Donor as Artist: Inspiring the Art of Creating Change


“Great art is the outward expression of an inner life in the artist, and this inner life will result in his personal vision of the world.” – Edward Hopper

I’ve been doing a lot of reading and writing about creativity lately. What is creativity? What does it mean to be creative? And why is it so important?

For me, creativity and play are fundamental in the work I do, and something I believe is foundational in the work we need to do in our sector. Not only is creativity a necessary skill to thrive in any workplace, it also connects us deeply to the humanity in ourselves and the world around us.

We’re all creative beings. 

But so much of our day is spent fighting distraction. The world attempts to sell us thousands of things, ideas, and experiences every day.

As fundraisers, we need to somehow break through the clutter and make connections with individuals who deeply care. Indeed, it is our job to make them care.

Donors don’t really want to be sold on reasons you think your organisation is better or best. They don’t want something different. They want something that creates difference.

May I add, they want to feel like they are a part of that difference.

And even better:  show them that they are the ones who created it.

Art is the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination. Great fundraising puts the donor in the place of the artist – allowing individuals to apply their imagination and ability to create change.

How to inspire your donors to be artists

1) Be the mirror, the window, & provide the canvas

Every donor is an individual with a unique world view. I’ve often said we need to be mirrors and windows for our donors – a reflection of what they believe and an outlet for them to see and shared vision for the future.

“It breaks my heart that there are homeless people right here in my community.”

“It breaks our heart, too. This is what a community without homelessness could look like. Now here’s a brush… how will you colour your world?”

Make the case that aligns with your donor’s worldview and show them what they can do to help manifest that vision.

2) Be a patron of gratitude

If you haven’t heard by now, you should really be thanking your donors. Quickly. Powerfully. Regularly.

If you could sit down with your favourite artist, author, or musician, how might you begin to thank them for the myriad of ways they changed your life?

You’re not thanking your great aunt for that terrible and weird Christmas sweater that gave you hives, here. You’re thanking William Blake for opening your mind to the world of poetry. You’re thanking Michelangelo for the Sistine Chapel. You’re thanking David Bowie for helping you find your own voice.

Get that freakin’ passionate about it.

3) Tap into their muse

How often do you ask your donors why they decided to give? This simple act not only gives you valuable insight into your donor’s motivations, but a great conversation around this question can help solidify and strengthen their resolve and connection to the change they want to create.

If you’ve ever asked an artist where their inspiration comes from, you know how passionate, deep and intimate this conversation can be. Why not treat your donors with the same kind of loving fascination?

4) Display their work

I’ve heard it said that at the heart of every artist is a child gleefully crying “look mom!”

Show donors the impact of their gift. Show them what they’ve created. Show it to them proudly, so that they may show it proudly. Use your mirrors and windows and your passionate gratitude to unfold their creation.

5) Inspire them to continue creating

What does this look like? Well, it’s as unique as each organisation, and unique as each donor. When you’ve taken the time to get to know your donor, you’ll know what comes next.

This is where your own inner artist comes into play. This is where you push beyond the boundaries of everything that’s already been done and find new, exciting ways to create experiences for your donors that will inspire them to create change.

You can do it.

You’re totally the creative type.