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Association of Fundraising Professionals: Southern Arizona Chapter

Dollars and Sense

Dollars and cents

THE STAR WARS SEASON may be drawing to a close at the Park Place Cinemark, but the battle on behalf of galaxy’s true hero — the philanthropic donor — goes on, thanks to Simone Joyaux and Tom Ahern. During their annual visit to AFP Southern Arizona on January 15th, Simone and Tom challenged us to stand up for ourselves and our profession.

It is wrong, they agreed, for the First Order to use business metrics to judge a nonprofit’s development efforts. It is wrong to confuse “development” with “sales.”

“It’s not about the dollar,” Simone began. ‘It’s about the donor,” Tom continued. You’d think they had delivered this message before. You’d be right. Their partnership is almost as old as Leia and Luke’s. “Donor Centric Fundraising” has been the core of Simone’s and Tom’s work for more than 20 years. Simone introduced the “Donor Centric Pledge” in 2007.

Simone urged us to take the fight to our own organizations. The compelling argument we have is this. Over time, the focus on stewardship and retention will increase the bottom line.

“The first time you go to an investment advisor, you learn that your investment strategy may or may not work in the short term, Ahern noted. “They tell you that right away. It needs to be a long-term commitment. Why can’t the board chair — who is sometimes an investment advisor — understand the same is true with development?”

During a round-table meeting with executive directors in Tucson, Joyaux cited one example. There is no empirical evidence that “big-gift donors” become planned-gift donors. There is considerable evidence that year-to-year donors, regardless of gift size, DO become planned-gift donors.

“If we are going to segment our donor lists in annual reports, why not segment them by length of engagement: the number of consecutive years they have given? Why not honor THEM?”

Simone attended Tucson High as a senior, and both she and Tom love their visits to Southern Arizona. They have agreed to visit our chapter each year to introduce the concepts they will discuss with later audiences. Our members obviously think this is a good idea. More than 130 members and guests took part in their programs January 15. In the last 5 years, 3 of our 4 largest crowds have been drawn by Joyaux and Ahern.