Partners, not parents: How you relate to your donors

Your donors are not your parents. They are your partners.

This is a critical distinction that all fundraisers should keep in mind, because it’s easy for some to slip into a child-parent relationship with donors (especially large donors) — and the outcome is always bad. Sometimes disastrous.

Listen to this short account at the Grow Gelt Podcast: Why this fundraiser almost fell for this common scam (you can click through to play it, or play it here below).

Here’s the important point in the podcast:

Donors are not giving you something you don’t have. You and them are working together to create a world that’s better for everyone. You are partners.

What can happen is this: We fundraisers see donors as having something (money) that we need. So we start seeing them as something like parents, and give them authority that they don’t (and shouldn’t) have. This can lead to you doing things you shouldn’t be doing, like distorting your mission. Or, as in the podcast, almost falling for a scam that you would otherwise see through in five seconds. (It was a scammer posing as a donor.)

It’s easier than you might think to slip into the child-parent role with donors, especially if you are at a small organization. You may be aware that this donor you’re dealing with has the capacity to fully fund you or transform your work. So you treat them as a parent.

Don’t! Keep it partnership.


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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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