Where on the Continuum?

This is the second installment of our series on Fundraising Culture, by Larry Johnson, Founder of The Eight Principles.  We’ll look at what a culture is.  What is looks like.  The kind of fundraising culture you want.  How to build it and how to keep it.

“A continuum of what?”, you say.

Last week, we talked about how fundraising outcomes are driven by the fundraising culture of your organization.

It’s something you create.  Actively or passively.  Your organization has a fundraising culture, even if you don’t know what that culture is.

The primary characteristic of your fundraising culture is where it fits on the “transaction—relationship” continuum.

That’s a phrase with big words that simply says, your organization sees fundraising as a “transaction”, as a “relationship” or somewhere in between.

With a transaction, fundraising is merely an exchange of value.  The focus is on the money.  The donor may or may not be offered a quid pro quoQuid pro quo, literally “something for something”, is when you entice the donor with a “thing”.  Galas and auctions fit this bill.  Even naming rights can be seen as an exchange.

The downside of an exchange is that it’s simply that.  Over and done.  There’s often very little connection between this exchange and what your organization actually does.  The impact it has.

These exchanges are not renewable, and they are almost always at levels which are not commensurate with the donor’s potential.  Calling them “gifts” at all is a stretch.

At the other end of the continuum (there’s that big word again) is the relationship.  A relationship between investors and the organization they’re investing in.  A relationship is voluntary.  It’s based on a shared understanding and belief.  There’s a level of knowing that’s not present in a transaction.  You must know your investor at some level.  That’s not required in the transaction. 

All fundraising cultures fit somewhere on this line:


The desired state—if you want to maximize your sustained giving—is to be as close to “relationship” as possible.

But it’s not just any relationship.

The relationship you’re seeking with your investors is one that is focused on them.  Their values.  Their aspirations.  Their dreams.  Their needs.

That’s the essence of Principle 1 of The Eight Principles: Donors are the Drivers®

Think about that.  Are the relationships you have with your investors outward focused or inward?  Is it about you and your organization or about your investors?

To create truly transformational giving, it must be about the other.  Not you.  Not your organization.  Not your cause.   It’s one of those anomalies of life.  When you’re able to “get over yourself”, you’ve opened the door to a world of transformational giving.