The donor’s journey, not yours!

publication date: Oct 8, 2013
author/source: Simone P. Joyaux

How many times have you heard about donor centrism, donor-centered, customer-centered, retention, loyalty? Blah blah blah.

You’d think by now that fundraising and fundraisers would be famous for the brilliance of their donor-centered fundraising strategies and basking in the glow of amazing retention rates. 

Not so.

In fact, the most recent findings from the Fundraising Effectiveness Project says, “For the first time in five years, charity respondents to the annual Fundraising Effectiveness Project survey saw positive gains in giving, but still continued to lose donors faster than they gained them.”

That’s gasp-worthy. That’s shocking – but not really. There’s been a donor retention crisis since before the global economic crisis.

We fundraisers need to know what the research says about loyalty. We need to understand the key drivers of loyalty. We need to read and learn about loyalty all the time! For example, I read the Agitator blog every day. I read Adrian Sargeant’s research.

Simone Joyaux photoEvery year, every conference everywhere probably has to talk about nurturing relationships to build donor loyalty. We fundraisers need to explore strategies and tactics that work.

I’m talking about things like:

  • Relationship building without asking for gifts.
  • Donor-centered communications.
  • Extraordinary experiences.
  • Getting the work done with staff leadership and board member assistance.
  • Low-cost and no-cost and some modest-cost activities.
  • Frequency and regularity.
  • And, figuring out how to make the solicitation itself an extraordinary experience.

Our organizations need to understand the high cost of ignoring retention and the bad business of excessive focus on acquisition.

Our organizations need to understand the distinction between cultivation and solicitation. And our organizations need written development plans that include regular and sufficiently frequent non-solicitation touches with donors.

Mostly, organizations and fundraisers absolutely must recognize that donors give through an organization, not to an organization. Always remember: If we treat the donor like a cash machine, the donor will go elsewhere. And clearly, donors are doing just that. Donors are leaving us because we aren’t taking them on a meaningful journey.

[Simone is delivering a workshop on “The Donor’s Journey – Not Yours!” on Monday, November 18, at the AFP Congress. If you don’t have your tickets for AFP Congress, be sure to order yours today!]

Simone P. Joyaux has guided countless organizations and professionals through her consulting and coaching, teaching and writing. She speaks at conferences worldwide and is a faculty member for the Masters Program in Philanthropy and Development at Saint Mary’s University, Minnesota. Her books – Keep Your Donors, Strategic Fund Development and the newest, Firing Lousy Board Members – receive rave reviews. As a volunteer, Simone founded the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island, a social justice organization. Visit her at

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