President, Cygnus Applied Research, Inc.

Author, Donor-Centered Fundraising and Donor-Centered Leadership

Penelope Burk’s career in the not-for-profit sector began in communications and market research in the arts in the early 1970’s and expanded into fundraising and senior management for prominent human services organizations over the next decade. She founded Burk & Associates Ltd. in 1990 and Cygnus Applied Research, Inc. in 2003.

Penelope Burk’s unique advantage in the fundraising industry is her evidence-based approach. While her professional experience in the sector spans forty-five years, her publications and training programs are all the product of research with donors.

Penelope is the author of the best-selling industry standard, Donor-Centered Fundraising. First published in 2003, the book is currently in its eighth printing. In 2013, Penelope published the companion book, Donor-Centered Leadership, a critical resource for Boards of Directors, Chief Executive Officers and Advancement Directors on how to implement Donor-Centered Fundraising and manage fundraising staff for optimum productivity.

Penelope Burk’s contributions to the fundraising industry can be best summed up as a long list of “firsts”:

  • She was the first fundraising author to back up her ideas and solutions with evidence from donors
  • The first to bring the problem of Donor Attrition to the attention of the fundraising industry, pointing out how much money not-for-profits were losing by failing to hold onto their donors
  • The first to offer an evidence-based formula for keeping donors giving longer and inspiring them to make more generous contributions
  • The first to document what leadership volunteers do best and how they can raise more money for their organizations by saying thank you the donor-centered way
  • the first to document the real impact of the high rate of turnover among professional fundraisers and the first to bring innovative solutions to the table to keep fundraisers loyal and raising more money.
Penelope Burk understands donors and what they want more deeply than any consultant in the fundraising industry. In the last twenty years, she and her innovative firm, Cygnus Applied Research, Inc., have conducted surveys and research studies with more than a quarter million American donors. She has reached back into their lives to find out about the first time they gave, what motivates their philanthropy now, what their greatest and most frustrating experiences in giving are, and what their dreams are for their philanthropic future.
Recent Posts
Burk Donor Survey

Available Fall 2018

Subscribe to our mailing list to receive a notification when the Report is available.