November 30, 2015

“Yes, the Smiths are my donors,” said the Major Gifts Officer. The Annual Fund Director responds, “But the Smiths used to be my donors.”

The direct marketing team talks about their donors…not to be confused with the donors belonging to the special events team.

And me? I’m thinking this is rather weird and slightly uncomfortable. I’m wondering how the Smiths and Jones and Mrs. Thomas and all the other donors would feel if they overheard fundraisers talking.

Perhaps we fundraisers and our organizations could improve the conversation by – at the least – talking about the donors as our organization’s donors. Possibly – at least – the donors are part of our organization’s family.

Donors as part of the organization’s family. Donors as part of the team working together to save the children and the cats and dogs and the tundra and the trees. Donors as teammates fighting for human rights and healthcare and more theatre.

That certainly sounds better.

But…Be careful.

What do you think donors think about? Do you think donors think a lot about your organization? Do you think your donors think about belonging to your organization?

Donors think about their own lives and their own joys and worries and challenges and jobs and families and schedules and responsibilities and……….

And when it comes to giving time and money, donors think about their own interests and their aspirations. Donors think about what they’re trying to accomplish with their gifts.

The Smiths look for an organization to give through to fulfill their own aspirations. The Smiths don’t think about belonging to your organization. Furthermore, I suspect the Smiths get rather annoyed when they used to speak with that person in the annual fund and then got transferred to a major gifts person.

Donors don’t belong to us. Donors belong to themselves.

And while we fundraisers and our organizations (hopefully!) think lots about donors because we are donor-centered (hopefully!)……donors just don’t think that much about us.

Here’s what Jeff Brooks said in his October 22, 2015 blog:

  • Your donors are not your donors — as in, an asset you own or control.
  • But your organization is their charity — something they use to accomplish their goals.
  • Keep this distinction in mind, and your fundraising will be a lot better.



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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