An Exercise in Transformation
Airplanes and on-ramps. Talk to Atul Tandon about fundraising, and you get a lot of metaphors about movement.
Whether it’s drawing a picture of specific programming as on-ramps to the highway of donor engagement, or comparing the development of an overall donor-centric attitude within an organization while also keeping a variety of strategies robust to repairing an airplane while it’s still in the air, the senior vice president of donor engagement at World Vision U.S. is clear about his point: Fundraising is far from a static endeavor and, to keep up, an organization — even one as venerable and stalwart as the 57-year-old World Vision — has to keep moving.
That’s why Tandon is not a fundraiser. Sure, he spearheads the division that’s responsible for managing a file of 3.5 million names and 1.5 million donors. And, yes, the direct-mail folks and the major-gifts team and the planned-giving pros et al, look to his leadership on a daily basis. But the World Vision U.S. development team recognized a few years ago that it really is in the business of drawing donors in to the mission of the organization as much by their heart strings as by their purse strings. And it bought into that idea so completely that it changed its name from Marketing & Communications to something that seems somewhat, well, bigger: Donor Engagement.
“Marketing, communications, major gifts … all of these things belong together because they all face outward to the donor, to the public. And so how do we organize them? I came up with the name ‘donor engagement’ because we’re not really marketers in the sense of packaging and selling something. Our job really is to engage and excite people to — in the case of World Vision — serve the poor.
“The core job of everybody involved in the organization really is engaging our current and prospective donors with our work, and not only with our work but with the poor directly,” he explains. “We are simply enablers of that engagement, so we call ourselves ‘donor engagement.’ Frankly, I’d like to call us ‘donor excitement’ but that is, I think, a bridge too far in today’s world.”
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