Lauren Laur

Vice President, Design

About Lauren

You’re in your Impact Era—connecting philanthropists with opportunities to make a difference in the ways most meaningful to them. As you navigate your critical role for your institution and its important mission, draw inspiration and wisdom from this epic list of eras-spanning lyrics.


1. “State the obvious, I didn’t get my perfect fantasy.”

—Taylor Swift, “Picture to Burn”

Expectations are more important than reality when it comes to donor satisfaction. If a donor expected things to go a certain way after making a gift, then they may be deeply dissatisfied with any other outcome—even if their expectation is unreasonable or misplaced. For this reason, communication is key. When donors are aware from the start that this is a partnership that will require negotiation, they are much more likely to feel gratified by the gifting experience and all its requisite highs and lows. Philanthropy is never a ‘perfect fantasy,’ and that’s okay. As long as we are transparent and honest about the bumpy waters ahead, donors won’t jump ship when it isn’t all smooth sailing. This kind of honesty isn’t always easy, but it is always essential.


2. “They might be bigger but we’re faster and never scared.”

—Taylor Swift, “Change”

The opportunity in philanthropy has never been greater than it is right now. The continual rise of donor-advised fund donations—and the comparably low rate of dispensations—proves that donors have money designated for philanthropy, and they aren’t sure what to do with it. This leaves the door wide open for worthy organizations to engage and inspire them to use their wealth for good. However, just as the opportunity is great, the competition is fierce. Organizations that are working on Big Ideas are attracting donors with the means to make a big difference. How can your organization structure its opportunities so they inspire donors to think bigger?


3. “Long live all the mountains we moved; I had the time of my life fighting dragons with you.”

—Taylor Swift, “Long Live”

It’s amazing to be a part of the work that philanthropy brings to life. Together, we are fighting the dragons of our age—illness, injustice, poverty. In meaningful philanthropy, donors don’t focus on giving “to the organization”—they focus on giving “through the organization.” This means the mission and outcome is foremost in their minds. However, when a donor is highly committed to the mission of an organization, and as they see the outcomes of the partnership, their trust in that organization grows. In fact, major donors often tell us that they are willing to give unrestricted funds to organizations with missions that resonate and leaders they trust. The key is the partnership: Philanthropy is a team sport.


4. “It was rare, I was there, I remember it all too well.”

—Taylor Swift, “All Too Well”

One of the foundational principles of donor motivation is that the most meaningful gifts are based on some life experience. However, the most meaningful experiences are sometimes buried deep in our subconscious. In fact, donors often tell us that they didn’t realize how much their giving was inspired by a past experience until they have the opportunity to explore their philanthropic passions with a development professional. In fundraising, it is our great privilege to guide donors on a journey of discovery to unearth memories that drive the most meaningful giving. By listening actively, asking high-value questions, and making connections to relevant organizational priorities, we can help donors realize their wildest philanthropic dreams.

5. “You go talk to your friends, talk to my friends, talk to me.”

—Taylor Swift, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”

Ever heard of ‘friend-raising’? Often, stakeholders such as board members, subject matter experts, or executive-level leaders approach fundraising with an attitude of reluctance, believing unpleasant conversations with their networks await. As ambassadors for philanthropy, development professionals have a critical role in ensuring these important partners recognize that meaningful philanthropy is vastly different from the ‘quid pro quo’ approach they may be used to. Simply sharing their own enthusiasm and asking others about their stories is a great way to make a difference for the organization without compromising friendships or prying money from the reluctant. Done right, fundraising is a joyful experience for all involved.


6. “It was so nice throwing big parties, jumping to the pool from the balcony. Everyone swimming in a champagne sea.”

—Taylor Swift, “This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things”

You might feel ‘so Gatsby’ at first, but fundraising isn’t all parties and glamor. Your organization’s events are a vehicle for creating commitment, increasing engagement, and bolstering your pipeline—all while achieving simultaneous secondary objectives, such as stewardship or potential donor identification. When done right, events are the perfect place to tell your story and create Tipping Points for donors—emotional experiences that change the way they view their philanthropy and your organization. You can leverage events by preparing a cohesive messaging strategy beforehand, planning to have conversations with key donors, and carrying them out at the event itself. Then, follow-up is absolutely critical. Seize the opportunity, and your event can become a powerful part of your donor development strategy.


7. “I never miss a beat. I’m lightning on my feet—but that’s what they don’t see.”

—Taylor Swift, “Shake it Off”

So much of what happens to secure a major gift goes unseen—and that’s the hidden power of advancement. When we make it look easy, and even better, feel easy, donors experience all the joy and magic of making a difference. But none of this could happen without a culture primed for philanthropy—with systems designed to reinforce efficient, donor-focused operations; data collected and leveraged to improve performance; and collaborative teams harnessing creativity and strategy to ensure giving is meaningful and impactful. The work that happens below the surface is unseen but never unfelt: It’s all about WE.


8. “I’ve never been a natural, all I do is try, try, try.”

—Taylor Swift, “Mirrorball”

Research indicates that the most successful fundraisers tend to have one important quality in common that sets them apart from those who don’t make it—they are resilient. Consider all the opportunities a fundraiser has to hear the word “no” in any given day: Asking for meetings, offering engagement opportunities, inviting financial commitments. These are big decisions, and they don’t always go the way we think they will. But the successful fundraiser keeps trying. They ask what happened after unpleasant surprises, and they seek excellence rather than perfection. Even if you don’t feel like a natural, the most important thing you can do is try—and, with effort and dedication, fundraising can become second nature to you.


9. “Never be so polite, you forget your power. Never wield such power, you forget to be polite.”

—Taylor Swift, “Marjorie”

It’s a common misconception that donor-centered philanthropy is all about doing whatever the donor wants. Can you imagine the chaos our organizations would devolve into if this were really the case? In reality, donor-centered philanthropy is about focusing on our shared goals. When we recognize that donors don’t want to give us money for things we don’t need, we have the freedom to be honest about what we are (and are not) trying to accomplish. There is great power in saying “no”—and in assuming positive intent as we approach gifts that we cannot use. Remember, your first responsibility is to raise funds that will help achieve your organization’s important mission. You serve donors when you connect them with this powerful means of making a difference.


10. “Ask me what I learned from all those years, ask me what I earned from all those tears, ask me why so many fade but I’m still here.”

—Taylor Swift, “Karma”

Success in fundraising takes time—and the longer a fundraiser stays with a single organization, the more value they can deliver to the organization. In fact, research shows new hires don’t begin really raising significant money for the organization until at least 18 months on the job, and they begin to be truly invaluable after seven years. Imagine the wealth of institutional knowledge, donor connections, and internal partnerships that a development professional can cultivate in that length of time. Furthermore, their experience will elicit rewards for their own careers, as their years of focused work and internalized knowledge yield an incredible ability to ‘connect the dots’ into a useful roadmap for meaningful engagement. This superpower can be yours if you stay the course. We recommend finding an organization with a mission that resonates most deeply, in a part of the world you would love to live. Then, settle in, and make magic happen in your Impact Era.