Last month, one of the greats of fundraising died.
Tony Elischer was one of those amazing individuals, full of energy, drive, and smarts. I was fortunate enough to see him speak several times. The fundraising community really lost a great one when he died.
What resonated most for me was this donor pyramid, which he included in the program for his philanthropy extravaganza called “the Kaleidoscope of Philanthropy“.
I believe this is the most clear and true depiction of the Donor Pyramid.
It is about the donor and her engagement. It’s not about the size of the gift.
It’s about relationships.
And isn’t that how we should view supporters, not as the amalgamation of their transactions, but in the context of human relationships?
After all, fundraisers are in the business of creating connections, fostering affiliations, and strengthening relationships. Full stop.
When I speak to fundraisers about donors relationships, I often illustrate using the language of personal interactions. If we think more like this and less like categories (small donors, big donors), there may be fewer thoughtless nonprofit transactions and more authentic, lasting relationships.
Afterall, who sends a form letter of thanks to someone two weeks after a first date?
Let’s check out the pyramid.
Willingness, respect, trust. These are the foundations of many of our good relationships – even as customers. A donor may reach out with a first gift in willingness. Your team establishes trust by using the gift as they asked, but being respected members of the community, And those very first interactions build on what can come next. Are you making those initial interactions a delight? Is the language you use intriguing? Is it easy for your new friend to understand what you do and how she or he can be part of the cadre of heroes? And the relationship may just sit there if either side (your nonprofit or the donor) doesn’t move to the next level.