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In the past several weeks we have been exploring donor-centric fundraising. Closely tied with donor-centric fundraising is the concept of “relationship fundraising.” Applying relationship fundraising requires defining success in a new way. You cannot measure your results and success the same way you do with a transactional approach, because the goals are completely different.

Perhaps the biggest difference between the two is that, with a typical fundraising strategy, you’re
focusing predominantly on short-term measures of performance. It’s about cash raised, new donors, response rates, average gift size, and other similar metrics.

Transactional vs. Relational Fundraising

With donor-centric fundraising, you’re taking a longer perspective. You’re focusing more on
retention, maintaining relationships, upgrading relationships, and the lifetime value of donors. It’s about individual progression versus campaign results.

The chart below shows how the two approaches differ and contrast one another.

FOCUS Single donations Donor orientation
KEY MEASURES Immediate ROI, revenue, response rate Lifetime value
TIMESCALE Short term Long term
ORIENTATION Contribution Relationship
CUSTOMER SERVICE Little emphasis Major emphasis


Re-evaluating success through the lens of relationship fundraising

So what does measuring relationship fundraising look like?

You can measure relationship fundraising by focusing on relationship building from initial impressions to becoming a donor to upgrading the donation level. It’s a clear progression that places an emphasis on continually moving donor relationships forward as a measure of success.

Once you establish a baseline for developing and growing relationships with donors, you can start asking questions like…

• How do we take impressions and turn them into something we can actually measure?

• Once they give their name, how do we get them to become a donor?

• How do we move them deeper and deeper?

• How do we create a transformational gift?

• How long does it take them to move from one stage of the relationship to the next?

• Were there specific things we did that motivated donors to take the next step?

Relationship fundraising is the long-game approach to fundraising. The ROI is there, but patience is key.

To learn more about donor-centric fundraising, download the free content paper Demystifying Donor-Centric Fundraising.