Jeff Brook's at Donor Power speaks, I think, as a capable and idealistic marketer, perhaps a direct marketer. The research and experience show that Boomers want to be empowered, have choices, etc. Hence nonprofits must target donors in new ways. He offers marketing and branding tips on how to do that. Sean at Tactical Philanthropy discusses Jeff's perspective and seemingly endorses it. I do too, but let me introduce some caveats:
- "Donor" is fund-raiser language. It shows the human being who gives or has given is being conceptualized and objectified as an ATM. Already the language has betrayed the whole concept of true empowerment of the giver who is, after all, also a parent, child, citizen, civic leader, and probably a donor to many causes and organizations.
- For fund raisers to empower donors with choices is risky: Choices among what options? This or that giving opportunity at the organization employing the fund raiser? Or options among nonprofits, beyond the one employing the fund raiser? Among life choices and financial options some of which are not philanthropic? Some of which are not even financial?
Seeing donors as targets of marketing and seeing success as dollars raised for your employer, or for client of your marketing firm, falls far short of empowering our fellow citizens with true choices. True choices would stem from considering the client's (notice the change in language) personal situation, aspirations, family situation, giving history, financial, tax and legal data, and then providing a range of feasible options that balance these considerations. The fund raiser may or may not be on that team of advisors, for the fund raiser's claim to providing options is often very limited.
What I hope will evolve, particularly among those serving affluent donor-client-citizens is a shared understanding, among fund raisers, planned giving officers, financial consultants, financial sales people, donor mavens and donor networks, of the terrain on which giving takes places, and the many silos that break our field up into self-enclosed little worlds, each with it own experts, language, expectations, and ways of measuring success. As we come together to serve the donor, the donor's family, the causes the donor supports, and our civil society, we may find that we are evolving a new profession from our now patchwork fields of practice. The on-line conversation is good because it will enable us to talk to one another across these disciplinary divides.
Fund raisers can rise to the level of trusted client advisor, Charles Collier, head of Planned Giving at Harvard, and author of Wealth in Families, is a great example. But his methodology is more like a family consultant than a traditional fund raiser or planned giving officer. It will take organizations as enlightened as Harvard to show the way. The fund raisers I meet very often say, "All well and good, and it makes sense in principle, but I have to raise $3 million by June and I have to go make more asks. Maybe we could talk to the donor about her real needs after we get the gift, ok? That way it won't slow things down." I understand, having worked in sales management, the predicament of those managed to a quota, how quota pressure may force the front line person to be transactional, but we have to get beyond this if we are to make good on the claim of being donor centered. Or, even just plain humane.