Are your donors “insiders?” Understanding donor-centricity

April 24, 2015

Have you been feeling like you don’t quite “get” this donor-centered stuff?

Have you even (maybe?) thought that it’s all a load of crap?

You’re not alone. For many fundraisers, “donor-centered fundraising” is just another jargon-y loaded catchphrase.

And now there’s talk about a shift from donor-centered…to community-centered.

To see what I mean, take some time to read my friend Vu’s (Nonprofit With Balls) post, Winter is coming, and the donor-centric fundraising model must evolve. And then, read this very eloquent response from my dear friend, Lisa Sargent: Ushering in the Age of Donor Realism: Six Ways My Donor-Centric Copy Is Shifting.

Now, I ask you, is there really that much difference between the two?

InsiderDonor-centered fundraising, to me, has always meant embracing your donors like the valuable friends and partners that they are. I get the impression that Vu thinks donor-centric is great… except when it’s poorly executed. So instead of focusing on executing or implementing exceptionally well, he says “community” is the way to go.

Here’s the deal: donor-centricity is not so much about counting the ‘you’s’ or ‘I’s’ or ‘we’s’ in your direct mail or web copy (although that can’t hurt if you’re a newbie), nor is it about following a template (although you can’t go wrong with mine to kickstart your thought processes).

Donor-centricity IS about making your donors feel that they’re wonderful — and that they’re a part of something wonderful.

Think, for a moment, about your best friend. For me, it’s Dawn, who’s been my friend since childhood. After going to five elementary schools in four years, meeting Dawn in the fourth grade felt like coming home. We walked to school every day. We each had a branch in the giant walnut tree in her backyard, where we’d sit reading for hours in the summer (her mother even rigged up a pulley with a basket and sent up lunch). The surprise party she plotted for my 12th birthday goes down as one of my best memories. Ever. We’ve been together from Barbies…to our weddings and children.

If you’re doing this donor-centered stuff right, that’s how you will eventually come to think of your best donors. Like true friends. Perhaps more importantly, like organization ‘insiders.’ This takes thought. It takes planning, and focus, and commitment, and systems.

W. Edward Demings said it best: “It does not happen all at once. There is no instant pudding.”

You can learn all the ‘tricks’ to donor-centered fundraising. As Vu notes, you can…

“Acknowledge donors quickly, communicate frequently, don’t treat people like ATMs, build relationship, appreciate every gift no matter the size, personalize, etc.”

But it’s when you really get to know your donors (and they get to know you), when you lead with gratitude, and when you respect your donor’s input and intelligence, that your fundraising will soar. Study this stuff. Master it. And, of course the best way to ‘get’ this business of donor-centricity is by making our daily thank you calls, sending out that latest impact update (with a thank you note), or rounding up our board to make thank you calls.

Yes, your donors, like you, are part of a greater community. We’re all in this together.

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