Restorative Fundraising

I’ve been learning about Restorative Practices, a concept new to me. It puts forward that “human beings are happier, more cooperative and productive, and more likely to make positive changes in their behavior when those in positions of authority do things with them, rather than to them or for them.”

Makes perfect sense, right?

And the more you read about it the more obvious it becomes that it’s an effective way to communicate with criminal offenders, employees, kids, friends and family.

And donors.

I’m not a clever man, so a really easy way I found to picture it is using the Social Discipline Window:

Social Discipline Window

Our communications fall in to one of these categories: punitive, neglectful, permissive and restorative. Restorative is where you want to be. In plain English, think about whether you are doing something to someone, for someone, with someone, or not doing it at all.

So where does your fundraising sit?

The majority of Irish charities sit in the ‘Not’ section – willfully or unwittingly neglecting their donors and potential donors. You never contact your donors or you don’t contact them enough. Money might come in, but it’s pretty much a stroke of luck and unlikely to be repeated. As any good fundraiser knows if you don’t ask you don’t get.

Or you might be permissive. If you find yourself organising golf classics and black tie events because your Board like them, or you’ve been running the same loss making events for years because your donors ‘love them’, then you’re working for them.

Punitive fundraising is one-way communication, guilting and begging the public in to handing over their hard earned money. If you’ve ever written a letter saying you’re at risk of closing down or you’ve never shown a success story then you’re probably sitting in that ‘To’ box.

But Restorative Fundraising…that’s where something beautiful happens. That’s where you want to be. Your communications and appeals are regular. They focus on the donor and the beneficiaries. The show they need, they show the success. They are humble but confident.

And they successfully raise money.


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