The Cult of Donor-Centricity: Are You a Member?
Sitting in the warm comfort of my grandmother’s farm kitchen many years ago, surrounded by the quintessential aromas of Christmas, a group of us kids were catching up on each other’s lives. All of a sudden, my cousin Kurt made a surprising declaration that shocked our little hearts to the core.
“I’ve always known that I’m Grandma’s favorite,” he smugly said. He then proceeded to go into detail, with a surprising amount of confidence for someone of his age, about all of the little things Gram did to show Kurt just how special he was.
Seriously? I stared at him incredulously. Kurt always did have a high opinion of himself, after all.
Of her 25 grandchildren and countless great-grandchildren, I carried deep within me the knowledge that I was my grandmother’s favorite since what felt like forever. Didn’t she always save the few “fudgies” from the bag of Kraft caramels just for me? In a house with many vying for the use of one television set, didn’t she always somehow ensure that I never missed my favorite show? When I visited the farm as a child, didn’t she drive into town to buy me pasteurized milk from the store—because I couldn’t stand the taste of the raw “cow’s” milk? Didn’t she always find the time to make my favorite noodles (from scratch, using a rolling pin, not a pasta machine!) when I came to visit?
Guess what? It turned out that every one of us had grown up secure in the knowledge that we were Grandma’s special favorite. Because she’d embraced us all in her unconditional love. And she just knew.
You’ve probably known someone in your life with that special gift, haven’t you? The gift of making you feel like you matter. Like you’re his or her “favorite.”
That’s what donor-centered fundraising is all about.
Your donors know that you couldn’t do it without them, that their support matters.
They each know that they are your “favorite” donor. Because you speak to them in that way that reminds them, each and every time, that they count.
Here’s the deal: There are plenty of consultants and big agencies who have been in the field for a lot longer than I have and don’t get donor-centered fundraising. Can they raise money? Of course they can. There are all sorts of tips and tricks for raising fast cash.
But you’re not looking to crash and burn.
You get it. You’re here for the long-term and you want donors who will be, too. You want strong relationships, and you want to take every single opportunity you can to make them even stronger. First, the very first time—then into a lifetime.
Donor-centricity can be misunderstood. It means so much more than throwing a few “you’s” in your next appeal letter. But once you master it, you'll find that everything else flows. Here are just a few awesome resources to get you started:
- The Agitator
- SOFII - Showcase of Fundraising Innovation and Inspiration
- Veritus Group: Passionate Giving Blog
- “Relationship Fundraising: A Donor-Based Approach to the Business of Raising Money” by Ken Burnett
- “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie (Dated yes, but the savvy fundraiser’s bible.)
- “Retention Fundraising: The New Art and Science of Keeping Your Donors for Life” by Roger Craver
- “It’s Not Just About the Money” by Richard Perry and Jeff Schreifels
And of course, yours truly. I'll never steer you wrong.
Oh, one last thing. If you find yourself facing a lot of distractions, all you need to do is stop, put on your donor cap and approach whatever you’re doing from the donor’s perspective. Seriously, think of how much easier work will be!
I’m a proud member of the cult of donor-centricity. You should be, too.
Pamela Grow is the publisher of The Grow Report, the author of Simple Development Systems and the founder of Simple Development Systems: The Membership Program and Basics & More fundraising fundamentals e-courses. She has been helping small nonprofits raise dramatically more money for over 15 years, and was named one of the 50 Most Influential Fundraisers by Civil Society magazine, and one of the 40 Most Effective Fundraising Consultants by The Michael Chatman Giving Show.