Disaster giving offers lessons

By Todd Cohen

Instead of worrying whether the outpouring of donations in 2005 to aid natural-disaster victims has exhausted donors, charities should be looking for ways to keep donors engaged.

Operated for too long like a mass-market business that treats all donors alike, fundraising increasingly is shifting its focus to individual donors.

And donor-centered fundraising is hard work.

It requires listening to donors, paying attention to their concerns, values and interests, and involving them in causes they care about.

But in a marketplace in which charities lose donors at a rapid rate, cultivation and stewardship of individual donors is critical.

That is true regardless of the size or focus of a charity, and for fundraising programs ranging from annual giving and major gifts to capital campaigns and planned giving.

Many donors who do not regularly give to charity may have given in the wake of the tsunami in South Asia, Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coast states, and the earthquake in Pakistan because they were moved by powerful stories about those disasters’ devastating impact.

All charities must do a better job telling the stories about the urgent needs they address, engaging donors and keeping them connected with their work.

Todd Cohen is the Editor and Publisher of the Philanthropy Journal.

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