We're lucky here in Kansas City to see lots of national rockstar presenters thanks to fine organizations like NPConnect and AFP. So I was jumping out of my seat when I saw Vu Le was "coming to Kansas City" (queue the song) ... thanks to NP Connect.
His blog, Nonprofit with Balls, speaks candidly and directly about many of the challenges nonprofits face. He's hilarious ... and doesn't hold back. It's refreshing, and I think he does a great job of provoking conversations that need to be had. Even the super uncomfortable ones!
One of the sacred cows he mentioned in his presentation was the uber focus on donors. That is, he feels the amount of energy cash donors receive is inordinate compared to the attention given to volunteers or those who benefit from nonprofit services.
WOW - after years of attending and delivering presentations that espouse just the opposite, I had to take a deep breath. In fact, I was just about to get my donor-centric tattoo!
Thought-provoking concept, indeed, Vu!
But here's the thing ... I think his point assumes that most nonprofits are already doing a stellar job of focusing on the donor.
In my experience, donor communication in nonprofits is often sparse. Sure, maybe thank you notes make it out the door ... but that may be the only cultivation that's happening. I worked with a national nonprofit many years ago that mailed and emailed appeals ONLY ... nothing to show the impact of their work ... or anything resembling stewardship. Appeal after appeal ...
Our research has consistently shown that fundraising can be maximized by finding the right balance of cultivation and appeal. Both are imperative.
In my view, donor centricity isn't about lavishing undo praise on donors. It's about building and maintaining solid relationships. Helping donors understand the impact of their dollars ... the reasons for continued giving ... and the gratitude you feel for their generosity. It's about respect. This is true not just of donor relationships, but of ALL relationships.
I'm afraid Vu Le may have oversimplified the situation. Are volunteers critical? Yes. Are beneficiaries important? Of course. And YES, donors! Without cash monies, the wheels cannot move.