"Fundraising" vs. "Development": A Useful Distinction?

Those of us in higher education and many of us in the business of philanthropy frequently use the terms "fundraising" and "development" interchangeably; as if their meaning and connotation were identical.  For sure, these terms are interrelated in important ways, but there are also significant differences and distinctions that it is both proper and helpful to observe.

Fundraising = TransactionalHigher Education Fundraising Development Distinction

"Fundraising," describes an activity that is "transactional" in nature.       The focus is on solicitation. An organization with a specific and short-term financial goal asks for a one-time, usually modest gift from a donor, usually for a specific cause or project. 

Development = Relational

"Development," on the other hand, encourages us to think about our work in "relational" terms–the building, over time, of a continuous, powerful and life-long connection between a donor / philanthropist and the organization or cause we represent. When we approach our work as "development," the process includes extended cultivation, thorough education, and attentive stewardship -- as well as appropriate solicitation!

Unlike fundraising, the development timetable is defined by the donor, the responses sought are multiple, and the goal is expansive -- ultimately, a "lifetime" gift that permanently bonds the donor and our college or university. Such gifts are life-changing, for our cause, and for the donor!

"Fundraising" and "Development," of course, also work together. Every fundraising transaction is a signal to the perceptive development director, and it is, in many cases, the first step in building for the future.  And, importantly, fundraising activity is essential as we seek to meet our annual fundraising goals and budget pressures.

What do you think? Do you agree? We'd like to hear from you. Leave us a comment!