Ben Franklin’s tips for nonprofit development and fundraising

From the Autobiography:

    The Rev. Gilbert Tennant came to me with a request that I would assist him in procuring a subscription for erecting a new meeting-house. … Unwilling to make myself disagreeable to my fellow-citizens by too frequently soliciting their contributions, I absolutely refused.1 He then desired that I would furnish him with a list of the names of persons I knew by experience to be generous and public-spirited.2 I thought it would be unbecoming in me, after their kind compliance with my solicitations, to mark them out to be worried by other beggars, and therefore refused also to give such a list.3 He then desired that I would at least give him my advice. “That I will readily do,” I said I4; “and, in the first place, I advise you to apply to all those whom you know will give something; next, to those whom you are uncertain whether they will give any thing or not, and show them the list of who have given5; and lastly, do not neglect those who you are sure will give nothing, for in some of those you may be mistaken.” He laughed and thanked me, and said he would take my advice. He did so, for he asked everybody,6 and he obtained a much larger sum than he expected, with which he erected the capacious and very elegant meeting-house that stands in Arch-street.


1Don’t fund-raise for other people.

2Try to get other people’s lists.

3Don’t share your own list.

4Give advice; it’s cheap.

5Make giving seem cool.

6Ask everyone

The result:

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  1. Pingback: Emerson’s advice on how to decline a meeting « Peter Levine

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