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  • Writer's pictureThe MSG Team


The triangle . . . is there a more interesting and flexible shape in the geometric world? Most (but not all) other shapes out there need to have even length sides or else the shape changes name, or is no longer considered "regular", etc. Sure, there are different types of triangles but as long as it has three sides that connect, then it is allowable to call that shape a triangle. A triangle is the shape we like to use when talking about our relationship with donors. Some people like to use a circle but at Midwest Studies Group, we love using a triangle because it better shows the uniqueness of each donor you come in contact with.

The first side of the triangle (in this case A - C) represents the importance of building a relationship with a donor first, before asking for a gift.

The second side (in this case C - B) represents making the ask for the gift.

The third side (in this case B - A) represents keeping that relationship in place.

Again, the thing we love about the use of a triangle is that for each donor, the sides could be different lengths. Some donors you might need to spend a lot of time on the relationship, while others might get a gift right away. Some asks go quick while others take some time to get a response about. Here is what we find from the average nonprofit:

- They have the first side down ok but newbies will sometimes take too long on making the ask or ask too quick without building a relationship first.

- The second side could sometimes use a little push. Too much time is spent on the first side, without making an ask OR once you get to the second side, making the ask properly is not done (another subject for another time).

- The third side is where a lot of nonprofits could use some attention and what we want to focus on today. If you want to make a donor feel like less of a human opposed to someone you SHOULD have a relationship with, then ignore this side of the triangle. However, if you want to see an improvement, then here are a few easy tips you can do to make this side of the triangle more productive for you:

1) Ask your donor how they would like to stay in touch. Sometimes it's just a newsletter or a handwritten card. Others might want to grab some coffee, while others like to be invited to your fundraising events. Think of it like this. Imagine you had a child and they only talked to you once a year . . . at Christmas, when it's time to give gifts. Is that the type of relationship you want?

2) Change your mindset and don't worry about the size of the gift. I know, that one is a tough thing to sink in. Remember, if a donor does not give the amount you were hoping for, that's not THEIR responsibility. It's YOUR responsibility to then find more funding somewhere else. Be grateful for what you were given and treat that donor as such. Whether someone gives you $1 or $1M . . . treat them special. Any size donor deserves a hello from you at a restaurant, not just the large gift donors.

3) Which connects well with this final tip. Be sincere in all that you do. Don't be fake to the larger sized donors and forget the existence of your donors who make smaller gifts. You might get away with it at first but eventually it gets noticed. If you treat ALL your donors like friends, no matter the size of gift, in a SINCERE and HONEST way . . . then that's all you can ask for. If donors knew you based your kindness and friendship to them, on the size of the gift they gave . . . then all that does is make people feel less human, and more like an ATM, and you can say goodbye to your funding from them. If you want your relationships to be transformational and meaningful and not just transactional, then spend more time on that third side of the triangle. If you want to make your donors feel worthless, then ignore that third side (said in jest of course).

For those who need assistance connecting with donors or would like coaching with annual giving programs/planned giving, contact Midwest Studies Group today.


To learn more about strategic and fundraising plans, feasibility studies, planned giving studies, need assessment studies, and capital campaigns, visit us at

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