The Role of the Donor Relations Professional

Early in my career, I attended a presentation by a fundraiser who changed my perception of the profession. I had heard about the joy of philanthropy and the satisfaction that donors feel in finding the right opportunity to give. What I learned that day is that the fundraiser is just the conduit, the match-maker that brings the right cause to the right donor. When that magic happens, there is no need for an “ask,” the “gift” pretty much takes care of itself.

Recently, I heard a similar analogy for the role of the donor relations professional: we are the promise-keepers. Donors forge relationships with our institutions, with our leadership and our missions. In doing so, they develop expectations, either from their own experience or from what is implied in the interaction. It is our job to manage those expectations, to keep the promises made and to shift expectations – on the side of the donor or the organization – when needed. We are the ones to know what it will take to keep the donor happy and engaged and to make sure that it happens.