Campfires and Warmth and Donor Communications

Campfires and Warmth and Donor Communications


By David Allen, Development for Conservation


I have this image I like a lot. It’s an image of a campfire somewhere on a moonless night.

The fire creates light which illuminates everything that is relatively close. It also warms everything relatively close to it.

But if you get far enough away, you are neither lit nor warmed.

This implies that there is a line somewhere between that which is lit and warm and that which is not.

That line is not sharp. It grades outward fairly quickly, but it still grades out. And it flickers with the fire.

To those inside the circle of light/warmth, everything outside looks indistinct and murky. Faceless. Anonymous.

To those outside the circle, everything inside looks attractive. Inside is where the warmth is. And the laughter. The camaraderie.

Your land trust is like this campfire. The fire itself is the mission, fed by the energy your program and project logs bring to it. The people involved – Board, volunteers, staff – are both well lit and warmed by it, at least for the time they are “inside.”

Donors who feel like they are inside – that the fire is their fire as much as anyone else’s – will give more and over a longer period of time. Donors who feel like they are faceless and indistinct will leave quietly in the dark and find another fire.

This is how I see “donor-centric.” (See also What is a Donor? And What is “Donor-Centric”?) First that the word “donors” includes ALL donors and not just major gift donors, and second that donors need to be regularly invited and welcomed into the light and warmth – part of the “center” of the organization.

How we talk to donors on websites, in newsletters, at events, and even in appeal letters matters. Does your writing invite donors into the light and warmth?

Or does it leave them out in the cold?


Cheers, and Have a great week.




Photo by Pixabay courtesy of

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1 Comment
  • Renee Carey
    Posted at 10:08h, 09 April

    On top of craving a ‘smores, I am now thinking about how I can use this as a visual with the Board. I think this will have more impact that the concentric circle visual used in other conversations about donor-centric organizations.