Who is your target audience? Is it your donors? Volunteers? Staff? Community? Which group is or should be the focus of your attention?

I never understood the weight of answering this question until recently. A thoughtful article found its way to my inbox at the exact same time this question emerged at a strategic planning session. A board was asked to rank the organization’s target audiences in order of importance to determine the amount of resources allocated to each. Dialogue followed that pitted each group against one another, in which donor dominancy over the others took center stage.

Vu Le, creator of Nonprofit AF – a blog dedicated to all things nonprofit – recently addressed donor-centric vs. community-centric fundraising. He posed a potentially cringe-worthy question: Are donors the most important element of nonprofit work? He argues that while donor-centric strategies have been proven to pay off in terms of dollars raised, they may be perpetuating inequities in the communities served. Le develops a strong case for building a model that respects donors and prioritizes relationships with them, but where they are not in the center. Instead, the communities served and that benefit from nonprofit work are in the center because without understanding and respect for them and their need, what purpose would the funds have?

The board ultimately determined that the community at large is their primary target audience. Their rationale: the donor is part of the community, as are the individuals being served.

Were they right? Will that decision drive new ideas or create unintended consequences?

Though the outcome is unknown today, asking the question was a healthy and productive conservation you may want to consider having with your board.

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