Core Values for Growing Donor Relationships

Lots of corporations and organizations are adopting “core values”: their guiding principles of behavior and action. With across-the-board employee input, Graham-Pelton Consulting developed its core values in 2012. Now, four years later, we are engaged in an internal awareness campaign about these five values: Authentic, Bold, Empathetic, Focused, and Optimistic.

After all, we believe these values should be present in all our interactions and communications – and while everyone in the firm may be familiar with them, a concerted effort to remind us of “the value of our values” helps ensure they are truly embraced.

As one of the designated “core value ambassadors” in the firm (my assigned value is Authentic), I can attest to the impact of the awareness campaign. Like “earworms,” these principles have taken over my senses. My eyes and ears are drawn to references to them in media, literature, conversation…and fundraising. I am encountering proof every week that our five values have real applicability to donor relationships.

I’m very proud to share the Graham-Pelton values – and also proud to propose that they are critical values to building fruitful and mutually satisfying donor relationships. Here they are…and how they might be defined in the fundraiser-donor universe.



Graham-Pelton says: We say what we mean and mean what we say.

In the donor relationship-building world, “authentic” means a donor can believe the fundraiser’s claim that a request for a visit really “isn’t a request for funds” …that the donor will know his/her confidential information is protected…that his/her dollars will truly make the difference the fundraiser promises.


Graham-Pelton says: We think for ourselves and do things differently.

In the donor relationship-building world, “bold” means breaking out of the industry mold and letting donors co-create funding proposals…thinking differently about gift recognition and creating more gratified, satisfied donors…committing to impact accountability as much as financial accountability.


Graham-Pelton says: We know where you’re coming from because we’ve been there too.

In the donor relationship-building world, “empathetic” means we don’t just listen to donor prospects, we hear what they are telling us and respond with philanthropic opportunities that align with donor’s priorities. We resist judging donor prospect actions and seek instead to understand a donor’s motivations.


Graham-Pelton says: We always and consistently get the job done – and then some.

In the donor relationship-building world, “focused” means the fundraiser has the organization’s AND the donor’s best interests at heart. The donor can count on the follow-up that the fundraiser committed to providing him/her.


Graham-Pelton says: There is always a productive path forward and together, we always find it.

In the donor relationship-building world, “optimistic” means fundraisers are committed to helping donors reach their philanthropic goals with the full range of giving options and alternative payment plans…that a “no” can be turned into “yes” while respecting donor circumstances and intent…that “LYBUNT” is only helpful as an internal categorization, not an expectation of particular behavior.

Do you agree? Are there other core values you would add to your donor relationship-building efforts?

-Patricia B. House, Ed.D., Senior Vice President, Client and Consultant Development

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