Egyptian or Mayan?

Posted on 01/28/2015 - by Dan Allenby

Egyptian or Mayan

Gift pyramids can help us visualize the distribution of our donations and identify where the majority of the money we raise is coming from. They can be useful for assessing all types of fundraising efforts including complex multi-year comprehensive campaigns, recurring annual fund drives, or stand alone direct mail appeals.

An important question to ask when analyzing your gift pyramid is whether it’s Egyptian or Mayan. Egyptian pyramids have pointed tops. They reflect campaigns in which a very large majority of the revenue comes from one or very few gifts. On the other hand, Mayan pyramids have flat tops. They reflect campaigns in which small and midsize gifts make up a more substantial portion of total revenue.

Here’s an example of a gift pyramid from a campaign that raised $50,000:

  • $10,000+ (1 gift totaling $25,000)
  • $5,000-$9,999 (2 gifts totaling $10,000)
  • $2,500-$4,999 (5 gifts totaling $7,000)
  • $1,000-$2,499 (4 gifts totaling $5,000)
  • Less than $1,000 (25 gifts totaling $3,000)

As you can see, 50% of the total money raised came from a single gift. In the short term, this can be an efficient and effective fundraising strategy. You’ll have a much better chance of success raising $1,000 by trying to find one donor who’s capable and willing to give you $1,000 than by trying to find 100 donors to each give you $10. Over time, however, organizations that rely on Egyptian pyramids run the risk of becoming top heavy and weakening their base of support. And you know what ultimately happens to organizations that are too top heavy, don’t you?

They tip over.

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