KNOWLEDGE: The ‘donorcentricity’ debate

American blogger and commentator on the nonprofit sector Vu Le kicked off a small storm earlier this year when he challenged the concept of donor-centred fundraising. Critical Fundraising collates some or the debate engendered by Vu Le’s arguments.

Vu Le’s original arguments

How donor-centrism perpetuates inequity, and why we must move toward community-centric fundraising


Choice quote:

“We cannot build a strong and just society if we reinforce in donors the unconscious perception of the people we help as merely objects of pity and charity to be saved.”

Nine principles of community-centric fundraising


Choice quote:

“We have all been trained to prioritize our organization’s mission first, to raise as much money as possible for our individual missions. But our missions are interrelated, and the community is best served if we see ourselves as part of a larger ecosystem working collectively to build a just society.”

Responses to Vu Le’s arguments

Is our donor focus helping or hurting nonprofits?

By Mary Cahalane, on

Hands on Fundraising blog

Choice quote:

“Yes, donors are heroes. That doesn’t exclude others from being heroes – we need as many heroes as we can get now.”

Unravelling donor-centricity: Love is the answer

By Pamela Grow, on

Pamela Grow’s blog

Choice quote:

“Extreme perspectives and a generalization of them as somehow indicative of the field are plentiful within Vu’s donor-centricity interpretation. That’s a bit like looking at steroid-using bodybuilders and reaching the conclusion that working out with weights is bad.”

Donor-centred fundraising is not the real problem

By Jeremy Hatch, on

artful fund raiser

Choice quote:

“What does any single wealthy person owe your organization? Nothing. Not one single thing, regardless of your mission, moral certainty or good works. Is this fair? It is not fair. It isn’t.”

Expanding the debate

Donorcentrism – all things to all fundraisers, part 1. What is it?

By Ian MacQuillin, on

Critical Fundraising

Choice quote:

“There is no single thing that can be called donorcentrism, and yet people not only talk about donorcentrism (or donorcentric fundraising, or donorcentricity) as if there were, but also as if it is obvious what they mean by it and that everyone else understand that too.”

Donorcentrism – all things to all fundraisers, part 2. What could go wrong?

By Ian MacQuillin, on

Critical Fundraising

Choice quote:

“Donorcentric ethics in fundraising never had a theoretical foundation and now the edifices built upon it are starting to crumble.”

Is ‘donor-centricity’ really worth more debate?

By Tom Ahern,on

Tom Ahern’s blog

Choice quote:

“If donor-centricity did NOT produce better results (hence ultimately pay my bills), I would drop it like a scalding rock. So would you, if you had my job. It would not be the ‘right’ thing to do. Without good, even better, results, it.”

How anthropology can give us new insights into donor-centred fundraising

By Ashely Scott, on

Critical Fundraising

Choice quote:

“How can fundraisers create the space where donors are encouraged to (safely) reflect on disruptive narratives that are profoundly alien to their lived experience; that raise the level of ethical literacy, activism and giving in relation to an aspect of social justice?”

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