tl;dr: Take it from the Toltecs, stop calling your donors “donors.”

 

I recently finished reading The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz – an excellent guide for attaining personal freedom and happiness based on time-tested wisdom from the Toltecs. The first agreement the book urges each of us to make with ourselves is to be “impeccable with our word.”

Reflecting on that doctrine, I thought to myself how many different words the product Totem has built goes by, and whether each of them describes the value we provide impeccably.

 

What’s in a name?

If I had a nickel for all of the different names the product side of Totem has gone under, I’d have several nickels. Are we “Database software” “Donor Management software” “CRM software” (and, if CRM, what flavor? Customer Relationship Management or Constituent Relationship Management)?

Though a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, if we had our druthers, we’d pick none of the above. Though Constituent Relationship Management (a departure of our own making from the traditional Customer Relationship Management) is probably closest to the mark, Donor Management software is probably the most pervasive in the nonprofit space.

 

We get it, donors are important

The lifeblood of most all nonprofits. The problem is that donors don’t operate in a vacuum; they represent more than vessels of potential revenue.

Donors are often also volunteers, newsletter subscribers, former beneficiaries of the nonprofits they now support. Though it may not seem significant, terming the tool that you use to power your supporter relationships as a “donor management” tool is a small but significant factor contributing to how you view the individuals you’re trying to track.

 

Your people are more than just donors

In keeping with the idea that the people on your list represent much more than just donors, we’ve developed a holistic approach we call a Supporter Engagement Platform.

 

Here’s why the distinction matters

Your donors can add value to your organization beyond their pockets. Their support can come in the form of time, talent, and treasure, and so thinking of them as “supporters” already begins to open up a new world of possibilities. In addition, flipping the script from “management” to “engagement” better reflects the relationship all nonprofits should strive for with their supporters: not to manage them, but to engage them.

To manage your supporters implies a hierarchical relationship, with the nonprofit “overseeing” its constituents. “Engagement” implies a mutual relationship, with the nonprofit and the supporter meeting on the same platform. It’s intimate.

 

“All the world’s a stage”

Finally, what to call the arena within which you engage these supporters: a tool, an engine, simply software? We prefer the term “platform.”

If “all the world’s a stage,” then platform reflects the idea that your goal, with whatever solution you’re using, should be to elevate the supporters you’ve cultivated above the fray, shine a light on them, and devote your full attention to them.

 

Supporter Engagement Platform developed for you

It’s for those reasons that we prefer to refer to our product as a “supporter engagement platform” above any other combination of words. “Supporter Engagement Platform” describes us impeccably, and going into this new year we hope to provide exactly that to our nonprofit partners.

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