Fundraising Basics: [Part 3] Build a Donor-Focused Approach

We began this Fundraising Basics series by exploring the core principles of fundraising and how your organization can harness them to acquire, retain, and upgrade your donors. Part 1 and Part 2 focused on the simple ways your organization can offer your donors a valuable mission product  and  provide great service. When executed correctly, these best practices will lead to sustainable and substantial growth for your organization.

To conclude this series, in part three, we’ll dive into why it is important to put your donors at the center of your fundraising efforts and how to use segmentation to match to your their needs and expectations.

How to Meet Your Donors’ Needs and Expectations with a Donor-Centric Fundraising Approach – Video Transcript:

This is part three of Back To Basics: How to acquire, retain and upgrade your donors.

In part one, we learned why donors are customers, and we also learned the three principles of fund raising success – offer a valuable product, provide great service, and build a donor-focused approach. In part two, we reviewed why and how to provide great service. In this video we will cover number three; build a donor-focused approach. While this is a key component to offering a valuable product and providing great service to donors, it’s also a much bigger topic. Donors need, and in some cases, want to know what’s in it for them. Why does their contribution to your organisation matter to the donor? You know why it matters to you and your organisation. It may mean a new building or payroll next month, or financial security for the next two years. Those are all important to you and your organization, but it’s more important to describe why the contribution impacts the donor. Donors want to be a part of your mission, and there is plenty of research and evidence to support that.

Blackbaud’s Next Generation of American Giving report found that nearly 60% of Gen Y, 50% of Gen X, 37% of Boomers, and 33% of Matures agree that the ability to directly see the impact of their donation would have a significant bearing on their decision to give. While it’s less prominent for Matures to want gift-impact information than Millennials, even one in three Matures are looking to be at the center of the impact made from their donation. That statistic shows the importance of being donor-focused. This isn’t shocking, and makes intuitive sense.

Let’s take an example. When you go to buy a new car, do you want to hear why the purchase of the car will improve the dealership’s bottom line or help them move inventory off the lot, or how the commission will help the salesman buy a new big screen TV? Most likely, these reasons won’t get you any closer to purchasing the car. However, if the salesman explains how you will feel when you drive the car, how it will keep you and your family safe, and how the increased gas mileage will help you save money every year, you’re more likely to listen and eventually purchase.

Donors are no different. They need to know why their contribution affects them. So, how do we build a donor focused approach?

First, start by putting the donor at the center of your appeals. The value statement for donating should be able the donor, not your organization and not you. Use the word “you” in your verbiage so the donor knows it’s about them. When drafting fundraising messages, ask yourself questions like “What’s in it for them?” “Why should they care?” “How will they feel or how do they feel?” If you put yourself in the donor’s shoes, you have a better chance of creating a message that is focused on the donor.

Second, while your goal as a development or fund raising professional is to raise funds for your mission, seeing donors as people and not transactions can help you develop a donor-focused approach. While donors contribute funds that are needed for the survival, sustainability or growth of your organization, donors do not write a check without emotion, psychological impulses, or feeling. They contribute because they’re human, because they have a deep connection with your mission, and because they believe what you believe. As a result, it’s important to cultivate donors as people and not transactions.

Third, in order to create a donor-focused approach, it’s important to segment your donors and provide them a personalized, customized, and individualized experience. Being donor-focused is about meeting donors where they’re at. Being donor-focused is a combination of providing the right message, in the right place, at the right time.

This is why donor segmentation is so important. Instead of collecting Rolodex-style contact card information, start building personas of your donors. Create personas that describe a  donor’s likes, dislikes, preferences, expectations, passions, motivations, characteristics, demographics, and history.

Thank you for watching this three-part series on how to acquire, retain, and upgrade your donors. For more fundraising and other non-profit tips and tricks, please follow me on Twitter. You can also access free content on my website at, or feel free to send me an email.

Just joining the series? Don’t miss parts 1 and 2:

Part 1: How to Create and Provide Value to Your Donors

Part 2: How to Provide Great Donor Service