Being beneficiary focused

Published by Jonathon Grapsas on

Focus A lot of people in our sector wax lyrical about being donor focused/donor centred/<insert some other supporter centric jargon>.

Don’t get me wrong. For many, or even a lot of you, your supporters are literally the lifeblood of your organisation. They keep your doors open, the lights on, mouths fed.

I get that.

But you don’t exist for your supporters. They (and you) are the conduit to making amazing things happen.

For your beneficiaries.

Because if it wasn’t for the people, animals or places we exist to support, we would all be in a different profession.

Why is this important? Am I splitting hairs?

I don’t think I am.

Great fundraising makes donors feel fantastic. It talks (often implicitly) about the benefits of supporting. It makes donors feel awesome about what they’ve done.

But it is not about them.

I can’t recall the last fundraising campaign that I saw that promised to feed thousands of donors or help eradicate donors of polio.

Again you may argue that in some instances our supporters are also our beneficiaries. But that’s not the point. Great fundraising is about getting people to understand how they can help and making them feel as though they are part of the action. We need to make them feel linked to the people, animals or places they are helping.

But making someone feel good about his or her support is secondary.

Don’t believe me?

Two giraffe Develop two campaigns. Side by side. Develop one to be exclusively about a need that requires your support. Need first, your support second.

Develop a concurrent campaign that is about you – the supporter – how wonderful you are. Oh, and mention some problem that needs solving. You first, need second.

Come back and share the results if the latter wins. I won’t be waiting by my phone…

This is not to say I am flippant about how incredibly powerful the role of our wonderful, generous donors is. In fact, quite the opposite. But I am also a realist. Our donors exist as a group of caring people because there is a problem that needs solving.

Remember great fundraising and great supporter care do not happen in isolation. They are inextricably linked.

Our job as fundraisers is to ask people to support the much-needed work we do. And equally to remind and share with those people the impact of that work. We call the second bit donor care (not beneficiary care).

Get the balance right and you’re well on your way to helping those people who need it most. Beneficiaries.

Jonathon Grapsas

Jonathon is the founder and director at flat earth direct, an agency dedicated to fundraising and campaigning for good causes. Jonathon has spent the last decade working with charities all around the world. Initially in the UK, and more recently in Canada and his native Australia. An influential blogger, writer and speaker, Jonathon's spends most of time now helping charities reach out to people online.


Tony Martignetti · August 15, 2013 at 16:56

I was going to quibble with you until your last paragraph. It is a balance, no question. Perfect takeaway.

Adorable giraffes!

Daniella Mailing Consulting · April 8, 2014 at 02:01

[…] It immediately made me think back to the words written last year by my colleague, Jonathon Grapsas. […]

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