When it comes to "moves management," are you concerned too?

First, what are we really talking about when we say moves management?
Wikipedia says, “moves are the actions an organization takes to bring in donors, establish relationships, and renew contributions.”

So, moves are what the fundraiser does. Ah! Moves are activities. I get it! Fundraisers achieve their goals if they develop plans for their activities. Moves management in fundraising is the development of plans and activities to raise money.

But then Wikipedia continues by saying, “David Dunlop, the Cornell University senior development officer who developed the concept of moves management, described the idea as “changing people’s attitudes so they want to give.”
Is that what moves management is really all about? Persuasion?


Even David Dunlop once said, “People start ‘making moves’ and making a game of moves, rather than really recognizing the process that we’re a part of is inspiring people to do the things that we believe they would want to do anyway. Really helping them accomplish what is consistent with their values and interests. It’s a different perspective than fancy asking or skillful asking.”

Structure and process.
Ok. So I’m all in when it comes to making strategic plans for each donor. Doing so is smart because it keeps a fundraiser focused on who and what is important. It helps them think about the individual needs of each donor, how they can add value for each donor and how they can make each donor feel good. This kind of thoughtful donor-centricity and careful planning helps fundraisers stay on task so they generate money to support the good work of their organizations and institutions.

The system works because it helps fundraisers remain patient, persistent and attentive to donor needs as they pursue worthy goals.

Plus structure and process yields results. In the 2017 Major Gifts Benchmark Study (an effort I funded), it was determined that fundraisers using a consistent process to identify prospects are more likely to achieve their fundraising goals. So structure and process are essential if you want results.

For-profits do it too!
For-profit businesses use something called TAPS (Target Account Planning Strategies). The idea is very similar to moves management and applies to large deals.

Sales people and/or their managers select target accounts. Then they do their homework to learn about the needs of all the influencers involved in the decision (since each of them might experience different pain points that need to be addressed and served). Next, they develop step-by-step plans for communications and engagements that help align the sales person’s solutions with the needs of those people. Their plans include dates, responsibility assignments, and milestones.

With TAPS, a spirit of partnership is essential (just like in moves management).

So why am I concerned?
The first time I heard the phrase moves management I thought the process might involve trickery and manipulation.  As a donor, I wondered, “Are they making moves on me? Are they trying to manage me?” No one really wants to feel like they are being played, right?

Now before you start typing an angry response to this post telling me you are insulted because you are not a manipulative louse, remember, Wikipedia said David Dunlop described the idea as “changing people’s attitudes.” Let’s face it, there’s a very thin line between persuasion and manipulation.

Of course, you and I both know that there’s no underhandedness going on here. But, for some, the inference remains and I have definitely met fundraisers who believe it is their job to move donors through the consideration process rather than to help the donors move themselves by providing engagement offers that deliver value. [See #4 of my 8 components of engagement fundraising for more on this.]

Am I just splitting hairs?
Although the phrase ‘moves management’ is just an in-house term, I guess I just don’t like it. Sure, thanks to alliteration, the phrase sounds great. It flows from your lips to your manager’s and board member’s ears so nicely. But I just can’t get the thought of fundraisers manipulating donors out of my mind even though that’s not what they’re doing.

I know, I’m not a fundraiser. So maybe I’ll never ‘get’ it. I’m just the CEO of a for-profit business (but I am a donor).

What do you think?
Are they really moves? Aren’t they really actions, tasks or activities? Why confuse things and possibly lead some to wonder if they’re being manipulated? Do you like the phrase? Do you use it?

Related Posts:

>>Are fundraising tricks and gimmicks worth doing?
>>Your donors want to find meaning in their lives. But are you helping them?

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stephanie ladeira
6 years ago

I’ve always disliked the phrase “moves management” as well. Curious to know what you might rename it for both internal and external purposes. I think TAPS is equally as distasteful. Relationship and engagement steps.
Development engagement. These don’t quite capture the concept that ultimately, there needs to be an accountability for getting to a specific place – where we ask for specific support of something we need that is also compelling to our supporters. So many of our development terminology wouldn’t pass the test for transparency for both internal and external use.

6 years ago

Gosh I wish I had the right words.
In the private sector, they sort of have “TAPS” (for selling the account) and “customer success” (for retaining and growing it).
Maybe “philanthropic facilitation” (since fundraisers help donors navigate the process to find meaning in their lives through giving) and “supporter success?”

Greg Lassonde
6 years ago

Good points. With a few minutes of noodling, what about LAPS? Legacy Action Progress System. Shorthand works too: Legacy Action, Legacy Action Progress.
Another problem with moves management is that data base companies have only developed moves management for use in annual fund and campaign settings. Their systems have to be twisted for legacy giving usage, and I’ve not seen one yet that works well. As you know, I’ve developed a system for legacy giving acttions and have been describing it as moves management, which it is. I’d love to call it something else, LAPS, or whatever any one comes up with.
If LAPS works for legacy giving, then APS, “Action Progress System,” could work for annual fund, and campaigns. Instead of alliteration, acronym.
Moves management is so well entrenched that any change might be Sisyphean. Still, the word “legacy” is continuing to erode “planned” as the label for our work, so maybe “the engine that could” is an apt metaphor.
Greg Lassonde

6 years ago
Reply to  Greg Lassonde

Great points Greg. Yes, the existing systems tend to be short-sighted. The donor journey only concludes at the end of the donors lifetime.

Greg Lassonde
6 years ago

And not be too picky here Greg … it continues after the donors life time as well. I recommend that my clients keep the donor’s name on marketing recognition materials for two full fiscal years after the last check has been received from the estate. For organizations that have permanent recognition in some type of display in a building, even this should be notated in the Legacy Action Progress System.

6 years ago
Reply to  Greg Lassonde

Very wise (as always) Greg! You’re not being picky… just being exceptional and smart!

David Barker
3 years ago

I suspect that “moves management” stems from the organization’s need to somehow measure where every donor is in the process, and thereby measure their fundraising teams. As with others, I’ve not liked the term since it seems to have more to do with the organization than the donor. That said, ultimately the difference between manipulation and persuasion lies within the heart, mind and sole of the fundraiser. I much prefer to gauge where my relationship stands with each donor, rather than where they are in the process. As you’ve noted many times, organizations may have a process but donors are neither obliged nor likely to follow it along mechanically.

Thanks for the article, very thought provoking.

Claire Axelrad
3 years ago

I’ve always reframed it in my mind as being about “moving “ the donor emotionally. So that rather than give where “most needed” they give where “most moved.” Along the way you do engage in “philanthropy facilitation.” You listen, reflect back, engage in dialogue and build a strong bond that brings the donor’s “love of humankind” to the forefront. It’s more evocative than manipulative. And it’s not one-sided. You don’t do it TO the donor, but WITH them.

Scott Talbot
3 years ago

I’ve always liked the word, “stewardship.” It conveys the idea of serving … and a sense of duty.

Cicely Gutierrez
3 years ago

Donor Development
Donor Stewardship
Those have always been my preferred terms. Sure, I’ll put “moves management” on my resume so an employer is sure to know what I’m talking about, but in writing for public consumption I like those others better.

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