Have you attended a donor recognition or campaign closing event where you heard a leader make one of these statements?
“This year we raised a $500,000 (or $300M)!”
“We reached a milestone, raising X% more than last year!”
“This year’s fundraising total reached a record $Y,000,000!”
“You didn’t raise it (money), donors gave it (their support)! As I have said in other missives, such as Flip the Focus, we need to change the narrative. Don’t believe me? Consider reading Ron Schiller’s book Belief and Confidence. In the introduction, Ron notes that:
“almost every major and transformational gift described as highly satisfying and/or the most successful was also described by the donors as self solicited.” (p. xvii).
Ron goes on to suggest that the dichotomy which I describe above, an “us or them” mentality, doesn’t best describe the type of relationship we as fundraisers should seek to have with donors – a philanthropic partnership:
“. . . it became clear that environments marked by high levels of belief and confidence produce philanthropic partnerships: a culture in which both organizational leaders and donors talk about each other as partners . . . which blurs the line between solicitation and self-solicitation.” (p. xvii).
This led me to wonder, what might be the best way to declare that exciting goals or milestone have been achieved?
As partners in philanthropy we together have . . .
Thanks to your gifts the lives of people seeking to lift themselves out of poverty will be changed.
Together, we can and will (fill in the blank – find a cure, save a child, feed a family, etc., etc. etc.)
As you think about this you might revisit last week’s post, Summer Reading: Lessons Learned about Women and Philanthropy, which focused on women’s philanthropy. Kathleen Loehr’s book, Gender Matters, invites us to think differently about the language used when speaking with and about women as donors. The same can be said for Lilya Wagner’s Diversity and Philanthropy: Expanding the Circle of Giving.
What say you? What language do you employ at your recognition events or in your impact or annual reports? Is it all about your or your donors (or a bit of both)?
I look forward to hearing from you because through our work together we help change and save lives.
Together we can elevate the conversation far better than I can do on my own.
Sophie Penney, Ph.D. is the President of i5 Fundraising and the Senior Program Coordinator and a Lecturer for Penn State programs in fundraising. Sophie does not receive compensation for recommending any of the above persons or resources.