Bye-Bye Donor Pyramid. Today’s Marketing Funnel Looks Like This.

Do you remember the song, “Video Killed the Radio Star”? (Fun fact, it was the first video shown on MTV when it launched almost exactly 41 years ago.)

The song tells the story of how new technology shoved aside a former music star, whose songs were once so popular on the radio.

Video killed the radio star.

Video killed the radio star.

In my mind and in my car,

We can’t rewind, we’ve gone too far.

Another thing that new technology rendered obsolete?: The Donor Pyramid.

Bye, Bye Pyramid

Without a doubt, the digital revolution has rendered the concept of linear marketing obsolete, replacing it with an organic, donor-driven experience. The Donor Pyramid is a thing of the past.

The old thinking encouraged by the Donor Pyramid was a step-by-step process controlled by the fundraising team:

  • Build a list of prospects
  • Solicit first-time donors
  • Convert first-timers into regular donors
  • Convert regular donors into major donors
  • Ask major donors for a charitable bequest

The emphasis was on amassing a large list of prospects and carefully shepherding them along the process. Ironically, this delayed the most lucrative fundraising stages.

How Did Digital Crush the Donor Pyramid?

Today, tools like websites, social media, search engines and video-hosting platforms give donors free and instant access to information. They can, on their own, learn about your mission, hear from other donors and follow your activities…all while becoming invested but without ever making it onto an official prospect list.

To describe the new reality of fundraising in the digital age, Claire Axelrad used the phrase “digital vortex” and wrote brilliantly about how donors are in control.

So, what does the vortex look like? It’s made up of all the communication channels. Every channel can be a donor’s point-of-entry, their first step into learning about your mission. At any point, visitors drawn in by the vortex can decide to give. They may even decide to make a planned gift, even though they’ve never given before. There is no set pattern.

How Can You Engage with Donors in the Vortex?

Yes, donors are more in control. Yes, the Donor Pyramid is kaput. But, the digital revolution brings good news, too. Nonprofits can reach more people in more ways and create a living, breathing online community of supporters and influencers.

The key is learning how to monitor these communities and how to watch for the signals and track the behaviors that indicate someone is ready to give. For example, look for:          

  • How often a donor is on your website.
  • Where they are on your website.
  • How long they spend on each page.
  • If they utilize micro-conversions (such as subscriptions and downloads).

Managing the website experience is now a science that goes far beyond counting visits and views. Done properly, tracking website engagement can help you identify prospects who are more likely to make a charitable bequest (the warmer leads). The key is to track and engage in ways that are smart, tactful and unintrusive.

Social media platforms allow for the same type of engagement. With a firm commitment to Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and other platforms, you can give prospective donors more entry points and then use them to begin meaningful conversations and engagement.

With the right approach and the right tools, the vortex will enhance your planned giving messaging and give you new ways to connect with prospects.

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