In recent months, I’ve been developing a new perspective on fundraising, born of the increasing frustration I’ve felt trying to understand today’s fundraising environment through the lens of yesterday’s truths. Below is the third part of a long article I’ve drafted to begin laying out my new approach. Please let me know what you think.
Last month, I identified four guidelines or principles of donor care: choice, information, engagement, and commitment. Visit The new keys to success in fundraising today: New signposts for the road (Part 2). The month before we read The new keys to success in fundraising today (Part 1).
I’ll take a look first at the principle of choice. Now, why is this important? If you think about it for a minute, you’ll understand. Yesterday’s donors—my generation, and the generations before me—placed an enormous amount of trust in established institutions, including nonprofit organizations. We simply sent them our gifts and trusted them to use the money as they saw fit. But in the 1960s, 70s, and beyond, people encountered what was originally called the “credibility gap,” starting with the federal government but gradually extending to all of society’s major institutions. People growing up against that backdrop learned to distrust established institutions.
Now, add to that the tendency we’ve all seen in increasing numbers of donors to gain a say in how we use their money. That’s true of people today in practically every age group up to age 60 or so. And that’s why donor choice is so important today.
The four dimensions of donor choice
Now, in thinking about choice, it’s convenient to consider the four main dimensions that may enter into your donors’ or prospects’ decision-making: program, location, channel, and intermediary. I’ll explain each in turn now.
However, at the same time, there are donors who are concerned above all with the Big Picture. They’re looking for nationwide or global impact, so they tend to seek out causes that address the biggest issues in the broadest ways.
And do I have to tell you that your organization isn’t the only charity on the block? In the United States, there are, by various counts, between one and one-and-a-half million nonprofits. If your mission is truly unique, your organization is truly exceptional. But that’s unlikely. Chances are, lots of others are doing more or less the same work. And if they’re doing a better job of meeting donors’ needs than you are, your donorfile is going to shrink. Guaranteed.
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