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Help me change how we talk about donors!

For decades we’ve rocked along implementing fund development strategies based on habit and anecdotal information.  But now we have excellent research confirming what donors respond to and want in their relationships with nonprofit organizations.

Three research reports released in 2016 emphasize:

  • Donors being seen as authentic partners in the work, not simply as targets or dollar signs[i]
  • Moving donor-charity relationships from “exchange” relationships to “communal” relationships . . . where partners care about others’ needs and wants as if they were his/her own.[ii]
  • Authentic relationships with donors are part of a larger organizational culture that values relational rather than transactional interactions with everyone.[iii]
  • “Donor” is only one aspect of the many relationships that committed supporters forge with an organization.[iv]

In light of this excellent research, talking about “major donors” and “major gift programs” focuses solely on the transaction – exactly where this research tells us not to focus!

I propose we refer to donors who invest significantly in our organizations as

“philanthropic partners.”

Perhaps the donors who invest at lower levels are “philanthropic friends.”

Wouldn’t we prefer having authentic “philanthropic partnerships” over “major donor” relationships?  Donors would be honored to be called “philanthropic partners.”  Both respect and mutual commitment are embedded in this term.  Of course, using “philanthropic partners” will be provocative, not to mention a
great conversation starter.

How would re-framing your major donors as philanthropic partners:

  • Shift the mindsets of your board and staff?

  • Strengthen connections with donors?

  • Help you enhance your culture of philanthropy?

Email me at carole@rylanderassociates.com or find more about our services at rylanderassociates.com
Previous blog – Above the Fray
i. Beyond Fundraising: What Does It Mean to Build a Culture of Philanthropy, by Cynthia M. Gibson and commissioned by the Evelyn and Walter Hass, Jr. Fund, available at www.haasjr.org
ii. Relationship Fundraising, Where Do We Go From Here?, Volume 4, Summary Report, by Ian MacQuillin and Adrian Sargeant, available at www.pursuant.com/relationshipfundraising
iii. Fundraising Bright Spots: Strategies and Inspiration from Social Change Organizations Raising Money from Individual Donors, by Jeanne Bell and Kim Klein and commissioned by the Evelyn and Walter Hass, Jr. Fund, available at www.haasjr.org
iv. Ibid.