June 3, 2015

[This was one of my web columns for www.nonprofitquarterly.org…back in January 2014. I wanted to make sure you saw it.]

Donor aspirations… Yes, it’s all about me, the donor. It’s not about your organization

I give through organizations to achieve my desires…to fulfill my aspirations. That’s what all donors do. It’s about them, not you.

Forget this at your peril.

Donors of time volunteer their time… serve on your board…whatever — to fulfill their own aspirations, live out their feelings.

Donors of money give money to fulfill their own aspirations, live out their anger, assuage their guilt, create their own salvation… (And that’s what volunteers are doing, too.)

What if you added this kind of information to your donor database… for your most loyal donors… for the donors who give the most money…

1. What are Donor A’s aspirations?

  • Ensure a new generation of good citizens who get jobs, vote, and volunteer.
  • Give kids meaningful experiences while they’re growing up – preparing them to be “good citizens.”
  • Keep kids out of trouble.

2. What are Donor A’s feelings – how does donor A display these feelings?

  • Sadness translates into anger on behalf of kids
  • Guilty because Donor A has a good job, is a contributing member of the community, had good growing up years
  • And what else….

And how about figuring out how Donor A arrived at your organization? Figure out the donor’s journey before she found your organization. And figure out what kind of people Donor A wants to be with… that social identity thing.

So here I am, Simone, Donor X:

  • I’m so angry about injustice that sometimes I think I should turn off all television and radio and read nothing.
  • I’m hugely angry living in this racist, sexist, homophobic, classist world – and in my own country, the USA. I feel guilty because I avoid most of those injustices because I’m a white, heterosexual, well-educated, affluent woman. I win because of racism, homophobia, classism. I lose because I’m female and that’s a disadvantage in every country in the world, in every place in the U.S. But I have more unearned privilege (white, well-educated, affluent, heterosexual) than so many others. So I feel guilty.
  • I believe in speaking out. I feel that silence is consent.
  • I want to be a change agent, a revolutionary.

Which organizations can fulfill my aspirations of a just world? Of an end to racism, sexism, homophobia, classism? Which organizations will I join up with and give through… Aligning myself with other like-minded individuals. Being part of a team — you and your staff and your board members and your other donors… Getting on the playing field and fighting together to make change. Where do I want to serve on a board? Where will my largest financial contributions pass through to accomplish what I want to accomplish?

Where will I be accepted as an agitator, a loud and passionate voice, a revolutionary?

I’m fighting for what I believe in. I’m not fighting for the biggest community problem. Get with it, people! Donors…their emotions…their aspirations…

That’s Donor A and Donor X.

Now, how about you, personally, as a donor? What are your aspirations? How do you fulfill them with which organizations? Which fight are you joining?

And for your organization… What do you know about your donors? Donors A – W and Y and Z?




About Simone Joyaux

A consultant specializing in fund development, strategic planning, and board development, Simone P. Joyaux works with all types and sizes of nonprofits, speaks at conferences worldwide, and teaches in the graduate program for philanthropy at Saint Mary’s University, MN. Her books, Keep Your Donors and Strategic Fund Development, are standards in the field.

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