23 Dec

Being Donor-Centric & Timely

Much has been written about and discussed about the idea of nonprofits being donor-centric. This term is most often used to refer to enabling donors to give within the organization to a specific program, activity, event or thing that is personally significant to them.

This doesn’t mean that the donors get to run rough-shot over the organization leading to mission creep, nor does it mean pandering to the big money. But rather being donor-centric is the idea of totally respecting all donors, large and small, and recognizing them as being more than just a checkbook. It means having conversations to uncover what excites and is most meaningful to them and inviting them to support those particular activities.

I believe that the idea of being donor-centric needs to be taken one step further. For an organization to be truly donor-centric, organizations should not only allow donors to give for what and where they choose, but also when.

Adding this time element means solicitation should happen in a timely and relevant manner relative to the donor. If a meaningful interaction has happened with a donor such as a site visit, event or life cycle milestone, do not wait until your next regular solicitation cycle, year end or campaign to ask for money. Rather leverage the experience and make the ask as soon as appropriate. If the ask is about the donor’s interest, it should also be about the donor’s optimal timing.

Donors have personally meaningful times of the year and their own cycles of giving that may not correspond to yours. Be cognizant of their dates. They might not fit in with your annual cycle but focusing on what is important to the donor can go a long way. For example, a donor might want to commemorate a life cycle event such as the death of a loved one or a birthday or an anniversary. If their giving date does not correspond with the organization’s regular solicitation schedule,  make sure to adjust your correspondence. For example, I know a man who gave to an organization every April in honor of his deceased father. Yet, the organization repeatedly asked him in December for his significant gift which aggravated him to the point of his considering to stop giving.

Pay attention to your donors! And follow their lead.  Form letters and automatic calls can ruin relationships. Don’t treat donations like business transactions. Being donor centric means valuing and knowing the donor, their interests and their timing. Being a donor centered organization will give you a stronger connection to the people you rely on for support. By being truly interested in and in synch with your donors, they will be in turn be more committed to and invested in your organization.

To your success,


P.S.  My new book, On Board: What Current and Aspiring Board Members Must Know About Nonprofits & Board Service, is now available on Amazon. For orders of 20 of more, please email me directly for special rates at

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