Explained: Donor-Centric and Community Centric Fundraising

The Keela Team • Nov 29, 2021

When developing a fundraising strategy, there are two specific approaches to consider: donor-centric and community-centric fundraising

These two fundraising concepts highlight methods and philosophies used by fundraisers to create fundraising plans and interact with their donors and supporters. They are the basis for each nonprofit organization’s marketing, communications, outreach, and fundraising strategies. 

The key difference between both approaches is that donor-centric fundraising focuses on personalizing the donor experience while community-centric fundraising focuses on engaging and accounting for differences within communities.

Let’s take a deeper look at both methods of fundraising.

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What is Donor-Centric Fundraising?

Donor-centric fundraising, also known as donor-centered fundraising or donor centrism, puts each donor at the center of the nonprofit’s outreach efforts. It involves an in-depth consideration of individual donors’ interests, motivations, and propensity to contribute to a cause. 

Donor-centric fundraisers develop personalized relationships with donors and build trust with them by meeting them where they are. Winning donors’ trust is vital to the growth and development of donor relationships. And most recurring donors will only contribute to organizations that they have known for a while. Cygnus Applied Research Inc. reports that 67% would definitely or probably continue supporting a donor-centered nonprofit indefinitely. 

With this in mind, donor-centric fundraisers believe it is essential to personalize donor experiences and build donor loyalty over time. This process may involve including donors in the decision-making process, creating nurture campaigns, communicating with email drips, and having multiple touch points with donors at different stages of their donor journey.

Donor-centered fundraising has also stood the test of time and has been known to rake in large sums of consistent funding. So, it is no surprise that this method of fundraising is prevalent in the nonprofit sector. But for all the successes that have been attributed to this fundraising approach, some nonprofit professionals believe that it doesn’t align with their organizations’ desire to be more inclusive. And that brings us to the second fundraising approach: community-centric fundraising.

What is Community-Centric Fundraising?

Community-centric fundraising, also known as community-centered fundraising, emphasizes the need for nonprofits to be aware and conscious of diverse communities and peoples in their campaign development process and outreach activities. It involves prioritizing the needs, interests, and motivations of a community of donors, beneficiaries, and stakeholders over individual donors and supporters. 

More so, community-centric fundraisers tend to be advocates for diversity, equality, and inclusion in the nonprofit decision-making process. Such an approach is believed to help make nonprofit work and outcomes more transformative and impactful. Instead of personalizing individual donor experiences, this approach regards and accounts for the differences between and within the communities the nonprofit serves.  

Community Centric Fundraising’s website outlines action items to help nonprofit organizations implement this fundraising approach. It acknowledges that community-centered fundraising isn’t a one-size-fits-all model, so this approach might look different in different organizations.  

As more fundraisers learn more about community-centric fundraising, there has been some push-back from the professionals due to the limited research on the success of this approach. Some nonprofit professionals believe that community-centric fundraising disregards the roles donors play to make fundraising campaigns successful and that this could lead to low donor retention rates.

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What are the Differences between Donor-Centric Fundraising and Community-Centric Fundraising?

Regardless of their approach to fundraising, donor-centric and community-centric fundraisers have one thing in common: they want to raise money for their cause. In many ways, that is the fundamental similarity between both approaches. 

However, when it comes to the difference between donor-centric and community-centric fundraising, we can name a few. Here’s a side by side comparison to help you articulate these two concepts better:

Donor-Centric FundraisingCommunity-Centric Fundraising
Personalize Donor ExperiencesTailor campaigns and outreach activities according to the needs of our communities
Focus on achieving an organizational missionFocus on achieving the collective goals of our communities
May occasionally compete with similar organizations for funding, resources, or outreach opportunitiesRecognize that organizations are interdependent and give voice to organizations that can best serve specific communities
Donors may be treated as key stakeholders and involved in the decision-making processDonors are treated as partners, beneficiaries, and community members are involved in the decision-making process
This approach has withstood the test of time.This is a new approach with limited research on how effective it can be.

Fundraising is an incredible form of advocacy for marginalized communities and a source of revenue for nonprofits, enabling them to do good work. Nonprofits and fundraisers need to consider several factors and tools when determining their approach or developing campaign strategies. 

We can’t decide what fundraising approach works for your nonprofit. You have to do that yourself, and in some cases, you may even want to consider combining the two approaches. 

Regardless of whether you’re a donor-centric or community-centric fundraiser, you should never forget that the work you do is key to raising awareness about important issues and empowering your nonprofit to be more impactful.