Donor Power Manifesto

Jeff Brook’s Donor Power Blog was recently named a Fast Company “Best Blog” as well as to The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s list of “Nonprofit Blogs That Get Attention”. It is an excellent blog that targets fundraising professionals.

The Donor Power Blog is a project of Merkel|Domain, which says this about themselves:

Merkle|Domain is a full-service direct response agency that exclusively serves nonprofit organizations in North America and Europe by helping them raise more money.

I bring all of this up as context before I point you to the Merkel|Domain “Donor Power Manifesto”. If you are a donor, you will likely recognize yourself in the “New Donor” they describe. I agree completely with the Manifesto. The Second Great Wave of Philanthropy is a great wave of New Donors. If you are a New Donor, read the Manifesto and look for nonprofits to fund that understand it. If you are a fundraiser, read the Manifesto and figure out how to become “Donor-Powered”. If you are someone interested in the future of philanthropy, here it is (thanks to Jeff Brooks for permission to republish):

Donor Power Manifesto

The New Donors are coming!  And they’re changing fundraising.  The key difference between the old-style donor and the New Donor is this:

  • The old donor gives out of duty; she gives because giving is the right thing to do.   
  • The New Donor gives to make a difference.  Duty may still be important, but her main motivation is to have a positive impact on the world. 

For the old donor, giving is its own reward.  The New Donor, on the other hand, needs to know and feel that her giving makes a difference.  She puts more demands on the organization she supports — she wants more information and involvement. when she gets what she wants from a nonprofit, she also offers more rewards:  Larger gifts, better retention, and more upgrade potential.

The New Donor more or less corresponds with the Baby Boom generation — that massive cohort of 76 million people who have transformed every aspect of culture and commerce they’ve touched.  In 2005, the oldest Boomers turn 59.  They’re entering their prime giving years, and over the coming years, they will dominate the ranks of donors.

Organizations that fail to adapt to the New Donor face dwindling revenues, shrinking donor files, and challenges from nimble new competitors.  But organizations that embrace the New Donor will thrive and grow in the coming decades.

The secret to meeting the New Donor is simple:  Be a Donor-Powered Organization.

Being donor powered is more than a set of fundraising tactics.  It is a fundamental mindset that sees donors as the life-blood of the organization.  The Donor Powered Organization approaches donors in three important ways:

Empower your donors.  Boomers demand choice.  In everything from hamburgers to cars, they’ve grown used to having it their way — and they attach their loyalty to organizations that accommodate them.

Serve your donors.  Boomer Generation customers have driven the demand for faster service, better quality, more selection, easy returns, no-questions guarantees.  Donor-Powered Nonprofits will learn to serve donors outrageously.  They’ll serve in large and small ways that will make giving easy, rewarding, and emotionally satisfying.

Respect your donors.  Many nonprofits seem intent on "improving" their donors: educating them, raising their consciousness, or elevating the level of communication they use.  The Donor-Powered Organization knows the truth:  There’s nothing wrong with your donors!  Treat them respect, and they’ll reward you.

Donor Power is the future of fundraising.  But it won’t be easy.  Many nonprofits will not be able to meaningfully make the shift away from self-focus to donor-focus.  Those are the organizations that will fade as the Boomers move in.  Those that do make the shift, however, can look forward to a Golden Age of Fundraising.


  1. Phil says:

    Choices include choices among nonprofits. Focusing on the donor is a high minded strategy than can pay off, it certainly does for Charles Collier, head of Planned Giving at Harvard, but it is hard for quota driven fundraisers to think that big. Helping the donor be more generous in the context of all her choices and responsibilities is a big job, one for which fundraisers are not really trained, and it can lead to big gifts that don’t to the fundraiser’s institution. What we are seeing is the evolution of a new profession, out of current disciplines, which will take a donor focused viewpoint, while remaining an advocate of what is highest and best in the donor. Some people in this evolving profession will find a way to work for a financial services company as a resource, others will be idependent financial advisors, others will be fee only consultants, some will even find a way to work for an enlightened organization like Harvard who will want to be top of the list when it comes to providing their donors with disinterested donor centered services.

  2. Anonymous says:

    You’re right. We are seeing “the evolution of a new profession”. The concepts behind the Donor Power Manifesto need to be embraced by those of us moving towards this “new profession”. But, while still working within the “silos” we currently inhabit, there are many conflicts and reasons why we can’t fully act out the Manifesto.

  3. That last comment was from me. Not sure why it didn’t list me as the comment’s author.