I often get the opportunity to meet young development professionals and the other day, one such neophyte asked a great question: “what is one of the most basic lessons I should know about fundraising?”

While there are many basic ideas that a new fundraiser can begin with, here’s my favorite: for an individual to become a donor, they must meet three basic qualifications.  First, they must have an interest in your mission.  There’s no sense wasting time trying to convince an individual to support a cause they’re not passionate about.  For example, I have a neighbor with a serious interest in helping the homeless.  He has little interest in the arts.  Arts organizations would be wasting their time pursuing him as a donor.

Secondly, an individual must have the capacity to give.  This is harder to judge, but we can use our perceptions (and for more advanced nonprofits, wealth screening tools) to help determine an individual’s ability to make a gift.

Finally, we must establish a connection between the individual and the nonprofit to convert them into a donor.  This is the fundamental work of development–establishing connections, either through your own work or with the help of your Board.

So if you’re new to development, begin with this simple lesson and build from there.  Establish connections so you can discover interests and ability…this will lead to success.