Penelope Burk, Penelope Burke, Cygnus Applied Research, Cygnus, donor research, donor survey, nonprofit, research, speaking topics, keynote speaker, keynote presenter, presenter, donor analytics, benchmarking, donor retention, donor acquisition, consulting, consultant
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I have devoured your book. It is the most sensible and inspiring fundraising book I’ve read in my 25-year career.Rebecca Weaver, President, A Better Cause, Pasadena CA

I couldn´t go any further than page 99 without stopping to let you know how inspired you made me feel about my career. Donor-Centered Fundraising is a masterpiece. Thank you for writing it, and for your professionalism. Víctor Naranjo, Resource Development Director, Habitat for Humanity, Latin America and the Caribbean

I don’t often say this, but reading Donor-Centered Fundraising really did change my life.– John Rodd, Rodd Associates, London, England

As I read the final word on the last page, my heartfelt reaction was, “What a terrific book!” …The fundraising philosophy … [described] is as universal as the concept of philanthropy itself.– Marion K. Ringe, CFRE, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI

Donor-Centered Fundraising should be required reading for every development professional. It is chock full of information, innovatively presented and a pleasure to read. Full of new ideas, it also confirms what we value about our donors and their generosity. Your book has inspired me. Thank you!– Beth Bailey, Senior Development Officer, Parkwood Hospital Foundation

In her typical thorough and careful fashion, Penelope Burk has broken new ground. To have all of this information sandwiched between two covers is so valuable to those who “get” as well as those who “give.” … a real tour de force. – Harold Buchwald, Q.C., Donor




The First Edition of Donor-Centered Fundraising has been reviewed by a number of major not-for-profit publications and fundraisers. Click below for the full-text of these reviews.


Marion K. Ringe, CFRE in Advancing Philanthropy, Vol 9, No. 3, 2002
Thanks!…A Guide to Donor-Centered Fundraising
by Penelope Burk
(Cygnus Applied Research, Inc. 2000, 193 pages, paperback)

As I read the final word on the last page of Thanks!… A Guide to Donor-Centered Fundraising, my heartfelt reaction was “What a terrific book!” Although specifically related to Canadian philanthropy (hence the spelling of centered, which is driving my spellcheck crazy), the fundraising philosophy Burk describes is as universal as the concept of philanthropy itself. The book is terrific for four reasons:

  • It’s fascinating and fun to read.
  • Every major point is thoroughly backed up analytically and anecdotally.
  • It shows the reader the “how” in addition to the “why”.
  • The author’s expertise and sincerity shine out on every page.

Many nonprofits fall critically short in sharing what donors say they want most: information about how their gifts are being used. “Fundraising is not the art of asking but the art of communicating that includes asking,” Burk says, and donor-centered fundraising focuses on the “fundamental interests and sensibilities of donors”. That makes so much sense that this book belongs in every development office. A U.S. edition, based on a parallel research study currently under way on donor communication and recognition in the United States, will be out in about a year. If you can’t wait, by all means get a head start by ordering the Canadian edition, now in its second printing.


Margot Jagger in , CharityVillage Library: Book Review. 2001
Thanks!…A Guide to Donor-Centered Fundraising
by Penelope Burk
Published by Cygnus Applied Research, Inc. 2001. 193 pagesReviewed by Margot JaggerThis is the ultimate “how-to” book for any organization that is re-thinking how they communicate with and recognize donors. (And the book will make you realize that every organization should be in the process of re-thinking).The donor centered philosophy, developed by Penelope Burk from years of experience in fundraising and four years of research with over 200 donors and charities, means that “the fundamental interests and sensibilities of donors are paramount in the design and delivery of all communications and recognition, whether written or in person.” Fortunately, this book tells you what the fundamental interests and sensibilities of donors are.This book will force organizations to review internal processes and how they affect external communications. For example, organizations will look at how long it takes to acknowledge a gift and what kind of information donors receive before the next solicitation. It shares the basics of how organizations can make communication valuable and recognition meaningful.Through the interesting stories from actual donors to the tables of statistics and the author’s personal commentary, this book is an easy and enjoyable read full of practical ideas and important “next steps”…


Sherry Rodney Kushner in Canadian Fundraiser , August 15, 2001IN PRINT – Sherry Rodney Kushner
A Guide to Donor-Centered Fundraising is reprinted, welcomed
Thanks! . A Guide To Donor-Centered Fundraising, Second Edition, 1999,With Thanks! . A Guide To Donor-Centered Fundraising, the development field is enjoying a real treat. This long-awaited guide, based on a national study carried out by well-known Canadian fundraiser Penelope Burk, is already into its second edition because it crystallizes so well the areas of donor communication, motivation and recognition from the donor’s perspective. This gem offers invaluable insights, advice and formulas certain to assist professional and volunteer fundraisers alike, regardless of organization size or expertise.Debunking myths and taking on topics ranging from revenue gaps, lost donors, donor attrition, stagnant/declining giving and performance standards to designated giving, provision of information and the formal donor recognition universe, this first-ever statistically based book on this topic takes a holistic look at the present and future of donor-centered fundraising in Canada.Penny Burk makes practical sense out of the eye-opening findings of her study. Whether starting a program from scratch, rescuing an existing one and/or striving for excellence, this book translates and defines the arena with refreshing insight in easy to digest language. Ultimately, Burk delivers thought-provoking concepts based on solid data that give the reader an essential methodology for the maintenance of long term donors. Comprehensive yet focussed chapters offer the A-Z on problems and traps, and present solutions along with suggestions from testing and budgeting to gaining acceptance for donor-centered fundraising inside an organization.Thanks! A Guide To Donor-Centered Fundraising is an impressive piece of work that was well worth the wait. Small wonder that this body of research has been accepted by ARNOVA and there are plans for Burk to present a précis of the guide at its fall conference. These issues are universal in the field of fundraising and transcend borders, and American universities have embraced the book, spurred by a recent CASE donor relations symposium. Don’t miss this splendid “What, When and How To”. Thanks! . A Guide To Donor-Centered Fundraising can be obtained directly from Cygnus Applied Research, at 800/263-0267….


David Boyd-Thomas, CFRE in Front & Centre , March 2001, volume 8, no. 2, p. 11Title: Thanks!…A Guide to Donor-Centered Fundraising
Type: Book review
Description: A Canadian volume with statistics and sample material addressing the need for a holistic donor-centered approach to fundraising.
Author: Burk, Penelope
Publisher/Distributor: Cygnus Applied Research, Inc., $75, 1-800-263-0267
Subject terms: research, other, fundraising approach. At last, a practical and pragmatic Canadian volume chock full of statistics and sample materials addressing the need for a holistic donor-centered approach to fundraising. This slim volume may be deceptive in its 193-page brevity, but it covers the waterfront of what is referred to a donor stewardship – an area of fundraising practice that can be woefully overlooked in many charitable organizations through sheer pressure to get the dollars in or lack of resources. Burk has taken many donor stewardship techniques that have long been hallmarks of major gifts programs and applied them more broadly to all aspects of fund development.More than 110 organization took part in a comprehensive four-year national study on donor communications and recognition practices that forms the core of Burk’s thesis. She sets out straightaway with her premise of a “future fundraising gap” based on continued slow growth in giving levels combined with current levels of donor attrition leading to a shortfall between need and new donors. She then goes on to propose a series of changes to current fundraising practice. The outcome of these could simplistically be reduced to: consistently delivered and appropriate donor communication and recognition strategies can dramatically increase financial support of Canada’s charitable organizations.This volume will be especially welcome both for seasoned fundraisers and volunteers as well as those newer to the profession in that it compellingly articulates a vision for a new approach to how donors are identified, cultivated, solicited, thanked, recognized and brought closer to the work of charitable organizations through thoughtful communication.Well-known throughout Canada among fundraising professionals, Penny Burk peppers the book with personal asides that are among the volume’s strongest features. They drive home the point that the work of fundraisers is ultimately defined by the personal dedication and passion of its practitioners applied toward realizing the charitable mandate of the organization we have the privilege of serving.David Boyd-Thomas CFRE, is National Director of Fund Development for the Canadian Diabetes Association, a Director of the AFP Toronto Chapter, and member of the Voluntary Sector Initiative Working Group on Funding.


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