Penelope Burk’s parting wisdom
Leading donor whisperer Penelope Burk is hanging up her spurs. For years, Burk has led the way in understanding charitable donors and what they need and want. Recently she sat down with the Chronicle of Philanthropy for a final interview. This ought to be required reading for all fundraisers.
For those of you without Chronicle subscriptions, here’s the tl;dr version:
You started the survey in 2009. What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in donor attitudes?
Among donors, the biggest overall change is their seriousness about their philanthropy, the degree to which they will do their research before giving for the first time or giving again. Fundraisers used to be able to say, ‘OK, here comes the appeal! I want you to give now, and this is why I want you to do it.’ They have to shift from gatekeeper to customer service agent. It’s much more like, ‘How can we give you what you need?’
In our research, donors are very clear in telling us what they need. They want restricted giving. They want to be acknowledged promptly and in a gratifying and gracious way. And they want measurable results before they’re asked to give again. And if they get them, they’ll stay.
Every word of this interview is worth reading and re-reading. As we have all come to learn, there’s a yawning gap between what makes for a satisfactory donor relationship and what your organization is prepared to do. How many of you when you saw her talking about restricted funds went ‘nope, moving on’ in your heads? She offers actionable tips for how to attempt to close that gap. Not that it can always be closed…