Discover how a donor pyramid can inform your donor stewardship strategy and help you create fundraising plans.

Nonprofit Basics: The Donor Pyramid

To strengthen your foundation for fundraising, it’s important to balance donor acquisition with donor stewardship strategies. Acquiring new donors should always be a goal for your nonprofit, but you also need to prioritize creating lasting relationships with donors in order to retain them over time.

One tool to help you steward existing donors is the donor pyramid. Using this model to visualize your donor base can help you understand how different types of donors are supporting your organization’s goals.

What is the donor pyramid?

The donor pyramid, or gift pyramid, is a graphic that nonprofits create to visualize their donor base that involves arranging donors by giving level. Each level of the pyramid represents a different group of donors, going from prospective donors at the bottom all the way to major donors at the top.

A donor pyramid allows you to visualize your donor segments and cultivate relationships.

Within the pyramid, donors are usually ranked by giving and engagement levels. However, the arrangement of donors may differ based on your organization’s goals. Depending on your objectives, you might also organize donors by giving frequency or donor acquisition date.

Why are gift pyramids useful?

The goal of a gift pyramid is to see where donors are currently and create strategies to move them further up the pyramid over time. Understanding who makes up your donor base is essential to creating a fundraising plan that effectively reaches your supporters and encourages them to give more frequently.

Donor pyramids are helpful for improving both your fundraising and donor engagement strategies. Look at your donor pyramid to determine what major groups comprise your donor base, and consider engagement strategies that target these groups specifically.

Use giving pyramids in combination with other tools, like a stewardship matrix, to intentionally cultivate relationships with your donors. As you use the donor pyramid to visualize donor segments, a stewardship matrix tracks how you engage each segment.

How to create a donor pyramid for your nonprofit

Creating a donor pyramid is a powerful way to visualize your nonprofit’s base of supporters. To create your gift pyramid, follow these steps:

  1. Use donor data to determine levels of giving (minor, mid-level, major). Be as specific as you need to, leveraging information from your nonprofit CRM or donor database for up-to-date data. Consider investing in predictive modeling to easily and accurately collect data on your donors’ giving potential.
  2. Divide your donors into segments based on giving history, frequency, and amount. A more basic pyramid might only include amount, whereas you might include multiple data points for a more detailed look at your supporter base. Once you have a clear understanding of your donors’ habits, you can optimize the donor journey for different segments.
  3. Determine specific donors or segments you want to steward, and create a strategy. Are you interested in building your monthly giving program? Look at who your current recurring donors are and evaluate strategies that encourage them to donate regularly.

You can vary the structure of the pyramid to fit your organization’s needs. Add levels, change the order of different segments, and change the model as needed to meet your nonprofit’s goals.

Other Resources to Explore

Nonprofit Basics – Learn more nonprofit management essentials by exploring other expert resources.

Nonprofit Marketing: Ultimate Guide and Best Practices – Discover impactful ways to promote your campaigns and market your organization.

40+ Marketing Ideas for Nonprofits to Spread Your Mission – Get inspired by these marketing ideas and find creative ways to share your nonprofit’s mission.