From Future Fundraising Now: Are you donor centered?

From Future Fundraising NowAre you donor centered?

Is "donor centered" meaningless jargon? Agents of Good asked the question at Not a buzzword:

... what really got me heated up was the dismissal of donor centered fundraising as some sort of catch phrase, a buzz word, something flung around in boardrooms by high paid consultants... I suddenly felt dirty for even asking the question, like somehow I was being grouped in with a bunch of overpaid, buzz word spewing consultants who have raked valuable dollars way from those who need it...


Sadly, I think it's true. "Donor centered" is often used as empty jargon -- a more noble-sounding way of saying "the way we do it." Someone has even tried to trademark it.

But donor-centered fundraising isn't just a synonym for good fundraising. It's a specific philosophy of fundraising that's built on paying attention to donors. It means these kinds of things:

  • Marketing and messaging are based on donor behavior, not preconceived brand values.
  • You pay attention not just to campaign results and revenue in the door, but the state of the donor file.
  • You thank donors and report back to them about the impact of their giving.
  • You get permission and as much conversation with donors as they want

You could do these things and do them ineffectively. And there are many fundraisers who don't think this way, but do quite well nevertheless. I have a feeling there are donors out there who just don't want the added contact and relationship that donor-centered fundraising usually gives them.

Being "donor centered" is mostly likely the right way to approach your fundraising. But you still have to be good.

So when someone claims to be donor centered, ask them specifically what they mean by it. You'll quickly learn whether it's empty jargon or a meaningful approach to raising more funds.

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Alan Pitner has almost nine years working in higher education fundraising all in annual giving.  I have been fortunate to dabble in many different responsibilities such as student and parent phonathons, senior gift, class volunteers and reunion campaigns.

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