Fundraising programs that work diligently—and successfully—to incorporate the needs, wants and desires of those that give through them—the donors—have always been with us. They are, alas, all too rare in the world of charitable fundraising.
During the past five to seven years, the term donor-centered has more and more come to denote the fundraising methods, which focus on donor needs and preferences. Let me posit however, that although understanding the needs and wants of donors is essential to effective fundraising, charitable investors are neither at the “center” of fundraising nor do they want to be.
The center—the focus—of charitable fundraising is a vision shared by both those that propose it and those that invest in it. Philanthropy thus is truly bi-lateral, elevating and ennobling both those who labor within charitable organizations and those who provide critical financial and temporal support. Principle 2 of The Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising® is Begin at the Beginning™. It is a shared vision, giving meaning and power to the purpose and mission that is, and must be, the focal point or “center” of all charitable fundraising efforts.
Making fundraising donor-centered puts a fundraising effort at risk of deifying philanthropic investors at best. Or it simply degenerating into a cobble of techniques that manipulate and pander to donors, at worst. Any workable, sustainable fundraising system must go far beyond merely knowing and responding to donors’ needs and preferences.
So, if donors aren’t at the center of fundraising, where do they fit? More than anything, philanthropic investors drive philanthropy. Their values and resources—both financial and temporal—provide the critical energy and direction that drive the charitable enterprise forward enabling life-changing outcomes.
Principle 1 of The Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising® is Donors are the Drivers™. More than anything, those that invest to better the lives of others don’t desire to be at the center. They just want to be leading the charge. Don’t ever forget it.