Fundraising should focus on donors

By Todd Cohen

Donors should be investment partners, yet charities treat them like coin dispensers.

That was the message from experts at the first statewide conference in North Carolina jointly sponsored by local chapters of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

Charities spend a lot of time and money targeting new donors for small gifts, and asking existing donors to fund organizational needs, experts said.

Instead, they said, charities should focus on donors’ needs, and involve them in their organizations.

Donors, for example, want prompt, personal acknowledgement of their gifts, confirmation the gifts were put to work as intended, and results measuring the gifts’ impact, said Canadian consultant Penelope Burk.

Yet donors say it can take one month to get an acknowledgement, which tends to be impersonal and uninspiring, and includes general appeals for more support but few measurable results.

“We have no trouble acquiring donors,” Burk told more than 500 people at the conference. “Holding on to them is the problem.”

Charlotte consultant Karla Williams said “donor-centered” fundraising is equally critical to annual giving.

Donors want to make meaningful gifts, feel needed and involved, and be stimulated to give more, she said.

To win and keep them, charities must put donors first.

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