Donor Raising ‰ÛÒ The Changing Face of Fundraising


There are more choices than ever in making charitable gifts and donors are becoming increasingly discerning. Often a gap exists between a donor’s expectations and a charity’s ability to deliver meaningful engagement with its cause.


In a recent Lien Centre for Social Innovation talk, “Donor Raising – the Changing Face of Fundraising”, speakers from various community foundations across the world shared how best to attract donors and keep them giving to a cause. Donors are more than just ATM machines; they are central to an organisation’s needs in more ways than one.

Anne Boyd, chair of the Scottish Community Foundation, shared her thoughts on donor retention. She said that organisations should aim to keep the donor for three years or more. That means building the relationship and knowing his or her expectations. Simple courtesies matter. “You know what your mother told you – to write a thank-you letter? After receiving a donation, send a thank-you letter. You should never make an enemy by accident,” said Boyd. “You would be staggered to know how many benefiting organisations don’t do this! Also, let donors know that they are welcome for a visit, if they wish.”

Transparency is important. “Have a conversation when you meet with your donor not only about your organisation’s successes, but also its challenges. Be sure to give them a real picture.” Boyd also emphasised the need to listen. “Always listen. When you do this, you will get feedback from the donor.”

From what she has seen in her years in the voluntary sector, younger donors are more open to being engaged with the charity, while older donors tend to be interested in issues like sustainability and funding.

“Some donors are not as engaged as some others. Do what is called permission marketing. For instance, before you send them an invitation to an event, call them to let them know in advance. You really need to make the effort and nurture the relationship,” said Boyd.  And if the relationship between you and the donor ends, “let him or her go gracefully and again write a letter of thanks for helping your organisation grow.” Boyd added, “If you get it [the relationship] right, you will make a friend for life. Keep in mind common sense, good manners and using your head.”

Robert Edgar, vice-president of donor relations for New York Community Trust, shared his viewpoint about accepting personal gifts from donors. He suggested donating the gift to charity or raffling it off in your office. “Keep in mind, it is not about you, it is about your organisation.”

Edgar felt that a charity would reap benefits from creating a community of donors. He suggested inviting all the donors to get-togethers. “It is a very empowering setting for them and very useful in sharing experiences.”

On donor matching, Clare Brooks, director of philanthropy for the Community Foundation Network, UK, pointed out: “There is no point trying to persuade a donor initially to give to a certain cause they are not interested in, as what is close to their heart will be dominant in their minds, be it the elderly or children. The reward factors for donors also vary: some people are keen to see quantifiable impact and sustainability, while others seek an emotional reward through seeing beneficiaries being helped – and others get satisfaction from a mixture of both. Be sure to match the right donor to the right project. The more they engage, the more likely it is that donors will give again.”

She added that it is important to manage your donor’s expectations. “A donation of say US$2,000 (S$2,655.53) can impact a charity in a different way compared to an amount of US$2 million (S$2,655,471),” said Brooks.

Finally, Laurence Lien, CEO of the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre, who was in the audience, emphasised that, “You really need to understand your donors. They are all different.”