What “donor centric” really means in fundraising

I’m on vacation. So this week I’m re-posting some of the most-read posts from the past year or so. I hope you enjoy them!

“Donor centric” might be the most misused concepts in our industry. It sometimes means “I use my own tastes and preferences to decide how we should treat donors.”

Big mistake. Big, expensive mistake.

The decisions go like this:


  • Address labels? I have no use for them. Hate ’em. Not donor centric.
  • Emotional stories? I see right through them. Manipulative. Not donor centric.
  • Long messages? Ain’t nobody got time for that. Not donor centric.
  • Frequent contact? It annoys me. Not donor centric.
  • Short sentences, short paragraphs, colloquial language? I’m too sophisticated. Not donor centric.
  • Direct mail? I’ve never responded to it in my life. Not donor centric.

This version of “donor centric” is not donor centric at all. It’s egocentric. And it’s not only disrespectful of donors … it’s an ineffective way to raise funds.

A post at 101fundraising, Not relationships VS results — relationships FOR results, looks at this issue:

Your donors want to give. They enjoy it. You have no right to cancel money-making programs like premium mailings because you don’t like the idea of it. Being donor centric means paying attention to how your donors behave and making smart decisions based on those observations.

One of the hard things about fundraising is that what you think you’d respond to almost never works in real life. There are two reasons for this:


  1. Your donors are not you. They are different in many significant ways.
  2. Even if you were exactly like your donors, you don’t really know what you’d respond to. Your conscious opinions on the matter are at best wild guesses. More likely, your conscious opinions are exactly wrong.

Don’t let egocentric fundraising posing as donor-centric fundraising alienate you from your donors and crush your fundraising revenue.


Comments

2 responses to “What “donor centric” really means in fundraising”

  1. Jeff, as the author of the book “Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing,” I’m frequently frustrated by the misguided efforts of well-intentioned fundraising professionals. As you’ve stated, development folks often think they’re being donor-centric when, in reality, they’re being self-centered.
    I attribute this phenomenon to the fact that most of us were taught the Golden Rule at an early age: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The problem is that the Golden Rule is inherently self-centered. It’s about what WE want.
    Instead, we should live by the Platinum Rule as stated by Tony Alessandra, PhD, CSP, CPAE, President of the Assessment Business Center: “Treat others the way THEY want to be treated.” Now, that’s being donor centered!
    For more on this, your readers can checkout: “Stop Following the Golden Rule!” (https://michaelrosensays.wordpress.com/2011/05/20/stop-following-the-golden-rule/).
    I hope you have a FUNtastic vacation!

  2. Jeff, as the author of the book “Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing,” I’m frequently frustrated by the misguided efforts of well-intentioned fundraising professionals. As you’ve stated, development folks often think they’re being donor-centric when, in reality, they’re being self-centered.
    I attribute this phenomenon to the fact that most of us were taught the Golden Rule at an early age: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The problem is that the Golden Rule is inherently self-centered. It’s about what WE want.
    Instead, we should live by the Platinum Rule as stated by Tony Alessandra, PhD, CSP, CPAE, President of the Assessment Business Center: “Treat others the way THEY want to be treated.” Now, that’s being donor centered!
    For more on this, your readers can checkout: “Stop Following the Golden Rule!” (https://michaelrosensays.wordpress.com/2011/05/20/stop-following-the-golden-rule/).
    I hope you have a FUNtastic vacation!

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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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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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