The following note came from one of the readers here at Creating the Future. The subject line was “Feel like I’m going nowhere with fundraising.” I thought I’d share it here, as I know Joan is not alone!
I’m hoping to get advice. I read your blog all the time, and I’m with you on the philosophy of fixing the system as opposed to addressing the symptoms.
I work in fundraising, and I feel like we’re not only merely addressing the symptoms, but we’re actually exploiting the symptoms.
My director is very much of the “donor-centric” philosophy, but that philosophy rubs me the wrong way at my core. To me, my organization exists to address the needs of the population we serve, not the needs of donors. But my director tells me over and over again that the needs of that population cannot be addressed without making the donors feel good about themselves.
I see where she’s coming from, but I feel like we miss the big picture, the opportunity to solve core problems, when our primary focus is on making the donors feel good about giving.
I’m told that, no matter the donor’s motivation (guilt, sympathy, vanity, etc.), as long as they’re giving, the cause has benefited.
This is where I’m stuck. Perhaps that’s true, but I feel like we neglect the big picture, the real solutions when we fundraise to the donors’ fears and egos. I feel like our community suffers when we fragment it by each individual’s personal motivation to give rather than unifying it to address the whole picture, and to perhaps finally solve those greater problems.
I’m reluctant to say it, and so many fundraisers and fundraising blogs try to sell me on otherwise, but I feel like the way we (and most other non-profits) fundraise might be counterproductive to actually creating solutions.
So what can I do? How can I advocate for real, big-picture change when our fundraising is entrenched so deeply in its individualized, donor-centric philosophy?
What do you all think? Does the focus on donors actually contradict the ability to focus on the community? Which should be the context of the discussion – donor-centric within a community focus, or community-focus within the donor relationship? Which should guide our work? Do we really have to choose? (Comment button is at the top of this post.)
2/17/09 Note: Check Hildy’s response to Joan here: 6 Steps for Connecting Donors to What Is Possible.