We might as well give donors control — they’ll take it anyway

by guest blogger George Crankovic


Oh how times have changed. If you’ve been in fundraising for a while, you remember the Golden Age of Giving. You know, those halcyon days in the bygone past when donors knew their role and knew their place. We would send letters; they would give. Simple.


Now it’s the donors who want control. They’re putting their own messaging out there about giving. They’re adding their own spin to philanthropy. They’re making sure their gifts have an impact. What’s more, they couldn’t care less about a nonprofit’s brand.


Take the case of Toby Ord. He’s a 30-year-old Oxford University academic. Through of modest means, Ord has pledged — to much media fanfare in the UK — that he will donate a million pounds ($1.6 million US) over the course of his working life to fight poverty. He will give this amount by donating 10% of his salary each year, plus any yearly earnings over $32,000.


To encourage others to do the same, he’s launched givingwhatwecan.org, replete with facts, statistics, discussions of the ethics of fighting poverty, and of course a list of charities that get the nod.


Then, othere are giving circles. Angela Eikenberry, assistant professor at the University of Nebraska, estimates there are more than 600 giving circles in the US. In her report, The Impact of Giving Together (PDF), participants said they give more money and do so more strategically as a result of their group involvement. They also learn a great deal about their communities’ needs.


One site serving these donors is the Giving Circles Network. It provides networking and information to help individuals increase the impact of their giving. This organization even has a presence on Second Life, the online virtual world.


Granted, these folks aren’t garden-variety, $10-every-so-often donors. They’re much more committed. Still, most if not all donors want more control. So give it to them:



  • Invite donors to tell you how much and how often they want to give — then listen.
  • Call donors to thank them and to talk, without pressure, about the need and about your charity.
  • Tell donors over and over exactly what their gifts do.
  • Update your website so that it clearly conveys the need you’re responding to.
  • Make sure your appeals have clear, specific offers that are relevant to your donors and show the impact of their giving — not vague calls to action that just restate your organization’s mission statement.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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About the blogger

Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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