The Four Stages of a Donor

Posted by Kent Wallace on 12/12/16 5:30 AM

It has been my experience that every donor travels through four stages of giving:


Stage One: I give because I get.


The donor starts out giving because they receive a direct benefit in return. Product sales, auctions, dinner banquets, golf tournaments and the like are all effective approaches because the donor receives a direct benefit from their charitable contribution.


Stage Two: I give because it’s good for those I know.


When the donor reaches this stage their perspective is expanding and they begin to see the greater benefits their generosity offers to them and the people they know.


They still want to see, touch and feel the impact of their giving which means they are most attracted to giving opportunities that have a direct impact on their personal community. Funding projects that their children are involved in and that their immediate friends would benefit from are attractive. For example: team uniforms, band trips or classroom projects, etc.


Stage Three: I give because it is good for our community.


This is a significant step in the giving behavior of a donor. At this stage the donor is motivated by the mission and cause of the organization. They begin to see the value of the organization’s existence; therefore their giving becomes much less conditional. Big picture projects such as capital campaigns, scholarship drives, organization wide projects all are appealing to these donors because they believe in the cause or mission.


Stage Four: I give because of the eternal value.


This is the final stage of a donor’s journey. They personally may not be receiving any direct benefit from the organization’s mission, but they are completely committed to the cause. They may be board members or just benevolent benefactors, but they are mission focused in their giving. They have a desire to see the organization exist beyond their own life time. Estate planning, matching gifts and significant giving models that use their influence to attract other donors are all effective approaches to engage these donors.




When you are able to identify which stage a donor is in, it will help you know what are the projects they would be most receptive to and it will make engaging them and nurturing the relationship that much easier. As you can see, not all donors are alike and need to be treated differently.

To help understand your donors better and how to best approach them, call us for a free half-hour consult.  The Champion Group is dedicated assisting worthwhile organizations achieve greater mission impact through strategic fundraising and growth coaching.


Call Champion Events: (800) 490-1959


Topics: donors, development, growth coaching