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Donor-centred or beneficiary-centred. It’s a non-issue

If you give a donor a great experience, she will give more, and give for longer. Also, giving a donor a great experience is the right thing to do.
But there is a perception that I have picked up from some quarters, which concerns me, and I don’t believe is true.
That being ‘donor-centred’ means spending more money on the donor, and therefore less on the beneficiaries. That being ‘donor-centred’ or ‘beneficiary-centred’ are alternatives. Fundamentally different.
I believe that couldn’t be less true.

526 recommendations

The Commission on the Donor Experience has 526 recommendations. Some will involve spending more money, in the short term. But that is an investment in the donor’s long-term support. The reason that you should spend more on your donor’s experience is, of course, that it will allow you to spend more on programmes in the future, not less.
But the majority of the Commission’s recommendations are not about spending more money on the donor experience, but changing the culture so that we start planning our fundraising by thinking about the motivations of the donor, not the needs of the charity, and in so doing, raise more for the charity and its beneficiaries.
Take a few examples.

Continuous Donor Choice

Continuous Donor Choice, the Commission’s alternative to ‘opt-in’, will give each donor, each time you communicate with them, the opportunity to choose to receive additional communications, fewer communications, or none at all. This will cost relatively little. Some donors, delighted at being given more choice, will give more.
Some will opt-out completely, thus saving money on communicating with people who really don’t want to hear from you. Positioned this way, that is good, not bad.
There are projects on the channels we use to communicate with donors: direct mail, DRTV, mass media. These are not suggesting spending more, just altering what we say, in content, and in tone, and the way we ask for money, by thinking about the donor first.
CDE project 6, Ken Burnett’s magnum opus on the use of emotion is, again, not suggesting spending more money, just painstakingly thinking through how we use emotion in our fundraising, to engage, not to shock. And the more we can engage a donor in the problem, the solution, and her role in that solution, the more she will give.
We need to re-think all our fundraising, seeing it from the perspective of the donor.
No-one should think, for one moment, that the recommendations of the Commission are to carry on as normal and just spend more on giving donors a good experience.
And, indeed, any donor who believed that is what we were doing would be outraged, and rightly.
As Ken has written very recently, and very succinctly: “The paradigm has changed, irrevocably. Factory fundraising and the target-led approach, always questionable, now evidently no longer work well. Those charities that put the donor experience at the heart of their strategies will thrive. Those that don’t, won’t”
I couldn’t have put it better myself.
Giles Pegram CBE
Vice Chair
The Commission on the Donor Experience
© Giles Pegram CBE
22.vi.2017

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