The 360 Degree Donor Engagement Model

The generally accepted model for organizing and staffing nonprofit fundraising and development teams goes something like this, assuming there is the luxury of staff, of course. Each task or type of campaign is identified. There might be one or more people assigned to each discrete task or initiative, or there might be one (very busy) person performing multiple duties. These tasks include Events, Major Donor solicitation, Individual Giving, Planned Giving, Monthly Giving, Grant Writing, Annual Fund, and so on. Each of these activities has its own project plan.

That is one approach. Let’s look for a moment at another model. What if we organized the work around Donors as opposed to tasks? Would that be simpler? Yes! It also might take full advantage of staff talent and productivity, and it might also mitigate the risk of one type of campaign becoming less productive (Events, for example) while another ramps up because of factors outside our control (Monthly Giving) and the accompanying need to adjust staffing and other resource.

Let’s look at how this Donor Engagement model works.

In this model the Donor experience is the governing factor (the outer ring in our graphic) in the process of establishing a relationship with the two core constituencies from whom donations are solicited – individuals and institutions. The three components of the donor experience in this model are:

  • Interaction with donors, and
  • Message – what is communicated to donors, and
  • Brand – how the organization appears in the world

Donor Engagement Model

Workflow is organized around developing enduring and meaningful relationships with the two core categories of donors – Individuals and Institutions, and it may mean creating new roles like Institutional Relationship Officer, or Individual Relationship Officer, titled appropriately for your organization. And it also means giving the people in those roles the flexibility to identify the types of campaign structures to which their Donors are most likely to respond to over time.

Structuring a development or advancement team around this Donor Engagement model instead of a task-oriented silo model creates significant organizational flexibility, opens up many new ways of interacting with marketing and social media teams, vendors and partners, as well as many other parts of the nonprofit organization, and embraces the idea that many individual donors also have important institutional ties that may also want to be connected back to the organization.

Donors are rightfully just as focused on their own goals and missions as the nonprofits they support. This approach forces a laser-like focus on where these important people are in their lives and their work, and helps nonprofits reach critical long-term financial sustainability goals while reducing risk. What’s not to like?