“You are not your donor. You don’t think like them, you don’t assess value like them, and you don’t make decisions like them. If you (the fundraiser) are not constantly trying to understand and empathize with your donor, then all the other rules do not apply.”

Tim Kachuriak

Imagine a world where we all have the same perspective, same values, and make identical decisions. It would be devoid of creativity, innovation, and growth. It’s our differences that paint the canvas of our world with beautiful, diverse colors. This idea is as important in life as it is in fundraising. You are not your donor. And that’s more than okay. In fact, it’s necessary.

Understanding this starts with acknowledging the different ways we assess value. Your donor has their own lens through which they see the world. Like a photographer choosing a lens based on the scene they want to capture, your donor perceives value differently than you. But instead of seeing this as a barrier, see it as an opportunity. An opportunity to broaden your perspective, to learn a new language of value.

The same is true when it comes to decision-making. Your donor dances to the beat of a different drum. Their rhythm may be unfamiliar, perhaps even confusing at first, but with patience, you can learn it. You can adjust your steps to align with theirs, and in doing so, find a shared rhythm, a harmony that resonates with both of you.

The journey to understanding your donor is perpetual. It demands empathy, patience, and a willingness to step outside of your comfort zone. You’re not just fundraising. You’re building relationships, you’re fostering trust, you’re creating a bridge between two worlds.

If you’re not actively pursuing this understanding, if you’re not constantly seeking to empathize, then every rule, every strategy you’ve learned is irrelevant. The key to successful fundraising doesn’t lie in enforcing your worldview onto the donor. It lies in immersing yourself in theirs. Remember, it’s not about bringing them into your world, it’s about stepping into theirs.

Stephen Boudreau serves as VP of Brand & Community at Virtuous Software. For over two decades, he has helped nonprofits leverage the digital space to grow their impact. To that end, Stephen co-founded RaiseDonors, a platform that provides nonprofits with technology and experiences that remove barriers to successful online fundraising. He is an avid (but aging) soccer player, audiobook enthusiast, and the heavily-disputed UNO champion of his household.

Copyright ©2024 Stephen Boudreau.