“If only more people knew about us and the great work we do, we could raise so much more money.”

As a fundraiser, how many times have you heard this? And be honest, you may have even uttered those words yourself in a moment of weakness.

Wanting to raise awareness, educate and share the story about your cause with the world is a noble endeavour. But I promise you that it will never raise the dollars that you hope it will. It’s very easy to get caught in the trap of focusing your efforts on awareness as opposed to the discipline it takes to stay the course with a plan.

Why? Simply put, you don’t need to boil the ocean to cook a couple of fish and your fundraising success is not based simply on your ability to raise the awareness of your cause.  Raising awareness is broad, challenging to measure and even trickier to tie to dollars raised.

My suggestion is to focus on LAI – Linkage. Ability. Interest.  Three magic words that will help you to focus your efforts and measure the results. LAI is used pervasively in major gift fundraising, but the idea can be applied more broadly. In this case, you don’t need to focus on specific LAI scores or specific individuals, but it will help you to identify where to spend your efforts. Here are some thoughts on how to identify potential donors by identifying common criteria.


Who are some of the potential donors/groups who are already connected to your mission? Maybe you have members who are not yet donors, or volunteers who haven’t been approached. We have a tendency to silo supporters. They don’t always make their way into the potential donor category but they already have an affinity for your cause!


You don’t need to get too granular if you’re not looking to land a major gift but it is helpful to identify the threshold for some of your supporters. Do they have mid-level potential or perhaps they lend themselves to a broader in-house prospect opportunity? Either way, be disciplined and honest about whether they have capacity!


Does this potential donor group have a passion for your mission and vision? If the interest in your work isn’t there, all the awareness efforts in the world certainly aren’t going make a difference.

Once you have identified potential donors that meet your LAI criteria, you are well on your way to taking a disciplined approach to fundraising – raising more money and building awareness as a by-product! Use the awareness opportunity to tell potential donors how their gift will make a difference and the impact it will have on those who will benefit from the gift. When they make their first gift, you have another opportunity to tell them about their impact. You hopefully now have a school of fish rather than entire ocean to manage and that will make anyone sigh a breath of relief!