What I learned about fundraising on a pirate ship in Mexico

Over the holidays my family and I went to Mexico.

My step-father and I decided to take my son on a Pirate Ship excursion for one of our final days, a special, fun experience for my son to remember. So what does this have to do with fundraising?

We arrived at the marina and were greeted by a team of “pirates” and then immediately assigned a “personal pirate”. I had no idea what to expect from our personal pirate – but ours was named Shaddow and he had a total of five families he was assigned to.

Shaddow did something amazing that day – my family felt like we were the only ones on that ship. We were treated like royalty and made to feel like we were getting special, caring treatment.

But here’s the magic. Every family felt that way. That was the job of our personal pirates.

It didn’t take a lot to make that day incredible for my family – it took personal attention – something that is easy to give but often overlooked.

Here are three tips on how to make your donors feel precious to you – just like that hidden pirate treasure!


If you downloaded my free Shoestring Fundraising Cheat Sheet you may be thinking about having an Open House. Or maybe you have a fundraising or friend-raising event coming up. The next time you have an event, divide up your list of guests and assign “hosting” duties to your board, staff and volunteers. Think 3-5 guests per host.

It isn’t even necessary for your guests to know they are assigned to their host in the organization, they will just feel like someone is looking out for them. The host should offer to get their guests drinks, make sure guests see people they know or meet people they might get along with, and give the guests “inside scoop” about what’s coming up or what to pay attention to. Make them feel like they are insiders and special to your organization.

This is a great way to get your board involved in fundraising, even if they are the most reluctant of fundraisers.


It doesn’t end at a designated host. Each person from the organization, whether it be staff, volunteers, board members or others, are collectively responsible for your guests and their experience. Build this into your training and prep for events and for your ongoing activities.


Take the host concept and extend it beyond an event. Have you ever been touched by an old friend remembering your birthday? Then you’ll understand why it’s important to remember details about your donors. Assigning a primary relationship manager (the “host” concept extended) to your donors and prospective donors can go a long way to making them feel special.

You can do this by keeping track of details such as what their interests are, if they have kids or any food restrictions. If you can keep track of your donor’s birthdays and send them a card, it can have a huge impact!

Remember this: how you care for your donors doesn’t have to be fancy, but it should feel special. Do what you can, in small but meaningful ways, to make your donors feel like a million bucks – that special pirate’s treasure.

#nonprofit #howtofundraise #smallcharities #charity #fundraising

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The Good Partnership, 401 Richmond St West, suite 353, Toronto, ON M5V 3A8

437-886-6047 |