Correlation Between Grade Grubbing and Successful Major Gift Fundraising

We’ve all heard the term Grade Grubbing, or Grade Lawyering, or even worse – Grade Begging. I must confess, I was a Grade Grubber. I mentioned this to my colleagues at FUNDING matters last month. The focus of the discussion was about major gift fundraisers or fundraising volunteers. I mentioned that these individuals need to be able to assess donor situations on many different levels and perspectives in order to make an initial approach. This brought me to the realization that, sometimes when it comes to explaining fundraising principles like donor engagement, it works better to draw on personal experience not necessarily related to fundraising. You might be asking yourself to which past experiences am I referring. As you can tell by the title of this blog entry, it is my time spent though the primary, secondary and postsecondary education system.

Grade Grubbing is often looked at in a negative context by fellow students and especially by faculty and administration – but it shouldn’t be. Our education system isn’t just about writing essays and tests, it is also about getting along with people. I always felt that I could do a little bit better by approaching my teachers or professors after I had received a mark on a paper or test.

So this is Grade Grubbing 101: After receiving a mark, I would carefully review my work and find areas where I could increase it. The rule of thumb was that if the mark was anywhere between a failure or I clearly did not demonstrate effort on my part, I would not grade grub.

A fundraiser should follow a similar rule. If they don’t put the effort and strategy into a proper presentation to a prospective donor, they should not even approach the prospect. Lack of proper research and due diligence is often why donors agree to lesser amounts.

My on-going efforts to engage in conversations have served me well both as a student and as a fundraiser. As a fundraiser, this skill translated into a considerable amount of money for various causes. As a student, the personal connections with my teachers benefited me the most. What helped me forge those connections was the fact that I showed up to class and I submitted my work on time. The key point is that I was consistent and took every opportunity to advance my cause. Surprisingly I actually liked doing this, and I know that it created a good rapport with my grade reviewers.

When it comes to fundraising, persistent contact over time encourages the donor to consider increasing their donation to a major or transformational level. Never in my experience has a donor immediately agreed to give the full sum of the ask. There is a very nuanced dialogue that takes place. It may involve different approaches, views and strategies to get to a place where the donor is completely satisfied and comfortable, which in the long run helps an organization achieve its objectives.

If you like this blog share it with others. Or better still, share your own experience that shaped your personal approach to philanthropic conversations.

- Bill