Skip to content

Attention Non-profits – It’s Not About Fundraising By Tom Atema

Attention Non-profits, it all about relationships!

Non-profits have become way too transactional, and are losing sight of their mandate. It started before we ever heard the word Coronavirus, Covid or Covid-19. For sure, 2020, accelerated my concern as I worked with and studied many non-profits.

I speak with people in the non-profit world every day and it is obvious to me that most non-profits, unintentionally, have become more focused on what they need and how to get it, and in the process, have lost the art of developing true relationships. The desire to get to the desired goal, is killing our need for relationships. True relationships have been and are being sidelined for something that is artificial, and in the end, unsustainable.

If you’re transactional, you likely give a lot of lip-service to “relationships,” when In fact, it’s authentic relationships (being relational) that break the rules for non-profits.

If you are relational, you’re not begging or even asking for money, you’re not inventing crises, you’re not marketing in the traditional sense (donation tiers), etc., only to turn around and do it all over again next quarter.

When it comes to non-profits, relationships break the rules. Authentic relationship breaks every rule a non-profit knows. Relationships are messy, they take a long time, they are up and down, slower, but in the end, they run deeper than a transaction.

I believe every non-profit wants to value people. The question is: how are you valuing people? Way too many non-profits define their ministry success largely on how the financial reports look. However is this really our mandate? I do not believe this is even close to a non-profit’s mandate.

One reason I wrote, Relationships Break The Rules” is because I speak with people every day and it is obvious to me that we have lost the art of relationships. The art of building relationships is not complicated; the one thing you need to do is to be consistently adding value to those who come into your path, and not think about how you’ll benefit from a relationship. True relationships—being relational—cannot be a strategy to get something.

I know what you’re thinking, “Tom, we need to make the budget so I need to…”. To which I would say, “no, you do not.” Proof that this is not working, beyond the lack of relationships, is the turnover in the fundraising field. Non-profits need to build relationships. To be clear, I am not talking about Relational Fundraising that’s an oxymoron at best and at worse it’s a strategy that is unsustainable.

Relationships Break The Rules is not a book about the ministry I co-founded which is based on relationships, however the results of this ministry in just 15 years is proof that the relational philosophy and strategy I lay out in this book, work.

Why, because of a deep-seated belief that we must love and value people as Christ loves and values us. With open hands and clean hearts, with no agenda, we need to accept people the way they are and be sensitive to their passion, not their net worth, their needs and not ours.

There is a law that we cannot lose sight of, a law we cannot work into a formula or a philosophy, it’s just a law to remember.  It’s The Law of Reciprocity. It works most effectively in a relational environment.

You and I are not responsible to raise the budget! We are however accountable to add value to people.

So, let’s re-think the term fundraiser in light of every non-profit’s mandate!


Tom Atena is the c0-founder of Heart for Lebanon a non-denominational Christian organization that is creating faith-defining environments that give under resourced families and children in Lebanon the chance to encounter God and grow spiritually. Receive your free chapter of his newest release, Relationships Break The Rules. 

To download the fist chapter of his book –  simply visit!


  Register, come and be inspired

Early Fall Registration ends October 31, 2021

Thirsting for Living Water: Finding Adventure and Purpose in God’s Redemption Story





What is Christian Leadership Alliance?

Christian Leadership Alliance equips and unites leaders to transform the world for Christ. We are the leaders of Christ-centered organizations who are dedicated to faithful stewardship for greater kingdom impact.

Upcoming Events

Check back later!