June 3, 2015

Donor aspirations… me not you!

[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?




March 9, 2015

Are you keeping your donors? Are you democratizing philanthropy?

Have you read my book (co-authored with Tom Ahern) about nurturing relationships and communicating with donors … all in a donor-centered manner … in order to keep your donors? After all, loyalty is the Holy Grail of Fundraising. (Thanks, Roger and Tom, you agitators!)

Have you read the final chapter, Philanthropy’s Moral Dilemma? Available in the book. And available in my Free Download Library.

Here’s what a Connecticut colleague said about the book:

“While your donor-centric world view greatly influenced me, it plays a poor second to your barely-below-the-surface passion for social justice. I admire what you wrote in your book Keep Your Donors on the topic. That you had the guts to write about it at all. Especially in a book that philanthropists of all political stripes would read, on a topic about the mechanics of growing philanthropy.

“God forbid you should write anything that isn’t carefully neutral, studiously focused on charity and on praising change generically and innocuously…. I was inspired by your willingness to let a part of your passionate self get captured in black and white – a part that most believe could alienate a decent portion of your customer base.”

February 4, 2015

Help! I need client stories for fundraising…

Have you ever said that to your program colleagues? Do they respond? Do you have to beg for stories about those your organization serves?

Well… Here’s a great tip from VNA Community Healthcare in CT. The organization is a client of mine.

One day we’re talking about helping program staff share wonderful stories about grateful patients. So we can use those stories in the donor newsletter and in the annual report and on the website and in solicitations and …. Well, you know the drill! What could we do?


We talked about the content and the launch. Michelle Ferguson invented this wonderful announcement and form. She’s setting up displays in the kitchens and other places where staff gathering. She introduced the STORY CONTEST to the management team prior to the formal launch. They liked it! They promised to promote it with their colleagues.

January 12, 2015

Storytelling in different ways

The Rijksmuseum in Holland told a story…. The purpose wasn’t fundraising…. The purpose was to get people to go to the museum.

So the museum decided – first – to take the art to the people. Back when I was the director of an art center, we put up original local art in the Burger King. And people voted for their favorite and and and … That was 40 years ago.

So back to the Rijksmuseum and taking the art to the people… IN THE MALL…

The museum took one painting of Rembrandt – dated 1642 – called “Guards of the Night.” And….

Well, I don’t want to tell you what…

Click here. Watch this marvelous filming of what happened.

Then…Think about how your organization tells its stories. Its client stories. It’s donor stories. Whatever story…

And, make sure you read Paul Zak’s neuroscience research about brains and oxytocin. Check out “Why Your Brain Loves Good Storytelling.”

December 1, 2014

Overhead madness

MUST READ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The back and forth at the Agitator (Belford and Craver) …. and all the marvelous comments from people all over the world.

The back and forth at the Critical Fundraising Blog …. at the new Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy in the U.K.

Everyone in your organization should read this… THE WHOLE THING! It’s the comments that count. The original Agitator column stimulates the comments.

I’ll say it again: Read the whole Agitator thing! Now, read the whole Critical Fundraising thing!

And let’s join voices and tell the truth and explain. Explain through stories and metaphors. Don’t explain through data!

Convince some donors and get them to tell the story about why overhead matters.

Let’s launch a donor fight FOR overhead.

Keep up the critique of those silly watchdog groups who made this the center of their evaluations. Then after their leadership in furthering this fiasco… these watch doggies changed their tunes and said something like “of course, overhead isn’t bad; it’s necessary.” (Although they didn’t actually say they had helped further the fiasco and were sorry.)

Join the fight FOR overhead. Tell stories. Get your donors to tell stories about why overhead matters.

September 25, 2014

More help for fundraisers… storytelling!

Do you want to raise more money? Do you want to build donor loyalty?

If you do….

I already told you to read Roger Craver’s new book, Retention Fundraising: The New Art and Science of Keeping Donors for Life.

AND NOW… You must read Storytelling Can Change the World by Ken Burnett. Why?

Here’s what Roger Craver says on the front of Ken’s book: “To hell with statistics, policy pronouncements and self-absorbed institutional tripe. The world needs stories, transformational stories that move audiences to action that can change the world. This book shows us how.”

Ken is the first user of the term “relationship fundraising.” And you have to read that book of his. Ken is the inventor of the Showcase for Fundraising Innovation and Inspiration. And you have to visit SOFII regularly.

Ken covers such topics as:

  • Why we tell stories
  • The best sales opportunities you’ll ever have
  • The story of a story
  • Understanding your audience
  • Cornerstones of successful storytelling

We can do this! Go!

September 18, 2014

Oh my gosh…thanking customers

Nonprofits should pay attention to customer research and customer-centered behavior.

Sure…Yes…I know… NGOs can’t spend the money that for-profits spend. But NGOs can certainly think and reflect and focus on donors. NGOs can certainly reach customer research.

Check out the new SOFII website.

Read this wonderful post about making donors feel REALLY special.

Check out the absolutely brilliant videos of the bank and the airline.

YES. I believe that NGOs can be just as creative as for-profit companies. YES. I believe that NGOs can love their donors and show that love.

June 26, 2014

Favorite quotations: relationships

I’ve told you before: I collect quotations … and have since I was a teenager. Notebooks full. And from various sources …. romance novels, spy and police action, science fiction fantasy, serious literature, business books, etc.

I use quotes to inspire myself. To include in articles and start chapters in books. I use quotes in my workshop handouts.

So here are some favorite quotations about relationships and relationship building. Maybe you’ll find a use for them – even if it’s “just” inspiration!

“Relationship fundraising is an approach to the marketing of a cause which centres not around raising money but on developing to its full potential the unique and special relationship that exists between a charity and its supporter. Whatever strategies and techniques are employed to boost funds, the overriding consideration in relationship fundraising is to care for and develop that special bond…” [Relationship Fundraising: A Donor-Based Approach to the Business of Raising Money, 1992]

Sir Denys Lasdun, English architect said, “The architect’s job is to give a client not what he wants but what he never dreamed that he wanted; and when he gets it, he recognizes it as something he wanted all the time.” Just substitute “fundraising” for “architect.”

“You’ll have more fun and success when you stop trying to get what you want and start helping other people get what they want.” [Dale Carnegie, 1930s American self-help guru, How to Win Friends and Influence People]

“Everything is a tale. What we believe, what we know. What we remember, even what we dream. Everything is a story, a narrative, a sequence of events with characters communicating emotional content. We only accept as true what can be narrated.” [Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Angel’s Game]”

June 13, 2014

Who knew? Tips for fundraising

I hope you find these tips useful – and even curiously enjoyable.

1.  Over and over I hear about the increased giving through social media, through an organization’s website. But is this giving? Or are people just paying through your website. Were they actually solicited through direct mail or telephone or? “Giving” and “paying” are a distinction that makes a big difference. Read this:  The Agitator Communication Versus Transaction.

2.  Read Norma Cameron‘s A Fundraiser Bill of Rights, posted on SOFII. Thanks, SOFII for sharing this globally. Tom  and I talked about writing one but never got around to it. Wow. Norma! This is great!

3.  Have you seen Every Annoying Conference Call — if it were in real life.  This is sooooo funny and sooooo true and sooooo frustrating.

4.  Check out Pamela Grow’s e-news, February 27, 2014: The cult of donor-centricity. This is sooooo good!

5.  And finally, for today, check out social psychologist Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk: Your body language shapes who you are. Remember that old saying, “Fake it till you make it.” And check out Albert Mehrabian’s communications research:

  • 7% of message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is in the words that are spoken.
  • 38% of message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is paralinguistic (the way that the words are said).
  • 55% of message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is in facial expression.
January 15, 2014


Think like a fundraiser, feel like a donor. Very nice blog at Hillborn. Canadian publisher and e-news and blogs and… The author of “think/feel” is Jose van Herpt at Good Works. And she is co-author of a great book on bequests, Iceberg Philanthropy.

For ever-reliable nagging (absolutely necessary!) about measures (key performance indicators/KPIs), read www.theagitator.net. I really like this one at this moment. Lifetime value (LTV) anyone? I sure home so.

For small development offices, read The Grow Report. Good tips. Good resources. Pam knows what you’re trying to do. And here’s a reference from Pam, “a beautiful, thought-provoking piece from Richard Perry of Veritus. Listen to me please.” And Pam asks us, are you listening to your donors? Really?

Read this interesting article by Mark Hierlihy, CauseMark, about selfies. I’m so bored with the focus on self. But when Mark talks about capturing special moments…and the possible use for NGOs…pretty cool!

I’ve said it before – and I say it again, “Social media (and technology) are not the answer to all life’s problems.” In fact, technology and social media are getting to be a problem. Have you seen the “get off the phone video“?

Here’s an interesting question: Do you see your donor services staff as a cost center or profit center? Check out the conversation at The Agitator, 01-13/14.

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