don't trask donor-centerednessThe latest “thing” out there in fundraising land is the trashing of the donor-centered concept. This is done mostly by people who don’t understand the term and/or don’t understand non-profit management.
Here’s how it often goes…
You can’t be donor-centered because:

  • It services the needs of donors as a priority, rather than the beneficiaries or the organization.
  • It allows donors to manage or influence the mission of the organization and causes mission creep.
  • It gives donors too much power, in that their giving turns the heads and decisions of internal authority figures.
  • It promotes “white savior” -ism
  • It marginalizes beneficiaries, who become the means to a donor’s end

One writer, Ian MacQuillan, Director of the think tank Rogare says: “why not call it relationship fundraising” vs. donor-centered fundraising. I like how Ian thinks, but the whole effort to get off of donor-centered is, in Jeff’s and my opinion, a total waste of time and misdirected.
Here’s why.
A well-run non-profit will be led by managers who:

  1. Have a very clear view of the mission of the organization.
  2. Don’t allow any donor to change that mission or the execution of the programs pursuing the mission values no matter what the economic promise is.
  3. Are constantly looking for donors whose passions and interests align to the program values and objectives of the mission/organization. Notice the direction of the alignment – donors aligned to what exists in and is valued by the organization.
  4. Are sensitive to and promote diversity.
  5. Are sensitive to and protect the standing and needs of the beneficiaries.

That’s it. Any non-profit manager that cannot do these five things should not be employed by the non-profit.
This attitude and approach controls any donor who wants to “manage” things to their end. We’ve worked with many organizations whose leaders do this properly. In one situation, the donor offered $40 million if he could do “his thing.” Nope, the manager said, it wasn’t going to happen.
So this is not about being or not being donor-centered. It’s about managing correctly. THAT is the key thing. You should always be donor-centered within the context of the organization’s priorities and values, and with the right sensitivity to diversity and the beneficiaries.
Don’t fall into the discourse on this subject. It’s a red herring and a waste of time.