• Brian D. Agnew, Ph.D.

Going For The Gold: How To Become A World-Class Academic Fundraiser. Buller and Reeves

Going For The Gold provides an insight on how faculty members, development officers and administrators in higher education can become successful fundraisers. Jeffrey L. Buller and Dianne M. Reeves start the book with a very powerful statement, “If you work in higher education today, it doesn’t matter what title appears in your job description: You’re a fundraiser” (Buller and Reeves, pg. 5). This book provides an outlet for those in higher education who may be interested in furthering their skillset of fundraising.


Buller and Reeves discuss the role of trust and the importance it plays in the effectiveness of the fundraiser. A donor is less likely to give a large donation when they know little about the project they are funding or the people that are behind this project. They recommend working in groups when dealing with prospects as this will make a donor feel more at ease while multiple people from the University are backing the development plan. Working in groups also allows those at the University to make sure they are all on the same page and understand the donor’s thoughts and ideas. Once trust is lost, development efforts will take a while to recuperate (Buller and Reeves, pg. 23). The common denominator in the attainment of the development team relies primarily on trust.


Buller and Reeves go on to deliberate about the topic of ethical issues in fundraising. There are very few ethically uncertain circumstances that arise because most are extremely cautious when it comes to not violating laws or practices of the University. Working in a team also helps to avoid these problems because there are more people to weigh in on bad decisions being made. The insight they provide on these important issues are backed by case studies, making it very helpful to fully understand what types of issues may arise and how to handle them in the right way.

How to become a successful solicitor is outlined in eight steps which were very straightforward and easy to grasp.

1. Performing Background Research

2. Planning the Initial Contact

3. Making the Initial Contact

4. Conducting Subsequent Meetings

5. Planning the Ask

6. Making the Ask

7. Being Quiet

8. Stewarding the Gift


Buller and Reeves provide a summary for each step, walking you through the process in a detailed format. They conclude this summary with a case study which highlights the idea that cultivating relationships and donors takes time and although these eight steps may appear to be simple, being dedicated to this process is a crucial part of this movement.


In the last chapter of Going For The Gold, Buller and Reeves deliberate the importance of truly listening to the donor’s story. They state that there is a huge difference between going through the motions of the donor’s story, and listening well enough to be able to point out areas where the person’s needs and those of the institution overlap (Buller and Reeves, pg. 109). Storytelling is a key factor in the success of a fundraiser. One must be comfortable being able to tell the story of the University in a compelling way, the most effective being in person.


Going For The Gold is a great tool for those who are interested in furthering their fundraising skills and learning the basics of doing so. I believe this book would be very valuable to those working in higher education that may not necessarily work in development. It’s a great source for understanding the basics of the importance of cultivating relationships. As Buller and Reeves state, if you work in higher education, regardless of your title, you’re a fundraiser.

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