The idea for www.DonorcentricDevelopment.com came after working with many non-profit organizations over the past 40 years as a professional staff member, a board member and a volunteer. During this time, and especially over the past four years working with local United Way member agencies, I’ve come to realize how under resourced many non-profits are when it comes to fundraising. For many organizations fundraising is a mysterious and some times intimidating process.
That shouldn’t be the case, so I started this fundraising resource blog to provide information and insight on the topic.
The reason that I call it Donorcentric Development is that to be successful at fundraising you must meet the donor where they are. That thought should always be at the back of a fundraiser’s mind. Many nonprofits know what they need and why they need those things. But they don’t always explain those needs in a way that resonates with potential donors.
To do that effectively requires building a relationship with potential donors and understanding what is important to them. This is not a new concept. Penelope Burk of Cygnus Applied Research coined the term donor-centered fundraising in 2003. There is a link to her blog on this site’s Resources page. To me, being donorcentric means reaching out to the right donor, with the right opportunity, and the right message, at the right time.
The right donor is one that has both capacity and propensity. Successful fundraisers focus on donors who are interested in their cause and have the ability to make a gift. A person can have plenty of money, but if they aren’t interested in the cause then the fundraiser is wasting their time. Someone who is passionate about the cause but has no disposable income or assets might make a great volunteer, but is not someone to focus on for donations.
The right opportunity is different for different people. Some people like attending events, others like to meet in person and get all the details, and there are people who will respond to a letter, email or phone call who would never agree to a face to face meeting or attend an event. The most successful fundraisers find out what vehicles their various donors prefer to give through.
In addition to preferences for vehicles for giving, donors have preferred messages that appeal to them. Sure, some donors just want to help the cause and will give for almost any reason! But some donors prefer capital projects, some are interested in endowments, others like to support programing. The right message is the one geared to the area of giving that a donor is most likely to respond to.
The right time can be tough because the right time for the donor to make a gift may not coincide with the time when an organization has the greatest need. That’s why events, mailings and major donor discussions should be spread throughout the year, so there is always an opportunity for a donor to make a gift.
Approaching donors with these thoughts in mind will be substantially more productive than taking a shotgun approach to asking for support.