The Believe First Rule

When soliciting a major gift prospect, it is best practice to engage only volunteers who already have made their commitment.  This is the “Give First Rule.”  Not only is this an ethical practice, but we know that modeling the giving process encourages others to respond favorably to a gift request.

Development professionals smile when they talk about donors who “get it.”  Typically, this means that the donor gives generously, regularly, and encourages others to do the same.   These donors talk about giving as an important part of life and characterize giving to your institution as a joy.  They are not complainers or negative.  They are proactive and they are builders.  They uplift people, circumstances, and institutions.  They add value.

Development professionals like these donors.  And our aim should be to increase the number of donors in our database who “get it.”  But how might we do that?

Much like the “Give First Rule,” I believe there is a “Believe First Rule.” And here’s how it works.  In order to increase the number of donors who “get it,” we have to first “get it” ourselves.  We must believe that giving is a joy.  We have to first evidence a generous, positive spirit.  We must strive daily to add value and build up those around us.  We should proactively engage in philanthropy – in all its forms.  Not just because it is our work, but because we believe it is best for us, our institutions, and our communities.

If you want to increase the number of donors who “get it,” start with the one you know best.  Yourself.



  1. Great word! I think this goes back to the concept that we cannot lead others to where we have not been; we cannot give what we do not have. This is not just important as a matter of integrity, but also so that more of those who “get it” can be brought into full maturity in the cause by us because we’re actively on the way to full maturity in the cause ourselves. Often, our experiences become iconic and enable others to see how they, too, might share a similar experience.

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