Beneficiary-focused, not donor-focused

publication date: Aug 22, 2013
author/source: Jonathon Grapsas

A lot of people in our sector wax lyrical about being donor focused/donor centered/insert some other supporter-centric jargon.

Don’t get me wrong. For many of you, your supporters are literally the lifeblood of your organisation. They keep your doors open, the lights on, mouths fed.Jonathon Grapsas photo

I get that.

But you don’t exist for your supporters. They (and you) are the conduit to making amazing things happen – for your beneficiaries.

Donors matter; beneficiaries matter more

Why is this important? Am I splitting hairs? I don’t think I am.

Great fundraising makes donors feel fantastic. It talks (often implicitly) about the benefits of supporting. It makes donors feel awesome about what they’ve done.

But it is not about them. I can’t recall the last fundraising campaign that I saw that promised to feed thousands of donors or help eradicate donors of polio.

Again you may argue that in some instances our supporters are also our beneficiaries. But that’s not the point. Great fundraising is about getting people to understand how they can help and making them feel as though they are part of the action. We need to make them feel linked to the people, animals or places they are helping. But making someone feel good about his or her support is secondary.

Try it out

Don’t believe me?

Develop two campaigns. Side by side. Develop one to be exclusively about a need that requires your support. Need first, your support second.

Develop a concurrent campaign that is about you – the supporter – how wonderful you are. Oh, and mention some problem that needs solving. You first, need second.

Come back and share the results if the latter wins. I won’t be waiting by my phone…

This is not to say I am flippant about how incredibly powerful the role of our wonderful, generous donors is. In fact, quite the opposite. But I am also a realist. Our donors exist as a group of caring people because there is a problem that needs solving.

Remember, great fundraising and great supporter care do not happen in isolation. They are inextricably linked.

Our job as fundraisers is to ask people to support the much-needed work we do and. equally, to remind and share with those people the impact of that work. We call the second bit donor care (not beneficiary care).

Get the balance right and you’re well on your way to helping those people who need it most. Beneficiaries.

This article also appears on

Jonathon Grapsas is the founder and director at flat earth direct, an agency dedicated to fundraising and campaigning for good causes. Jonathon spends his time working with charities around the world focused on digital, direct response and campaign tactics.

For more information, email him, follow him on Twitter or check out

Like this article?  Join our mailing list for more great information!

Copyright © 2011-Current, The Hilborn Group Ltd. All rights reserved.

Free Fundraising Newsletter
Join Our Mailing List