Penelope Burk

President, Cygnus Applied Research Inc.

Author, Researcher, Speaker and Fundraising Expert

Penelope understands donors and what they want more deeply than just about anyone in fundraising. In the last twenty years, she and her innovative firm, Cygnus Applied Research, Inc., have conducted surveys and research studies with more than a quarter-million donors. She has reached back into their lives to find out about the first time they gave, what motivates their philanthropy now, what their greatest and most frustrating experiences in giving are, and what their dreams are for their philanthropic future.

Penelope Burk’s career in the not-for-profit sector began in communications and market research in the arts in the early 1970’s and later expanded into fundraising and senior management for prominent human services organizations. She founded Burk & Associates Ltd. in 1990 and Cygnus Applied Research, Inc. in 2003.

Penelope is the author of the best-selling industry standard, Donor-Centered Fundraising, first published in Canada in 2000 and in the United States in 2003. The book captured the imagination of fundraising professionals who were just starting to focus on stewardship and its impact on donor retention and who were seeking real evidence from donors on what strategies worked best. Donor-Centered Fundraising was an instant hit and led to Penelope becoming one of the most popular speakers in the fundraising industry. In 2018, Penelope updated all the research that supported her donor-centered philosophy and published a substantially expanded second edition of the book.

Penelope is also the author of the companion book, Donor-Centered Leadership, a critical resource for Boards of Directors, Chief Executive Officers and Advancement Directors on how to transition fundraising from typical to Donor-Centered and manage fundraising staff for optimum results.


Donor-Centered Fundraising
Backed by dozens of studies with tens of thousands of donors, Donor-Centered Fundraising is the authoritative text on why donors stop giving and what it takes to keep them loyal and giving more generously in a changing giving environment. The book clarifies what donors want, but seldom get, and how a donor-centered approach to acknowledgement, communication and recognition raises much more money. Donor-Centered Fundraising is full of vivid samples and eye-opening anecdotes, plus it’s a delightful and compelling read.

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