Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Donor Centricity Is All Talk

Donor Centered Fundraising. We have been tossing this term around for years. Yet what does donor centricity mean? Donor centricity at its best is all talk, all channels, all the time.

Donor centricity is about organizing people, technology,
and resources around the voice of the donor.
Here's why.

Let me begin with what donor-centered fundraising is not.

It certainly is not slapping a person's name on yet another fundraising appeal that has nothing to do with the donor's interests. We are really good at that in fundraising -- sending out ever more "targeted" one-way communications.

Nor is donor centered fundraising cultivating a person for a major gift when the project or cause doesn't resonate with the prospect. Instead, donor centered means engaging prospects around their needs, around their hopes.

We have to talk to our donors to achieve such engagement. More importantly we have to listen. What better way to begin the conversation than with a question? For instance, "What prompts you to choose our cause to support?" The channels for such questions could range from face-to-face communications to a simple field in your online pledge form.

Years ago, I attended a presentation at a workshop in Laramie, Wyoming, by the fabulously successful author James Michener. I recall his remark that "everyone has a story to tell. They just need a way to tell that story." Ultimately, our job is to help donors tell their stories.


  1. What a great post! Donor centered fundraising as a concept has always felt so good, but it has long seemed like we, as fundraisers, were just pretending to be donor centered with our one-way communication. But it's so much more -- as you noted, it's about engagement, communication, questions and, perhaps above all, listening. The best fundraisers I know also happen to be the best listeners. Thank you for bringing an oft-misused term back to its roots!

  2. Well said! Particulary in this challenging economy it is easy to forget that not only do we as fundraisers have needs, but that our donors have their own agenda, wishes, dreams...

  3. Good! One question, if donor centric is important, why charities are not calling regular or cash givers (at least yearly) to say hi and understand their needs/preference and communicate the gratefulness and the changes they made?