How the ‘Diva of Dollars’ became the ‘Engagement Journey Guide’


Two equestiran riders on a journey
It’s about the journey, not the money.

Philanthropy, Not Fundraising

Here’s a true story.  Some years ago, while working for a family service agency, we became involved in a discussion about job titles.  Should folks stay as directors or become v.p’s? Should my title remain ‘Director of Development’ or switch to ‘Advancement’ or ‘External Relations’? I researched titles elsewhere. Yada, yada, yada.  I finally said I really didn’t care.  Just call me ‘Maven of Money’ or ‘Diva of Dollars.’

I didn’t get it.

That’s when I thought fundraising was about money.  But for people – our donors — it’s never been about the money.  Money is merely a symbol, representing what can be accomplished through giving.

In a recent post I discussed how the digital revolution has fundamentally altered fundraising and marketing strategy (see One Thing You Absolutely Must Know about Today’s Donor Engagement Journey).  STRATEGY has changed.  But not people.

We used to go after transactions. We called it fundraising, and a lot of folks shied away from it because they thought it meant selling. Or begging.  And those things are about money.  And we don’t like to talk about money.  Money is taboo.

We did it of necessity, taking a big gulp and pushing out a ‘pitch’ that told prospective supporters how wonderful we were.  They believed us, or not.  We secured their gift, or not. Then we went on to the next one. We didn’t think about stewardship as much as we should have, because we didn’t have to.  We, and our competitors, weren’t in our donors’ faces 24/7.  That’s all changed.

Today you must do it of desire.  Social media has changed the paradigm, and you’ve got to do a 180. No more pushing.  No more egocentric broadcasting. Today it’s about pulling. Gently. And with your ear to the ground. Because the digital revolution has forced our hand.  If you still have not embraced the fact that change is happening at the most rapid pace known in human history, how about this? It took 38 years for the radio to reach 50 million users. TV hit the same milestone in 13 years. The Internet took only four. And Facebook had twice as many people — 100 million users — sign on within nine months of launching.  Today 1.11 billion people use the site each month!

47% of Americans learn about causes from social media and online channels. And that’s the point.  Once you’ve got folks in the door you want to lead them inside. But this is difficult if you don’t know what your audiences want from you.  What’s in it for them?  How can you help them?  If you want them to help you, you better find out their desires. You better join the conversation, and you better use the two ears and one mouth given to you in that proportion.

You’re no longer your brand and cause’s messenger in chief. You’re a guide.  An engagement journey guide.  Your role is to take folks along for a ride and give them the experience of their lives. Encourage folks to take baby actions to begin with; then move them along to greater engagement. Make it a positive experience every step of the way. Assist them. Entertain them. Inspire them. Delight them.

The best guides check their ego at the door. You’re not a diva or a maven.  You’re part of the party, not the life of it. It should be all about the donor experience, not about you. The most important traits for an Engagement Journey Guide are good will, integrity, empathy, an ability to connect and passion. You’ve got to love what you’re doing. Why?

You aren’t just any guide. You’re engaging folks in a philanthropic – ‘love of humankind’ – journey.

Great engagement guides join folks on their journey. The journey will occur, with or without you.  If you’re not providing guidance along the way, then someone else will. Word of mouth is super powerful — we’ve always trusted word of mouth from our peers more than any other source – and folks will talk about you. Or worse, they won’t and they’ll talk about someone else. There’s a 24/7 conversation going on these days, and your job is to be a part of it.  A guiding part of it.

Engagement Journey Guides are also Directors of Donor Experiences.  And in today’s world people expect the experience to align around them, not around you. They want you to show them you know them. They want a fluid experience, rather than being marshaled up a rather rigid donor pyramid or ladder of engagement.  They’ll come in and out, as their desires dictate.  Your job is to be there, paying attention, so you can fan the flames of their desires as opportunities present themselves.

You can’t manage donors anymore.  You’ve got to interact with them. You can’t do it on your schedule. Information seeking and communication now happens in real time, and donors expect you to be responsive.

Divas of Dollars get gifts; Engagement Journey Guides get gifts that keep on giving. How? Because they get both donations and brand ambassadors who will amplify your message and become ‘friendraisers’ on your behalf.  The former is transactional; the latter transformational.

 Registration Ends May 16 at Midnight!

Want a system to get gifts that keep on giving? There’s one simple thing you can do — and I’ll bet you the price of this course you can do  it much better than you’re doing it now! Learn how to tap into the incredible Power of Thank You with this 4-week, self-paced e-course I’m teaching with the fabulous Pamela Grow (check out the full syllabus here).  You’ll get tips you can use immediately! Each week brings you a downloadable jam-packed workbook with templates, checklists and exercises PLUS bonuses galore – 6 webinars, teleseminar, podcast, eBook and script, video tutorial and more! Registration ends this week. . Take my bet?

Move from transaction to transformation by applying the Clairification Keys to Unlock Your Nonprofit’s Fundraising Potential and learn how to get you – and your supporters – on the journey towards more meaningful engagement.

Photo: Flikr, Mike Baird

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About Claire

I’m Claire and I want to help you raise more money, reach more people and build long-lasting relationships with your supporters. Take a look in the archives.


  1. Love this post, but “engagement journey guide” doesn’t really roll off the tongue. How about “engagement sherpa?”

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