Passion is a fundraiser’s fuel

publication date: Nov 7, 2016
author/source: Jenny Mitchell

Jenny MitchellThe dictionary’s definition of passion is “a strong and barely controllable emotion.”

Passion is a fundraiser’s fuel.  My passion for the people in the not-for-profit industry fuels me to build coaching programs that help fundraisers lean into their role as Chief Visionary Officers for their organizations.

What does passion look like?

Passion is what helps us overcome obstacles. Passion is the counterbalance to the (relatively) low salaries in not-for-profit. How many times have I heard “You’re in not-for-profit? Your work must be so rewarding.”

Well, yes, sometimes it’s rewarding… 

Passion can also be misdirected or misallocated. I coach lots of fundraisers who join an organization because of their passion for the mission, and then get “caught up in the weeds” and lose their focus and discipline. They lose their way PRECISELY because they are working from their place of passion. 

We may THINK we are helping – being a not-for-profit martyr, working extra-long hours, caring about EVERYTHING that comes across our desk – but I am not convinced.


It happens when people are too close to something. Passion colours your objectivity. 

The passion opportunity

Think of passion as an opportunity. It’s a tool that can help you connect with your cause:

  • Spending a night at a youth shelter to gain some first person stories
  • Sitting down with your board members to ask “why do you volunteer with us?”
  • Talking with your team about what kind of work they are passionate about.

Passion may be part of your toolkit, but it cannot stop you from being a professional fundraiser, one who thinks strategically about how to allocate resources and spend his or her time.

Why should you care about passion?

A fundraiser who is not passionate is an empty soul. An empty soul struggles to connect in meaningful ways with donors, staff, volunteers.

No connection, no engagement, no donations.

We need passion in order to connect with people. But we also need objectivity, focus, discipline and strategic thinking! These things CAN co-exist alongside each other. I know so because I have coached many clients to walk comfortably in these two worlds. 

Your Turn – ready, set, go! 

Allocate time this week to share your passion with someone at your organization. Choose your favorite board member, programming person or donor. Make sure YOU go first – share how your passion for the organization fuels you, and your work. Then ask them the same thing. 


Jenny Mitchell, CFRE, empowers and educates fundraisers to raise more money for their organizations.  Jenny’s patented Fundraising Mastermind model of training and coaching helps charities all across North America support their leadership staff to build and grow their culture of philanthropy. Jenny lives in Ottawa, Ontario with her two ringette-playing daughters, and her hockey-loving husband. You can learn more about Jenny on her website:



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