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Nonprofit Excellence in Fundraising
Built upon the success of the best-selling “Nonprofit Management 101,” this easy to digest book provides practical, comprehensive guidance for nonprofit fundraising around the globe. With tips and tools, expert advice, and real-world insights from almost fifty industry leaders, this robust resource addresses the entire spectrum of fundraising for nonprofits, including: Planning, hiring, and tracking progress Individual donors, major gifts, events, and direct mail Board and volunteer engagement Foundation and government grants Corporate partnerships Online and email fundraising.
Advice from the Expert
How My Favourite Charity Let me Down: A Case for Donor-Centricity
By Rhanda Bonet-Graham
Fundraisers are passionate about making the world a better place. In addition to raising funds for causes we believe in we also donate to them and to others as well. I wanted to share with you an experience I recently had with an organization I donated to and what it taught me about donor-centric fundraising.
About a year ago I was thinking about my dream job, the organization I really wanted to raise funds for, the cause that was truly near and dear to my heart. It didn’t take long for me to determine that it was advocating and making opportunities available for women and girls to get an education. This cause really resonates with me. I’m a proud Egyptian-American who grew up in the Middle East. I was fortunate to belong to a family that valued good education for their daughters. My mother was my inspiration and my hero. Not only did she elope and marry the man she loved despite her parents’ strong objections, she also waited to be a mother until after she finished her Master’s degree – a big deal for a Middle Eastern woman in the 1970’s.
My mother died of breast cancer when I was 12. Last year was the 30th anniversary of her passing so I made a donation to Foundation XY (not its real name!) in her memory explaining how my mom inspired me and how I hoped this donation would make a difference for other girls and women.
And what did I get back? A standard “thank you for your donation” and “here’s your tax-deductible receipt.” That’s it. No personalized note or email, no acknowledgment of “what an inspiring woman your mother was”, or no “what a meaningful way to honour your mother’s legacy.”
I know I’m picking on this organization (don’t worry Foundation XY, I’ll always love you and believe in the cause and will continue giving!). But I’m doing it to illustrate a very important point – acknowledging our donors’ motivation for giving, paying attention to what they’re telling us, and taking the time to personalize our thanks to them makes all the difference in the world to them AND to your organization. Suppose I’m a donor with the capacity to make a major gift . What would happen if Foundation XY thanked me in a meaningful way – that is, in a way that was meaningful to me? And what if someone from the foundation had approached me about how they’re helping girls and women in the Middle East access education/vocational training and how my gift and my involvement would make a big difference? You can bet your bottom dollar (do people say that anymore?) that they’d get a major gift and have a donor for life! This is what donor-centric fundraising is all about!
So what is donor-centricity and why is it so important? I’ll let the expert answer this:
“Donor-centric” is another way of saying “building trust.” A donor’s relationship with your organization deepens or frays mostly based on how much trust you can create in three areas:
- Trust that donors play an essential, vital, central role in your mission’s success.
- Trust that your organization does worthwhile things with donor gifts.
- Trust that your organization conducts its operations efficiently.1
An organization that has adopted the culture and practices of donor-centric fundraising is one that has invited donors to go on what Simone Joyaux coined “an extraordinary journey”. The donor is no longer a wallet. They become your organization’s partner in fulfilling the mission that both of you are passionate about. Richard Perry and Jeff Schreifels explain it this way: “You invite them to join you in solving the problem your organization is addressing and you treat them as a partner and colleague, not a source of cash.”2
And guess what? When your organization practices donor-centric fundraising, it raises more money! From their same blog article, Perry and Schreifels tell us that “Fundraising and major gifts is about helping a donor fulfill their interests and passions. And if you do that correctly, then the donor will be with you for life. They will give more frequently, and they will give larger amounts.”2
I used to work for a religious organization and I came up against a reluctance to put in the hard work of becoming a donor-centric organization (and make no mistake, it really is hard work). I mean, after all, more than 40% of all giving in Canada went to religious organizations.3 So nothing to worry about, right? Well, I have news and it’s not good. According to Statistics Canada, donations made to religious organizations in 2013 went down by 5% from 20073. A 2012 Huffington Post article says that only four percent of Americans actually tithed (gave 10% of their income to their church) that year, and that was down from seven per cent the previous year.4 The article also went on to say that the Canada Revenue Agency found that, from 2009 to 2010, religious donations dropped to $4 billion from $6.04 billion.4
I’m sharing these statistics to show that NONE of us have the luxury of not practicing donor-centric fundraising. We’ve all got our work cut out for us. The good news is there are so many incredible experts, books, and courses out there to help us learn how to adopt a donor-centric culture and put that into practice in our organizations. I myself am excited to go on that “extraordinary journey” with donors. Think of all the good we’ll do together!
Rhanda Bonet-Graham is a passionate fundraising professional, an amateur oratorio-opera singer, and an advocate for great causes. She has dedicated her career to the charitable sector for the past 15 years and is looking for the opportunity to work as a major gifts officer in Alberta, Canada. She can be reached at email@example.com.
1 Joyaux, Simone. “Unraveling Development: What is Donor-Centrism?” Blog article. Nonprofit Quarterly, 18 Jun. 2009. Web. 28 Mar. 2018
2 Perry, Richard and Schreifels, Jeff. “Common Practices That Suppress Major Gift Giving.” Blog article. Passionate Giving BlogTM. Veritus Group, 7 Mar. 2018. Web. 28 Mar. 2018
3 Phan, Rachel. (2012, December 8) Tithing In Canada: Churchgoers Divided Over Donating Percentage Of Their Income. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/08/12/tithing-canada-church_n_1703526.html
4 Statistics Canada. (n.d.) Volunteering and charitable giving in Canada. Retrieved from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/89-652-x/89-652-x2015001-eng.htm
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