What Is Donor-Centered Fundraising?®

Donor-Centered Fundraising fulfills donors’ essential requirements

Donor-Centered Fundraising is an integrated and collaborative approach to raising money that inspires donors to remain loyal longer and give more generously sooner. It is easy to understand; it focuses on the things that make fundraising profitable; and it comes from donors themselves.

Donor-Centered Fundraising fulfills donors’ three essential requirements:
  • receiving prompt and meaningful acknowledgement whenever they make a gift;
  • having every gift they make, regardless of its value, assigned to a program, project or initiative narrower in scope than the mission as a whole;
  • receiving a report, in measurable terms, on what was accomplished with the last gift before being asked for another.

Comparing Traditional and Donor-Centered Fundraising Strategies on Retention and Gift Value

Question Traditional Fundraising Gift Renewal/Gift Value/Generosity Donor-Centered Fundraising Gift Renewal/Gift Value/Generosity
Likelihood of giving again the next time donor is asked (1)35% of new donors renew sometime within the next year, though not necessarily the next time they are asked 67% would definitely or probably renew the next time they were asked
Likelihood of making a larger gift (2)21.4% of donors who renew make a larger gift 52% would definitely or probably make a larger gift when they renew
Likelihood of continuing to give indefinitely (3)<10% of donors continue to give to the same not-for-profit beyond five asks or campaigns 67% would definitely or probably continue supporting a donor-centered not-for-profit indefinitely

(1) donorCentrics Index of Direct Marketing Fundraising, 2014 First Quarter Caledar Quarter Results, H Flannery, P Grainger, R Harris, C Rhine, Target Analytics, a division of Blackbaud, Inc., July 2014
(2) 2016 Fundraising Effectiveness Survey Report, AFP/The Urban Institute, September, 2016
(3)  Estimate by Cygnus Applied Research, Inc. based on long term retention/attrition analysis of donors giving to Cygnus’ clients

  • The session, Donor-Centered for Boards, with Penelope Burk was by far the best learning experience I’ve ever had as a board member for any organization. I also bought and read both her books (which is something I rarely do after attending a session) and I have applied so much of her donor-centered philosophy to my work, not only as a board member but as a donor, too.

    Robert C. Woodhouse Jr. Trustee, Saint Mary’s Foundation
  • Penelope Burk is a phenomenal presenter for two reasons: first, her casual and engaging style draws participants in and makes the subject matter easy to understand with real-life examples and an “I know what it’s like” connection to those in the room; second, her data is extensive and compelling, and it gives fundraisers real-life tools that they can use to begin shifting from a traditional dollar-centered approach to a more dependable and lucrative donor-centered approach.

    Elizabeth Brunner Habitat for Humanity International
  • Penelope’s keynote address and her break-out session yesterday were the highlights of the conference for me. She shared such relevant and immediately-applicable information. What an inspiration she is—in speaking, in writing, and (most important) one-on-one.

    Karen H. Crane Director of Development, University of Jamestown
  • I congratulate Penelope for her presentation at the AFP International Conference. She is a truly dynamic performer and speaker who shares her vision with humor and energy. Listening to her makes me want to commit more to my work; and she increases my dedication to philanthropy.

    Elsa Desjardins Director Events and Fundraising Projects, Montreal Heart Institute Foundation
  • Penelope is the most knowledgeable and interesting speaker I have ever heard in my nearly twenty years in the business.

    Kelly Millington Vice President of Financial Development, YMCA of Greater St Louis and YMCA of Southwest Illinois
  • Penelope is a rock star for fundraisers. Always entertaining; always provocative. She has transformed how we see our donors and how we do our work in fundamental ways.

    Laura Breeze President, AFP Southwest Florida Chapter