Let’s stop thinking of people as resources

Greg Salmela
2 min readDec 7, 2020

“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.

I founded Aegis, a relational design firm. We help create emotionally-intelligent brands and organisations.



Greg Salmela

Hanging with human-centred thinkers, researchers and designers.