Priority-centric organizations focus solely on their mission. The work they do—a “good cause”—often inspires ought-to giving. By contrast, one might make the mistake of believing that a donor-centric philosophy focuses solely on the donor, catering to their needs and desires. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The real goal of being donor-centric is to find the intersection between the donor’s experiences and values and the organization’s priorities and funding needs. Finding that overlap is key to unlocking the potential of an abundance for joy for the donor and a transformational contribution for the organization.

Sounds easy, right? If only we could plug the coordinates leading to that magical intersection into our GPS, it would be a smooth and easy ride to the junction of philanthropy and passion. Unfortunately, no such coordinates exist.

However, there is a guide that can help us get there: The Organizational Update. The format of this simple four-page tool enables us to guide conversations with donors toward discussion around our organization’s initiatives and their interests or passions. Customize the Organizational Update for each specific donor by carefully choosing the items you will include.

  • Cover—personalized with the donor’s name(s)
  • Updates—3–5 brief facts that illustrate your organization’s current success in achieving its mission
  • Unique Challenges—3–5 bullet points on roadblocks standing in the way of future success for your organization
  • Opportunities—3–5 succinct bullet points outlining actions your organization seeks to take to address the challenges

Utilizing the Organizational Update allows us to steer the conversation through our organization’s accomplishments (“Isn’t it amazing that we’ve been able to …?”) toward our initiatives to achieve even greater success (“Can you imagine if we could…?”). Seeding the conversation with questions, or even pauses, invites the door to be a part of the dialog.

Navigating to that intersection of organizational priorities and donor values can be as simple as asking, “When you think about what I’ve shared, what intrigues you?” Or consider framing the Passion Question with your priorities: “As you think about these priorities and your philanthropy at [organization], what would you like to accomplish with your money that would be meaningful to you?” Additionally, providing information about the impact of a donor’s contribution through an Organizational Update may naturally lead to conversations about additional opportunities or next steps.

Coupling the Organizational Update with the Process for Locating Philanthropic Passion™ can put us on the fast track to philanthropy that is truly significant for both our donors and our organization.


To learn more about how to implement a donor-centric approach at your organization through research-backed processes and tools such as the Organizational Update, we invite you to attend the public offering of our Professional Education Series. This comprehensive workshop includes real-time virtual training with ample time for discussion and questions, individualized coaching from experienced development professionals, and online reinforcement through access to myAR Plus.

Professional Education Series