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Acquisition, Satisfaction, and Sustainable Relationships in Fundraising

Tue, July 10, 12:00 to 1:30pm, Room, 8A 33

Session Submission Type: Panel


Intentional communication is essential to fundraising: it defines the relationships between those who ask, those who give, and those who receive (Ostrander & Schervish, 1990). This panel offers four papers centered on the practice of fundraising and communicating. Two focus on the broad base of the fundraising pyramid: written appeals. Two focus on the deepening relationship that leads to major gifts. Within each focus, one paper examines current practice in a new light, and one paper suggests an innovation in practice.

Research on fundraising appeals often examines one type of charitable organization rather than comparing approaches across causes, although we know that donors to different causes often have different traits (e.g. Mesch et al., 2006). Our first paper asks whether writing on behalf of clients who are stigmatized leads to systematic differences in appeal letters, compared to writing on behalf of more socially acceptable clients. Drawing on an experiment and interviews, it looks at what decisions fundraisers make for different clients, and why.

Fundraising is a social endeavor, yet few studies address the idea of fundraising professionals as a member of a work team accomplishing specific tasks. The second paper approaches fundraising practice from the standpoint of job satisfaction (Spector, 1985). In an experiment, fundraisers wrote appeals alone or as part of a team and assessed their satisfaction with the process. These insights can help structure tasks to encourage job satisfaction, perhaps reducing fundraiser turnover.

Philanthropy can be modeled as a positional social relationship (e.g. Schervish & Havens, 1997) but little is known about the day to day fundraising activities that foster these relationships. The third paper uses the theoretical framework of the gift as an outcome of an ongoing social phenomenon. How do fundraisers encourage relationships that mimic those occurring naturally in a social setting? The paper draws on interviews with fundraisers across a variety of charitable settings.

Strong relationships require understanding what matters to the other party. The fourth paper analyzes the state of knowledge about donor motivations (e.g. Bekkers & Wiepking, 2011) to create an instrument that will measure a given donor’s intrinsic and extrinsic motivations for engaging with an organization. The project uses both interviews and surveys to develop and test the new measures. Fundraisers can use this knowledge to help foster long-term, mutually satisfactory relationships.

These projects use a variety of research methods to offer insights for more reflective and sustainable fundraising practice.

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