The Most Important Word in Fundraising

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If you are thinking the most important word in fundraising is “donor” you’re on the right track. The word I have in mind is “you,” as in “you, the donor.”

In the nonprofit world, we talk a lot about donor-centered fundraising. But what does it really mean?

At its core, donor-centered fundraising means your donor at the center of everything you do. Without your donors, there would be no programs, no staff, and no organization. So, give credit where credit is due!

Use “You” When Writing to Your Donors

When you ask for their support, acknowledge your donor’s role in the outcomes.

For example, in fundraising appeal letters, avoid sentences like these:

Your support helps us serve meals to the homeless.


Thanks to your support, we are serving meals to the homeless.

Why? Because they are organization-centered.

Instead, try a donor-centered approach like this:

Your support serves meals to the homeless.

Here’s another one. Instead of writing an organization-centered sentence like this:

Your support is needed so our teachers can provide after-school tutoring to students needing extra help to succeed.

Try this:

Your support provides after-school tutoring to students needing extra help to succeed.

Use “You” When Talking with Your Donors

It’s not only in writing where you can make your donors the center of the universe. Try it when you meet with them face-to-face. Ask donors for their opinions. Ask for their thoughts on your programs. Ask about their philanthropy.

You’ll learn a lot by asking questions of your donors and then listening to their answers.

Gail Perry has written a terrific list of Power Questions Your Major Donors Will Love. In it she shares 10 questions she likes to ask her major donors. Eight of the 10 questions contain the word “you” or “your.”

My favorite in Gail’s list of 10: “How did you come to be so generous?” Pure gold and a home run!  

What advice do you have for using the word you when communicating with your donors? Do you make a conscious effort to do so? Please share your thoughts or experience in the Comments box below!


My special gift for you, Conquer Your Fear of Asking for Money, a step-by-step guide, is available here (click).