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A New Philosophy for Charitable Organizations


It is Time for Charitable Organizations to Get Real

The charity world is more competitive today than it has ever been.

What is your reaction to that statement?

If you read that and said to yourself, “This is true, but charitable organizations don’t compete with each other,” then it’s time for you to wake up and smell the roses. To put it another way, there are a finite amount of dollars in the economy that can be spent. There is an even smaller number of people willing to spend those dollars on social causes. There is more than one organization asking donors to help.

That is competition.

Seeing your donors as customers and other charitable organizations as competition is not a bad thing. First of all, you do not have to have an antagonistic and unhealthy competition with anyone. This is not Coke vs. Pepsi. You are both organizations that are struggling for resources to complete your missions. Work together where it makes sense, just remember that a dollar to them is a dollar that can not go you.

Second, people have a natural tendency to impart more power and meaning to a “donation” than a “purchase.” This comes mostly from the idea that one is altruistic, while the other is self-serving.

But think about your donor base. Every single person who gives to your organization is giving for a reason. They may be filling a religious “obligation” to give, it may make them feel good. There are those that give because it relieves them of guilty feelings now that they have done something for someone else. Donors give for many reasons, some of which are complex.

Normally we think of customers as those who receive a service from someone else. Most charitable organizations probably refer to them as clients. These are the people who directly benefit from the issue that your organization is taking on. You focus on giving them what they need, in essence, providing a good customer experience. If you don’t the reason for your charity wouldn’t exist.

Your donors are also customers.

They have chosen you because of something you do, or say, or believe that gives them something in return. Why not treat them like customers and build an amazing experience that creates a bond between them and your organization? Why not create a path of visibility that reinforces whatever motivation drove the donation in the first place? Why not create partnerships with local businesses that are a win for both of you on the bottom line while also benefiting your clients?

I spent nearly a decade working for a couple of charitable organizations and the majority of that time I was in fundraising. Even in my other positions, I was still engaged in having to bring in community business supports for what we were doing.

No doubt about it, it was sales. If you spend your time raising funds, a lot of this makes sense. Your co-workers who don’t spend as much time raising money might not fully understand.

The fact is, if you can see your donors as customers (no, you don’t have to call them that, just know that is what they are), then you open up possibilities to connect and partner with people and organizations all through your community.

I know, because I have done it.