Not a buzzword

If, and this is a very big if, if I wore a bonnet, I’d have a bee in it.

A few weeks ago I asked a question on Linkedin, “Simple question today: when i say “donor centered” – what charity, agency or consultant do you think of ”

The results were interesting and insightful and I invite you to read them.

I asked because I had been thinking of gathering some “donor centered” experts, as determined and perceived by others, for either a panel at a conference or perhaps just an interesting article…

But what really got me heated up was the dismissal of donored centered fundraising as some sort of catch phrase, a buzz word, something flung around in boardrooms by high paid consultants… I suddenly felt dirty for even asking the question, like somehow I was being grouped in with a bunch of overpaid, buzz word spewing consultants who have raked valuable dollars way from those who need it …

In the halls of Agents of Good, donored centered fundraising isn’t a buzzword. It’s a way of life.

If you don’t know what it means, either you don’t do it or don’t care to find out.

BUT you are in luck, I’m gonna tell you.

It means, (and please listen closely) that all things you do, you do for your donor.

Does that sound like a buzzword?

All things you do, you do for your donor.

Your charity was created because someone or ‘someone’s'… Wanted to make a difference or fix something that needed fixing. Once it was created, it needed some people to help sustain it, support it, nurture it, care for it… These people are called staff, board and donors… All of them are very important.

But at the the end of the day, the only consistent… Is your donors. Your staff, your board, you… Will come and go… But your donors, if they are cared for, supported and nurtured, will stay forever.

So who is the most important entity in this relationship?

We (Agents of Good) aren’t doing anything new here folks. People like Gwen Chapman, Ken Burnett and Tom Ahern have been going on about this forever, but it’s like everyone has forgotten.

A 80 page annual report all about your programs? Not donor centered.
A newsletter with small pics of people holding big cheques? Not about your donor.
A website with tiny type and links to every other site on the internet? Nope.


Tweeting about a volunteer who made a difference today – that’s donor centered.
Sharing the stories of how someone’s life was changed due donor support – that’s donor centered.
Making it easy for people to give and support – that’s donor centered.
Saying thank you when someone gives – that’s donor centered.
ACTUALLY caring and remembering you have donors with names and lives (and not numbers!) – that’s donor centered!

Don’t tell me you are being donor centered when you aren’t. Don’t tell me it’s a buzz word because you don’t know what it means and don’t tell me you can’t do it cause it costs too much money.

All things you do for your donor.

Put that on your wall above your desk and JFDI.

Additional resources: Pamela Grow’s Donor Centered Tip Sheet here.
Great collection of other people’s thoughts on what donor centered means via Kimberley Mackenzie.


8 Responses to “Not a buzzword”

  1. Jen Love May 6, 2011 6:08 am #

    We have a saying in our family: “Love is a verb”. While usually used in the context of treating people we love with respect (and may have started as a cautionary tale when my sister and I first starting dating), it also applies to our work. Donor-centred fundraising (showing love to donors) is not about what you say, it’s about what you do. #loveisaverb

  2. John May 5, 2011 6:47 pm #

    Thanks everyone for the your comments. (I agree with your addition completely Rachel!)

  3. Beth Ann Locke May 5, 2011 6:10 pm #

    This is such a great piece, John! It is important to actually DO rather than just talk about it. And being authentic in relationship building is so much better all around – for the donors and for our communities!

  4. Rachel May 5, 2011 2:02 pm #

    Well said John! Those of us who know you and Agents of Good could never suggest you were using donor-centered fundraising as a ‘buzzword’.

    I would add this: giving donors a chance to give you feedback and actually acting on that feedback is donor-centered.

  5. Keenan Wellar May 4, 2011 6:54 pm #

    I was just saying this very same thing but in the context of social media and talking about authenticity – I even talked about “not a buzzword” well said! if interested!

    I would like to think LiveWorkPlay is doing much of what John suggests, although we are not driven to do this stricly out of “donor retention” but rather we see it as mission-oriented and relating to everyone from donors to staff to volunteers to the people we directly support to all members of the community.

  6. John May 4, 2011 5:59 pm #

    Thank you Mary… i think any org that doesn’t think that way for sure should stop wondering why their donors don’t seem to care… :) thanks for reading…

  7. Michael J. Rosen, CFRE May 4, 2011 5:31 pm #

    John, I could sense your frustration as I read your blog post. You’re not alone. As someone who has been crusading for donor-centered fundraising for decades, I share your frustration. My latest effort to preach the message is my new book “Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing” ( For my efforts, I’ve won the 2011 AFP-Skystone Prize for Research in Fundraising and Philanthropy. I tell you this, not to impress you, but to let you know there is hope. AFP recognized not only the scholarship involved in the book, but also the fundamental, donor-centered approach I championed. I also advocate for donor-centered fundraising on my growing blog ( There are growing numbers of folks who agree with us.

    Yes, I’m a consultant using a term that some may consider jargon. But, I’m also a nonprofit board member and donor. Being donor-centered takes some effort, particularly to persuade others in an organization. But, I’ve always found it worthwhile. For me, it’s not jargon. Being donor-centered is a way of life.

    After one of my seminars, an audience member approached me and asked, “I guess what you were saying was pretty much just common sense, right?” I replied, ” Yes, it is. And, when it becomes common practice, I’ll stop talking about it.” Thank you for being one of those who keeps talking about it!

  8. Mary Cahalane May 4, 2011 5:24 pm #

    Yes! Yes, yes, yes… I’m with you, John. And any organization that doesn’t think this way deserves to disappear.

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