I’m talking about your organization. How vain are you?

Listen to the Carly Simon song “You’re So Vain.” Right now. Just play it on your iPod or computer. (Here’s a link to a YouTube video where you can see all the lyrics.)

Simon sings: “You’re so vain. You probably think this song is about you. You’re so vain. I bet you think this song is about you, don’t you, don’t you, don’t you?”

Yes, Carly Simon is singing loudly through my computer and I'm singing along. I hope you are, too.

So . . . how about your organization? Do you think it's all “about you?”

In June 2011, I met Doug Barker of Barker & Scott Consulting. We were in D.C. at a meeting about growing philanthropy. Doug and I were talking about donor-centrism. He told me about a slide in his PowerPoint presentation. The text: “You probably think this is about you, don’t you, don’t you?” The graphic: the Carly Simon album cover.

How cool is that? "You're so vain. You probably think fundraising is about your organization." But it isn’t.

Good fundraising is about the donor and the prospective donor. If you want to raise more money, if you want loyal donors, then operate as a donor-centered organization. And donor centrism doesn’t compromise your mission. You should be both mission- and donor-centered.

So what’s your donor-centric quotient? Compare your DCQ to the Donor Centric Pledge (DCP) articulated by Tom Ahern and me. You’ll find the complete pledge posted in the Free Download Library on my website, www.simonejoyaux.com. Read Keep Your Donors; the whole book is devoted to donor-centered communications and how to build stronger relationships. Read Adrian Sargeant’s book Building Donor Loyalty.

Back to the DCP and your DCQ. How do you perform? Below is a list of standards from the Donor-Centric Pledge. For each item, evaluate how well your organization is meeting the standard. Use these categories to organize your evaluation:

  • Yes, my organization performs this standard well.
  • We’re trying to achieve this standard but still need improvement.
  • We’re pretty much starting from scratch with this standard. But we’re committed!
  • We don’t understand (and probably don’t accept) this standard.

Here are the standards:

We, [fill in the name of your nonprofit organization here], believe that…

#1: Donors are essential to the success of our mission.

#2: Gifts are not "cash transactions." Donors are not merely a bunch of interchangeable, easily replaceable credit cards, checkbooks, and wallets.

#3: No one "owes" us a gift just because our mission is worthy.

#7: “Lifetime value of a donor" is the best (though often overlooked) way to evaluate "return on investment" in fundraising.

#8: Donors are more important than donations. Those who currently make small gifts are just as interesting to us as those who currently make large gifts.

#9: Acquiring first-time donors is easy but keeping those donors is hard.

#12: A prerequisite for above-average donor retention is a well-planned donor-centric communications program that begins with a welcome.

#13: Donors want to have faith in us, and it's our fault if they don't.

#16: We earn the donor's trust by reporting on our accomplishments and efficiency.

#18: Asking a donor why she or he gave a first gift to us will likely lead to an amazingly revealing conversation.

#22: The donor's perspective defines what is a "major" gift.