Yesterday was Groundhog Day. People of a certain age will remember a 1993 film by the same name.

In the movie, Bill Murray plays a roving weatherman. While on assignment, he finds himself in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. As he's done for several years in a row, he wakes up on Groundhog Day and reports on the groundhog's shadow.

The next morning, he wakes up (still in Punxsutawney) and repeats Groundhog Day. The exact same day. Over and over again.

The film begs the question, if you're forced to repeat the same day, over and over again, do you do the same thing every single day?

When and why do you do something different?

That's the bigger question.

I'd say that 2020 taught us, as nonprofit fundraisers, that we cannot do the same thing, over and over again. That we must do things differently.

That's why I want you to think about your donors differently.

What do I mean?


Most nonprofits know that donor segmentation is important. Perhaps you segment your donors like this:

  • by giving level (for instance, major donors, mid-level, and mass donors), or
  • recency of their last gift (for instance, active donors, and lapsed donors), or
  • how often they give (for instance, monthly donors, and annual donors)

In the book Iceberg Philanthropy, the authors introduce the concept that there are four distinct kinds of givers.

  1. Tippers.
  2. Buyers.
  3. Donors.
  4. Investors.

Tippers are the folks who make small, fairly inconsequential donations. Think about the charity jar at the cash register. Or the person who sponsors a friend in a charity bike ride.

Buyers are the people who give because they get something in return. This includes the folks who buy a ticket to your gala - and maybe an auction item while they're there. These are also companies that sponsor activities, like golf tournaments.

Donors, on the other hand, are people who give and don't expect anything in return. All they want is the satisfaction of doing a good deed.

Investors are similar to donors. However, they make gifts that are more thoughtful and sacrificial. These include your major donors and your legacy donors.

With those four definitions in mind, what type of "givers" do you want for your nonprofit?

I hope you say "donors" and "investors."

And I'd agree. 100%.

If - in the past - your organization relied on events for a large chunk of your fundraising income, 2020 forced you to rethink this model.

And if your nonprofit is struggling from a projected loss of revenue this year (because you're still counting on events), it's definitely time to flip the script.

Consider these words from Charles Darwin.

It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.

How applicable to the nonprofit sector in this day and time!

To survive, your nonprofit must move from a transactional model (tippers and buyers) to a relationship model (donors and investors).

And to truly thrive, you want your donors to become investors.

More on that in a future post!

Photo credit(s): Sam Dan Truong and Unsplash

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