The Donor Decision-Making Process (DDMP) is the foundation of our Strategic Fundraising Model. You can learn more about the process every donor goes through in this post.

But, the DDMP doesn’t stand alone. As each donor decides whether he will give to an organization, he is influenced by various channels. These five channels help the potential donor become aware of an organization and make a decision.

The five channels, and examples of each, are illustrated in this graphic:

The First Channel: Mass Media

Mass media includes television, radio, newspapers and other periodicals (both print and online), blogs, wikis, social media, and other online communication tools. Mass media has exploded in the past 30 years, first due to CNN and other 24-hour cable news networks, then due to the internet and all its various news outlets.

We’re all surrounded by mass media almost constantly. Potential donors are exposed to the reporting, messaging, and information about your organization in mass media every day. 

The Second Channel: Biased Individuals

Biased Individuals are people who will benefit—usually directly—from the donation. These individuals include the staff of the organization or the candidate for which the fundraiser is working. While these Biased Individuals have some influence, their power is limited because of their perceived bias and personal stake in the outcome.

Most potential donors view professional fundraisers as Biased Individuals. Professional fundraisers make their living by successfully soliciting donations from others; if they are not able to win over the pocketbooks of potential donors, they will, eventually lose their jobs. For this reason, the notion of “peer-to-peer asks” is so much more successful than fundraiser-to-donor asks.

The Third Channel: Unbiased Third Parties

Next, we have Unbiased Third Parties. These are individuals, organizations, or groups who are perceived to be unbiased, not having a stake in the donation at all. These third parties include the Better Business Bureau, Consumers Union, many government agencies, and others. Their input and their perspective is important to the potential donor precisely because it is perceived as being unbiased.

And perceived is the key word. In reality, there might be tremendous bias on the part of these individuals or groups, but the potential donor does not perceive this bias.

The Fourth Channel: Influentials

Influentials are people who are held in extremely high regard by the potential donor. Everyone has some Influentials in his life, but most people have only a handful of such individuals.

A primary Influential would be one’s spouse. Children and parents are probably next on the list of most effective Influentials. Clergy and direct supervisors at work are considered Influentials; however, most colleagues and friends would not raise to the level of being an Influential without some more serious and long-term relationship.

The Fifth Channel: Personal Experience

Finally, the fifth channel of influence is one’s own personal experience. Actually kicking the tires, for instance, has greater weight than just hearing from your Influential surrogate that the car is a good one and should be purchased. So it is with donors: one’s own personal experience with an organization is much more relevant to the potential donor than the endorsement of any individual.

Now What?

Various channels of influence are more influential at different times during decision making. As a donor works through each of the five stages in the DDMP, these channels will influence her in different ways, ultimately helping her decide whether or not she will give to your organization.

It’s absolutely essential that fundraisers recognize the connection between the DDMP and these channels. If they are unable or unwilling to utilize the channels of influence that are most effective for each of the stages, their work will be ineffective and laborious.

Utilizing the most effective channels of influence for each of the five stages of the DDMP, on the other hand, will magnify the efforts of fundraisers and greatly increase the likelihood of success—especially in their efforts to garner major gifts.

You can learn more about strategic fundraising, the Donor Decision-Making Process, and the channels of influence in our Strategic Fundraising ebook series.

If you would like help learning which channels you should leverage (and how to do it) to win over potential donors, contact us at 815-985-6794 or