Friday, February 26, 2010

'Donor Centred' is just jargon

Have you thought recently about what it actually means to truly be donor centred? I know we all talk about it a lot. If you throw the words 'donor centred' into a job interview people will really think you know what you are doing. I think the term 'donor centred' has become jargon.

What does 'donor centred' really mean?

As I was thinking about my next presentation to our board of directors I tweeted this question to my fundraising colleagues. Just look at the response (In reverse order of how they were received AND a cool example of why I love twitter so MUCH!):

@markyphillips We use donor 'needs', placing them at the centre of why, when and how we communicate.

@jonathongrapsas we prefer to use 'donor care'. Which is about asking, thanking, feeding back and caring. Then doing it again and again and...

@GabryelB it means getting your eyes off your organisations bellybutton and taking the view of the donors: his needs, wants, desires.

@FLA_Leah donor-centred fundraising equals heart and soul fundraising

actually don't think you should put donors needs ahead of org needs, especially if one has human beneficiaries.

@derekhumphries be courteous. Be kind. Listen. Offer more than you ask. Leave donors in no doubt how magnificent they are and can be.

Donor centered. Co-investors in making the vision a reality.

Donor centred is serving the donor in a way that puts their needs/wants first (as opposed to the wants of the org).

@agentsofgood -it means putting the donors needs, wants, everything before yours as an organization.

And I think my favourite:

Donor centered: Treating donors as partners in your mission rather than walking ATMs?

So now I'm thinking...what is it that donors need?

As a donor I know I need to be able to read the material and know that my money is making a difference.

What do you need as a donor? (Because presumably if you are a fundraiser reading this blog you are a donor too right?!)

When you are finished commenting here on your needs as a donor. Check out this great post from Mark Phillips at Blue Frog on what donors need.

Thank you for spending time here.


  1. This is a great question! If we are to avoid the term Donor centred being seen as jargon, then I don't believe its just about donor needs (important as that is) - its really about donor positioning. What do we mean and where do they sit in an organisation? How do others see them?
    Our job is to connect the donor with the cause and the impact they can make (for them and the cause). The organisation is simply the means to achieve that - so how we position donors in any organisation will determine how to meet their needs.Language matters in this - a common understood language helps that understanding. We use 6 donor + principles (at the NSPCC) for example as a way to include others and which help us truly place them at the centre of what we do - because without them we wouldn't exist. The challenge then is to be spectacular in the way we support, love and nurture their kindness.

  2. Stephen I couldn't agree with you more about connecting the donor with the cause. Donors don't care about the organization. We need to accept this. NSPCC does a fabulous job at this. Would love more information about the donor + principles. Perhaps another SOFII exhibit from NSPCC????

  3. And PS: Thanks so much for the thoughtful comment!

  4. Great post. Whatever term we use to describe our approach to fundraising. There's one great way to measure whether it works or not - it's called an attrition rate

  5. Excellent point Mark. Thanks for your comment. Aside from zero what is considered an acceptable attrition rate?

  6. It varies by recruitment technique and country. In the UK, for regular givers via direct debit, Face to Face has a first year attrition rate of about 65-70%. TV can generate an attrition rate of 40-50%. DM and press can be as low at 10%. The important point is that all can be dramatically reduced by taking a real donor focus and delivering what they actually want.

  7. It is undoubtedly jargon.

    Donor Care, donor-centric, stewardship, relationship fundraising, CRM, single supporter view etc, etc.

    There will be always be an in-vogue buzz word that basically boils down to the same thing.

    How do you make your supporters feel valued, appreciated, inspired and special.

    As Stephen rightly points out, one of the most important roles of a fundraiser is to connect the donor with the work of the organisation and show the impact that their gift has on the beneficaries. If you are able to embed that principle into your fundraising, then you won't go far wrong.

    Mark is right that attrition rate is a great way to measure it, but there is also donor satisfaction surveys (how many fundraisers do these regularly - I know i don't) and measuring how likely a person is to recommend your charity to a friend - the results of asking this questions can be quite an eye opener!

  8. Hi Craig,

    'How likely is it that a donor will recommend your charity to a friend.'


    Thanks so much for jumping in. Its great to have some discussion here.

  9. Asking if they will recommend your charity? Now that could have a real impact - we have an annual satisfaction survey, I will check if that question can be included it

  10. My needs as a donor?

    1. Prompt acknowledgement of my support

    2. Not getting my next appeal before my acknowledgement!

    3. I'm not so fussed on how I'm fed back to myself, but it would be nice to know once in a while that my support had actually helped do something, in fairly simple terms! I don't tend to do more than skim newsletters and I tend to ditch emails unless they really grab me. And I don't have time to attend events.

    4. To feel that my support isn't just taken for granted.

    But then I'm a busy fundraiser and my giving is coloured by my knowledge that there's someone like me at the other end, manically watching their response rates and average gifts.

    I think the tricky thing with donor needs is how you balance meeting those needs with the reality of your organisation. What if a donor has 'champagne needs but a beer budget', for example? I think we all know some!

    What I try to do is make sure that, as far as possible, donors who give to us at Leeds get the sense that there are a couple of real people receiving their gifts on students' behalf, who'll engage with them in a human way if they want to be engaged with.

    If someone expresses concern through one of our telephone appeal calls, I'll do my best to write back personally and address the issue, explaining a bit about how we work if I need to make things a bit clearer. I think the phone is a fantastic fundraising tool, just because of that opportunity it can open up for a real dialogue with some donors.

    I'm sure I don't always get it right, but I do try to remember that people want to give to people, and that that holds true for donor care just as much as for design and copy.

  11. Wow Adrian, thank you! You have made so many fabulous points it is hard to isolate one!

    Although I loved point #3. Fairly simple terms. Very good. I skim stuff too,quite specifically to see if it gets the point across quickly with impact. If I have to work at understanding you can bet the donor will have to as well - but chances are he/she won't!

    Great comments folks. Keep em coming!

  12. Anyone need a marketing Person?

    I'm new to the fundraising scene. I found all the comments very interesting and enlightening.

    Here's My Solution;

    Almost everyone has access to email these days. With everything that's been said about "knowing your donors needs" I'm sure you have an idea of why they are donating to "YOUR" cause. If you don't, find out! Send a short video clip.
    Wha la! If you want ideas for your specific cause feel free to email me.

  13. It's funny, our jobs are like marketers and salespeople, and we have to treat donors are customers.

    Yet people don't tell us that. They tell us to just get money however we can.

    when I think of "donor-centered" fundraising, the words that come to mind are


    Ask questions to build relationships.

    And obviously, thank thank thank as often and quickly as possible.