal and emotional aspects of an organization and its work. Nobody ever joined a board or volunteered for a nonprofit because they loved going to meetings, talking about policies and procedures, or looking at spreadsheets. They join because they want to make a difference in the world.

As a fundraiser, your greatest asset is your enthusiasm for the mission and work of your organization, so it's helpful to remind yourself why you care. This exercise can generate useful language for building your case and talking with donors.

Why Do This Exercise?
It reduces fundraising to its elemental level: two people talking about something they both care about

Use This Exercise When
You want your board members and volunteers to know one another better and understand their motivations for serving on the board

Time Required
10-15 minutes

Anyone involved with your fundraising campaign: some combination of board, staff, and volunteers

A quiet space large enough for people to pair up, talk, and hear each other


  • Flip chart paper and markers (optional)

Facilitating the Exercise

  1. Ask people to pair up, preferably with someone they don't know well.
  2. Instruct the partners to ask each other the following questions:
    • Why are you involved with this organization?
    • Why is our work important to you?
    • Tell me about a time when you saw our mission in action and what it meant to you.

    Encourage partners to add whatever follow-up questions are needed to flesh out the answers. Such a follow-up might be "Can you tell me a specific story or example about your involvement with our work?"

  3. Give the pairs five to seven minutes to complete this task. Part-way through, you might warn them, "You've got another two minutes, so if you haven't told your own story yet, please do so now."
  4. Reconvene the full group. Debrief the exercise with the following questions:
    • What was the most memorable thing you heard from your partner?
    • What did you learn about our organization?
    • As we’re discussing this, what common themes are you hearing?

    If you like, you can write key phrases on the flip chart.

  5. Conclude the exercise by summarizing the range of reasons why people choose to be involved. Skilled solicitors are always listening for the link between the work of the organization and each individual donor’s interests, passions, and experiences.

Training Tip

Writing ideas or comments from the participants lets them know that they've been heard and that they're doing valuable work. If you choose to paraphrase, check with the speaker first and ask permission before changing the words: "May I write that as ...?"

Other Excerpts from This Book


Andrea Kihlstedt and Andy Robinson
© 2014, Andrea Kihlsted and Andy Robinson. Excerpted from Train Your Board (And Everyone Else) to Raise Money: A Cookbook of Easy-to-Use Fundraising Exercises. Excerpted with permission of Emerson & Church, Publishers.

Visit the website for this book

fundraising-training-exercise-what-drew-you-to-this-work_Andrea-Kihlstedt.pngAndrea Kihlstedt is author of How to Raise $1 Million (or More!) in 10 Bite-Sized Steps. She has served the nonprofit sector for more than 30 years as a fundraiser, trainer, consultant, teacher, writer, and speaker. She has trained nonprofit boards and staff throughout the United States on effective major gifts fundraising, capital campaigns, and how to ask for gifts. Kihlstedt is cofounder (with Gail Perry) of Capital Campaign Magic, providing online learning about capital campaign fundraising.

fundraising-training-exercise-what-drew-you-to-this-work_Andy-Robinson.jpgAndy Robinson provides training and consulting for nonprofits in fundraising, grantseeking, board development, marketing, earned income, planning, leadership development, and facilitation. Andy has worked with organizations in 47 U.S. states and Canada and is the author of six books. His latest include How to Raise $500 to $5000 from Almost Anyone, The Board Member's Easier Than You Think Guide to Nonprofit Finances, and Great Boards for Small Groups.

Topics: Fundraising