Almost four years ago I declared: "The Fundraising Pyramid Is DEAD!"

Donor pyramid

Is the fundraising donor pyramid dead?

Recently I was reminded of a blog post I wrote four years ago that got a lot of attention.
Some of the reactions were not so kind. Here’s what some said about the blog article I wrote back then:
“Your assertions demonstrate that you clearly ARE from outside the fundraising world.”
“It seems that you are confused about what “planned giving” means.”
“I would say 99% of non-profit staff cannot “plan gifts” for an organization. Unless they happen to have one too many fully funded retirement plans that they would like to leave behind to lower the burden of inheritance tax on their children.”
“I would submit that there are a lot of development people out there who could fill you in on the inaccuracy of your statement. And by the way, fundraising is not a subset of anything.
Check out the blog post and the thread of comments. Then, let me know what you think.

Related Posts:

>>Yes, The Donor Pyramid is Really Dead (
>> eBook: How to Generate More Planned Gifts with Less Money and Reduced Resources

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6 years ago

You are “spot on” regarding the death of the giving pyramid. In our research of 27 nonprofits with +10 million donor records, 5% of donors are giving 80% of the dollars! Sadly, the retention rate for new donors is 28%, so the “pyramid” has no base line!

Chris Doyle
6 years ago

Greg: In looking back at the original article and some of the comments, I would agree with Josh and some of the others. The pyramid, while being a progression for some donors, is really a picture of the 80/20 rule. No pictogram is perfect, not even your new funnel. I only spent a brief 2 years on the for-profit marketing side, but what I found is that everyone is looking for some new way to view things, like they have found a new formula for fundraising. Then that “new” way of looking at things floats around the conferences for a year or two until someone else comes up with a “new” way of looking at things and it goes on and on and round and round. However, basic fundraising has not changed since I started in this field over 30 years ago. It is all about relationships as some level. And good old, “Find, Win, Keep, Lift” never really gets old. It is when people deviate from this progression that things go wonky. I have made the mistake myself a few times. No one HAS to give one dime to charity. In fact, when you think about it, it is really unusual that any person parts with a single dollar. The tax break is not that good. So why to people give: To make a difference and because they are touched/moved in some way. The fundraisers job (or the marketer) is to present the need to the right people at the right time in the right way with the right ask. Do that, be nice, report back, ask again and you will do fine. Fads come and go. I remember 15 years ago or so the buzz was all about “giving clubs”. Do you hear anything about those now? Nope. Pyramid, funnel, box, octagon, who really cares. Just get out there and connect with people with a good offer and people will give. If they don’t, they the cause just does not resonate.

6 years ago
Reply to  Chris Doyle

Wise words. Thanks Chris!

Tom Sasser
6 years ago
Reply to  Chris Doyle

So on target Chris. There simply is no substitute for the time, attention and effort to connect with donors and discover how we can partner with them to reach our shared goals. Each relationship is unique, every situation provides an opportunity for creative development.

David Hall
David Hall
6 years ago

Has it been four years?
I remember your post and agreed with you then, as I continue to agree now. Planned Gifts are gifts EVERYONE can do, whether they have a lot or a little; and whether they have been donors for years, or are considering their first gift. Keep rocking boats…

6 years ago
Reply to  David Hall

Time flies David.

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