If donors pipe their own tunes, what are fundraiser pipers to do?

When funds are tight, CEOs and board members are quick to urge fundraisers to yell louder and with greater urgency about organizational needs. It’s assumed that more (desperate) messages equal more money and that fundraisers’ influence in donors’ decisions is strong – assumptions that may have had validity once upon a time, but no more.

leading_group_clip_5629Easy access to information via online technology has up-ended much of what’s accepted as conventional wisdom of the fundraiser’s craft, including what we’ve been told about the impact of our messaging and methods.

That’s my take-away from a recent post on the HubSpot blog. Although written for people working in sales, there’s much here that applies in a nonprofit context. The point of the piece is this: company folk aren’t as much in control as they think — a hard pill for veteran salespeople and fundraisers to swallow.

We development types worry over LYBUNTS, SYBUNTS, upgrades, and downgrades, with strategies for getting what we want from the various segments. As the HubSpot blog notes (with my edits)

we’re accustomed to starting and outlining the process and then controlling the information and flow of the solicitation. But now, many of these ‘milestones’ happen in secret – or simply without the involvement of a fundraiser.

In other words, today’s donors aren’t much impressed by pied-piping fundraisers. Rather, savvy givers are piping their own philanthropic tunes.

But you’d not detect the changes by observing development plans and practices. It’s business as usual in the majority of fundraising shops, despite diminishing results.


Paraphrasing again from the HubSpot blog, success in today’s technology and information-rich environment requires that fundraisers are ready and able to:

  • manage relationships with multiple donors with different personas.
  • work with couples, families, and influencers as opposed to a single decision-maker.
  • accommodate different giving patterns, preferences, and timelines.
  • handle more people in the pipeline.

In short, as the HubSpot writer puts it:

We need to become very skilled at working with someone else’s process (that of the buyer/donor) in order to have an effect on any of these. Buyers/donors simply don’t care about our sales/fundraising cycle. Then again, who does?

As the list above suggests, despite changes in how donors relate to the causes they support there’s work aplenty for development staff, just minus the yelling, control, and frantic “piping.” Then again, who enjoyed those anyway?

For more on donor centered fundraising, see:

Tips for getting your toe in the door

Three reasons for focusing on givers’ hearts

Seeing + believing = more generous giving




What's your take on this topic?

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