“Courting a philanthropist may take months or years,” confided an acquaintance who previously served as a major-gift fundraiser for a well-known institution, “but patience comes naturally when greater emphasis is on the relationship than the outcome.”
When I reflect on that, it interests me how some institutions that excel at cultivating major gifts, shift to a marketing model when reaching out to their broader donor base. Obviously, marketing is effective for bringing scale to communications, but it also tends to transactionalize relationships.
When affinity for a brand is strong, it’s not surprising that a portion of the core audience might overlook the transactional nature of the communications and reliably donate, however, this same friction may be leaving a sour note with the remaining audience and eroding support.
It is not hard to understand how donor relations practices can be fundamentally transactional in nature — all organizations are designed to cultivate and manage resources. The problem is when this resource mindset extends to people and culture.
The value of people is not as a resource. Instead, value is found in the quality of the relationship institutions have with people. This is an important distinction.
Aegis is a culture design firm. We work with organisations to help deepen their most important relationships with people.