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Donor dominance

Received best practice wisdom in fundraising says you should always put the donor at the heart of everything you do. This is the core idea of ‘donor-centred’ fundraising (or donorcentrism) that underpins relationship fundraising. But can donorcentrism go too far? And does it lead to issues of so-called ‘donor dominance’.

‘Donor dominance’ refers to any serious form of undue or inappropriate influence that a donor or group of donors exerts over a nonprofit organisation or its staff. These issues were brought out into the open in 2018.

First there was the scandal of the Presidents Club fundraising dinner when an undercover journalist exposed totally unacceptable behaviour by male guests. And later in the year, a survey carried out by the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Chronicle of Philanthropy in the USA found that a quarter of female fundraisers had faced sexual harassment at work and of these, 65 per cent said at least one offender was a donor.

Rogare is currently researching this topic in a project led by American fundraiser Heather Hill, chair of the Rogare board. This involves conceptualising the issue and surveying fundraising practitioners to ascertain how much and how widespread these issues are.

Have you experienced ‘donor dominance’?

If you have experienced what you think might be donor dominance issues or even if you haven’t – especially if you haven’t – you might like to take part in our ongoing survey. It’ll only take you about 10-15 minutes. 

  • Take part in our research project.

Initial results

  • Download the interim results from our survey.

More information

  • Download the donor dominance project outline.

  • Read the press release announcing the start of this project.

  • We need to talk about donor dominance, by chair of the Rogare board Heather Hill.

  • Rogare director Ian MacQullin discusses donor dominance in his Third Sector column.

  • What we can learn from the Presidents Club debacle, by Ian MacQuillin

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  • Heather Hill talks abut donor dominance with Isobel Michael of the IoF's task force on sexual harassment and Ruby Bayley-Pratt.

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Heather Hill

Project leader

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