Friends With Benefits?

Have you ever read a blog post that bothered you so much that you saved it in your email inbox? It happens periodically for me, and this phenomenon occurred two weeks ago with a blog post from Jeff Brooks who writes Fundraising Future Now.

So, there I was drinking my morning coffee and clicking through emails on July 27th, when I came across Jeff’s blog titled “Not all donors are seeking a deeper connection“. Since I consider myself a “disciple” of Penelope Burk (thought leader behind donor-centered fundraising TM and author of Donor Centered Fundraising), my first response to the blog’s headline was “WTF?” Then I clicked open the email and read this:

“We should be prepared to admit that not all donors are as absorbed in our causes as we are.  Some of them — maybe most of them — just want to give and be done with it.”

Looking back on the moment, I have to laugh at myself because I was genuinely disturbed and almost had the same reaction as the person in this YouTube video. However, I composed myself and hit the button titled “Mark as Unread” and stewed about it for this long.

I’ve come to this conclusion: Sometimes the human experience allows us to get swept up into an idea so much that it becomes a truism to us (much like Penelope Burk’s idea of donor-centered fundraising TM has become for many fundraising professions).

Even though I’ve come to this conclusion, I still love Penelope Burk and all of the donor research she conducts and shares. I think I’ll even remain in her camp for a little while longer. However, I think I’m going to rent the DVD of Justin Timberlake’s movie “Friends with Benefits” and do some research over the course of the next year. I am open-minded to Jeff Brooks’ hypothesis about some (possibly many) donors only loving your non-profit mission enough to toss you a contribution from time-to-time.

Until I sort through this philosophical fundraising mess, I guess I am going back to the only truism that hasn’t steered me wrong, which is:


Are you a Penelope Burk disciple? What is your reaction to Jeff Brooks’ blog post? If you run a non-profit organization or interact with donors on a daily basis, what are your thoughts? How do you walk the fine line between donors who want to get married and those who only want to be friends with benefits?

Here is to your health!

Erik Anderson
Owner, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847


  1. LOL! I was feeling too swamped to read blogs this morning when I saw your title… I had to open it and read your twist. FUNNY, I had a visual about you stewing over that email! Anyway, as I also consider myself a “Penelope disciple” and I think Jeff’s comments are compatible with a donor-centered philosophy. Every relationship is different… It’s about communicating in a meaningful way and that is different for each individual. It’s OK to ask a donor about the type of relationship they would like to have. Can we visit you and share our progress with you mid-year? Would you like to get our newsletter in a hard-copy or via email? etc. etc.

    1. Ahhh … I am happy I hooked you with my cheeky blog headline this morning, Paula! And I also agree with your comment that these two points-of-view may not necessarily be mutually exclusive. However, you now have me giggling over the image in my head where I am asking a donor “do you want to go to the alter and get married or do you just want to be friends with benefits?” LOL .. thanks for the good laugh on a Friday morning.


  2. We all know there are cheaters in this world and as long as I’m not the one be cheated on, I’ll take it any way I can get it and hope they will marry me someday! 🙂 I guess I’ll just need to be better in bed! Ha Ha!

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