Unpopular Opinion: Stop defining donors by giving level

Ceci Dadisman
Oct 14 · 2 min read

If you know anything about me at all, you know that I identify myself as an arts marketer. You might be asking yourself why the heck am I writing about fundraising.

Before we go any further:

MARKETING AND FUNDRAISING ARE THE SAME THING.

Whether you are a “marketer” or a “fundraiser”, we all are endeavouring to send relevant and compelling messages to our target groups that will create a relationship so strong they take an action. Whether that action is a donation, ticket sale, membership, or anything else, it is all the same basic principle.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get to what this post is really about.

In fundraising, when we communicate to donors, we love to put them in neat little groups, and more often than not that is by their giving level. Whether you look at it as their last gift or cumulative giving, it all centers around the dollar amount and this is killing our fundraising communications.

Communicating with someone only through the lens of how much they give completely ignores other important information such as their level of engagement with the organization, why they give, what programs are of interest to them, and many more.

A retired person living on a fixed income who has donated $100 for the past 30 years when they renew their opera subscription is just as important (and perhaps even more important) as that patron who gives $5k toward a specific program. That retired person is super highly engaged with that organization and is probably giving at their limit. I would be willing to bet that $5k the other person donated is the amount of change they could find in their couch. Sure, they have a level of commitment, but it isn’t the same. (Ok fine, there are always those people who give large amounts who are highly engaged, but I’m making generalities here for the sake of this post.)

In addition, when we look at giving level as the main metric for fundraising communications, we are missing out on ways to deepen our relationship with our donors. Constantly being asked to increase a gift is not the way to show someone how much they mean to your organization.

Let’s take a more 3-dimensional view of our donors and craft communications campaigns around that.

Ceci Dadisman

Written by

Arts Marketer. Speaker. NonProfit Communicator. Native Pittsburgher. WVU Mountaineer. Trekkie. X-Phile. Mom. More about me at cecidadisman.com