No Really, What is a ‘Donor-Centric Culture’?

donor-centric culture

A donor-centric culture is the essence of a highly effective nonprofit organization, driving its operations and fundraising. Donor-centricity is more than an industry buzzword, it’s a way of being, a way of operating. But what exactly is a donor-centric culture and how can your organization develop it?

Simply stated, a donor-centric culture values each donor relative to each facet of the organization, from board meetings and events to talent acquisition and program management to absolutely everything in between. It means a nonprofit prioritizes the donor every day – literally, and not just during fundraising campaigns. Each person directly associated with your organization should value donors and implicitly or explicitly express that value with gratitude and appreciation. No exceptions.

Whether it’s your executive director, Board chair, program participant, administrative, marketing or housekeeping staff, each member of the team must first recognize the relationship of your Mission and operations to your donors and their gifts. The simplest way to foster a donor-centric culture is to have one yourself, demonstrating the value of each donor with every act, conversation, program and policy decision. Not sure where you and your organization stand on the donor-centric scale? When assessing your organization’s donor-centric health, here are some questions to consider: 

  • Is donor gratitude the prevailing sentiment of your Board, staff, volunteers and program participants? How do you know?
  • Are your strategic planning, programs, marketing, outreach and fundraising activities designed from a donor’s perspective? How do you know?
  • Is there genuine passion for your Mission throughout your Board, staff, volunteers and program participants? How do you know? 
  • How well do you, your Board and organizational leadership know individual donors? How do you know?
  • How do you thank donors? How do you recognize donors, individually and collectively? Does it work and if so, for whom?
  • Do your donors feel appreciated? Are they viewed as a necessity or a long-term investment? How do you—and they—know?
  • Are your donor retention rates high, low, or acceptable? How does that relate to the increasing fundraising targets in your operating budget?
  • How well do your donors understand your Mission, Vision, Values, programs and impact? How do you know?
  • How effectively does your organization respond to feedback from donors? Is that response timely? Personal? What channels are prevalently used?
  • How many donors are volunteers, too? Why do you think you don’t have more?
  • Do your donors share or forward your emails, social media and blog posts? Do you track that activity?
  • Do your donors invite their professional and personal networks to support your organization? Why would or wouldn’t they do so?

As with a positive mental attitude, a donor-centric culture sustains, renews and amplifies itself. If you don’t currently have a donor-centric culture, you can effectively cultivate one within yourself and your organization. 

What do you think? What other questions should we also be asking ourselves?

Brian Lauterbach
With more than twenty years of experience as a fundraiser, consultant and entrepreneur, Brian has helped hundreds of nonprofits and the professionals who lead them to raise money. Throughout his career, Brian has led the process redesign and integration of fundraising channels that raised $400 million from more than 3 million people. He is the founder of TheNonprophets.org, a 501c3 public charity that provides no-cost and low-cost direct fundraising services to organizations with a small budget but a big vision for their missions and impact.
Brian Lauterbach

Leave A Comment