Once you have set up your nonprofit it is time to get going. Time to start working for your mission. To make sure you obtain all the resources you need to get started and deliver your first successes to the community you aim to serve. Probably the first thing that comes to mind is money. And likely the first word you think of is donor. But what is a donor, in fact? What does it mean to deal with donors?

A donor is (1)

A donor is someone who gives to the organization. This can be anyone from the nonprofit: a board member, a volunteer, or a staffer. Or it can be someone from outside the nonprofit team itself.


The term donor is mostly used for people or organizations and institutions that are not part of the nonprofit. Therefore, the term can give the feeling of pointing to outsiders, whose only feature is that they donate money.


If you start looking at people outside your organization as walking wallets who may (or should) give to your cause, then you are in deep trouble. Especially if you are in urgent need of money. Because this idea will impact how you approach possible donors. You can be sure you will meet very few people, if any, who are interested in donating. Just imagine for a second that someone would depersonalize you and only think of you as a handy pair of hands to do odd jobs for them in your free time. How would that make you feel? Would you be happy every time you would see that person?

There is a person there

Never forget that any donor, whether an individual private person or an institution, is a person, a human being, as well. Someone with their own ideals, values and objectives. With dreams and hopes and needs. An individual looking for ways to fulfill their dreams and hopes.

A donor is (2)

The better definition therefore is a donor is someone whose dreams might be fulfilled through your nonprofit. And if he or she feels they could be fulfilled by your work they may give to your organization.

A donor is (3)

A donor is not just defined by the fact that they give to your organization. They have their own dreams they are looking to get fulfilled and they feel you can be helpful in that. In that sense, you are their partner. And they can be yours.

From outsider to insider

It is therefore not helpful to see a donor as only money and as an outsider. A donor is a stakeholder in your work, as they want to support that work so that they can work towards fulfilling their own dreams. If you look at it that way, a donor is an insider. And you and your team should treat him or her as such.

But how?

Key is of course to figure out what the dreams and hopes and ideals of your potential donors are. So that you can assess whether there is a good match with what you are doing. So that you can think of how your nonprofit can contribute to fulfilling the dreams and hopes of your donors.

Your very first step in fundraising must therefore be to find out how you can meet with possible donors and spend your whole heart, body and soul truly listening to them.

Want to know more and ask questions?

Then join my Facebook group how to become a professional and resilient nonprofit with Suzanne Bakker here. In this group we will create a safe space for open exchange and discussion on potentially sensitive topics like boards, nonprofit management, fundraising, etc.