A Donor-Centred Approach – Three Essential Truths

A Donor-Centred Approach – Three Essential Truths

We’re on the right track. But we’ve still got a long way to go.

For the past 20 years the not-for-profit sector has been talking about donor-centred fundraising. And in the last decade many have succeeded in thanking donors faster and providing feedback to donors. Some organizations – or at least some departments within organizations – write great donor-focused communications.

Today most fundraisers know that taking a donor-centred approach to fundraising is key to success.

This is in very large part thanks to the inspiring work, teachings and high visibility of people like Ken BurnettTom Ahern, Simone Joyaux, passionate consultants like Agents of Good, and a host of donor-focused fundraisers (to name any would exclude others who deserve to be noted).

And for the benefit of those who need proof that superlative donor care is worthwhile … thanks to the professional research and publications of people like Adrian Sargeant, and Penelope Burke … we also have scientific evidence that a donor-centred approach is key to fundraising success.

So we have come a long way. But we’re not there yet.

Staff and volunteers who don’t have the title of “fundraiser” may agree that a donor-centred approach to fundraising is key to the successful raising of funds. “Good idea.” “Makes sense.” “We should value our donors.” “Yes, everyone is talking about that these days, you should do that too.”

They don’t think it has anything to do with them. REALLY?


It has everything to do with them.

But it’s our fault as fundraisers that they don’t get it. You see, for the longest time, we’ve been talking about “relationship fundraising” and “donor-centred fundraising”.

It’s time we more frequently un-couple the term “donor-centred” from the word “fundraising”.

So how can YOU help shift your organization towards a donor-centred approach to raising funds?


FIRST, buy a personal copy of Donor-Centred Leadership by Penelope Burke, published by Cygnus Applied Research, Inc. 2013 – an excellent account on what it takes to bring staff attrition under control and build a high performance fundraising team. Read it, then gift it to your boss.


SECOND, consider these Three Essential Truths:


1. Everyone in the organization has (or should have) a common goal – achieve the mission.

2. Donors are necessary partners in achieving the mission. (In a separate post I wrote about how to partner with your donors to change the world.)

3. Virtually everyone that you, staff and volunteers come into contact with is a potential donor – if not already a donor.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

But for an organization to be truly donor-centric requires nothing short of a cultural change. Until then we’re stuck with bureaucratic red tape, practices, policies, and yes, sometimes personalities, that dictate that “it’s always been done this way” and/or “this is the way it works” or “that’s not my job”.

We’ve got mountains to move! And we each have to do our part.

So each and every day, make a conscious effort to share one or more of the Three Essential Truths with a colleague in a different department. And let’s get the conversation going!