The difference matters, and charitable organizations should be helping make it.
"In the face of the decline of community, there seems to be a slide of lowering standards in how we understand our group relationships. And even our charitable organizations, which ought to be expressions of, and adhering forces for, community, have bought wholesale into a network mentality—they care about you as a pair of hands to ladle soup, or as a checkbook, not as a person."
I wrote that last week over at Humane Pursuits. I also got into some recent research from Penn professor Adam Grant on why nonprofits absolutely must figure out how to care about their donors as whole people, not just as donors or volunteers. The more an organization is the hub of a community (or better yet for larger organizations, a community of communities), the better the results for everyone. A big part of what I do every day for organizations is help them figure out what that looks like and how to build the pieces to make it better, so I know it's not easy. But it is worthwhile to say the least.
As a nonprofit leader, are your donors really part of a community? Does it translate to relationships for them? Positive lifestyle changes? An intimate understanding of at least some aspects of your organization's day-to-day work? An ability to use the talents and passions they have to support that work? Are you allowing them to give as a whole person, or just as a wallet?
Or do you just call them a community in a feeble effort to make them feel a part of a clique that in reality doesn't want them in?