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What Winnie The Pooh Can Teach Us About Nonprofit Donor Personas

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The wonderful thing about donors is that donors are wonderful things! The difficult thing, however, is that donors are not all the same. In the Hundred Acre Wood of donors, your nonprofit will engage donors who are like Christopher Robin, Piglet, Eeyore, Tigger, Rabbit, Owl, and Kanga and Roo (by the way, you’re Winnie-the-Pooh). The best way to ensure you have a fulfilling long-term relationship with your donors is to treat them like their characters. Here’s what Winnie The Pooh can teach us about nonprofit donor personas.

Christopher Robin: The Engager

You pretty much never need to worry about this amazing donor. Christopher Robin is engaging, compassionate, and helpful. If you don’t seek him out, he’ll contact you. If you contact him, he’ll be more than willing to do whatever he can. In addition, your other donors look up to him. You can rely on Christopher Robin, and you should always be encouraging him to be involved in your activities. If you do, you’ll both end up better off.

You should look to put your Christopher Robins in all the areas of your organization. You’ll find him easily fitting in with all your other donors, and his influence amplifies their positive qualities.

Piglet: The Helper

You adore this donor, and he’s one of your best.  Piglet is loyal and helpful, but he’s usually reluctant to put himself out there in the spotlight.  You can certainly look to Piglet to help accomplish tasks, and his obsession with cleaning means you can expect he’ll be good for taking care of a lot of the administrative functions associated with your organization.

Unlike Christopher Robin, Piglet won’t enthusiastically volunteer for everything.  And even though Piglet is respected by your other donors, don’t expect him to actively seek leadership roles.  Piglet is the kind of donor that can accomplish big things, but you’ll need to take an active role in encouraging him. As long as you push him gently, Piglet will not let you down.

Eeyore: The Introspective

Eeyore can be your most frustrating donor. You are glad to have this donor, but he’s sometimes frustratingly apathetic. Though he is capable of amazing levels of compassion, you constantly feel as though he’s resisting your every effort to engage him. He will eventually (and seemingly reluctantly) give, volunteer, or otherwise support your efforts if you persist.

The key to getting the best relationship with Eeyore is to keep engaging him. The most frustrating part about Eeyore isn’t that he doesn’t care, it’s that he does care, you know he cares, but he won’t act until he’s pushed.


nonprofit donor personas

Tigger: The (Over) Eager

You have this donor’s attention for a moment, and then his attention is elsewhere. Given his rather chaotic nature, you constantly have to be watching over this donor. He’ll enthusiastically approach a task, but he’ll tend to either underestimate the work involved or overestimate his ability to accomplish it.

Engage Tigger in a couple ways. First, he’s competitive, so challenge him to goal-related tasks. Second, while he’s well-intentioned, maintain oversight in such a way that you can ensure he isn’t up to too much mischief. This donor will require your attention, but his enthusiasm can be influential in motivating your Eeyores to action.

Rabbit: The Leader

Rabbit cares deeply about the success of your organization, and tends to be no-nonsense and focused (sometimes to a fault). These donors will be engaged in your various activities, and you’ll often find them delegating tasks, giving orders, and keeping your other donors “in line.” It is important to Rabbit that things be organized, practical, and predictable. Your biggest concern with Rabbit isn’t reliability, it’s that he may be too serious at times.

Your Rabbits and Tiggers can butt heads, because they are rather opposite in nature. It’s helpful to put Rabbit in a leadership role where he isn’t likely to encounter many surprises, and trust that he’ll get the work done. If you can get Rabbit in this role, it should free up some of your time to focus on watching your Tiggers and engaging your Eeyores.

Owl: The Mentor

All organizations benefit from having a wise, storytelling mentor. While you probably won’t be able to get much work out of him, and you’ll get less work out of others, he’s great for creating nostalgia and awe in the organization. These donors seem to have become just as much a part of the organization as the organization itself.

You just need to let these donors roam free (within reason). Owl can be scatterbrained at times, so you’ll need to keep reaching out to him for donations or to remind him of a commitment he may have made. In the end, your Owls are more an influence on you than vice versa, but that can be a great thing for your organization.

Kannga and Roo: The Mother and Child

It is important to remember this duo. Kanga is an important part of your organization. She is the kind, patient, and motherly donor who seems almost more interested in the well-being of the others in your organization than the cause itself. Kanga may bring in Roo to help at various times, and you find that Roo gravitates toward Tigger. He may be young, but he’s happy and full of youthful energy that can be infectious.

Keep Kanga involved by focusing her attention within the organization. Also, keep in mind that Roo represents your organization’s future.  Find ways to appeal to his interests, and make sure he knows he’s considered important. Roo will grow up, and if you’re lucky, he’ll turn out like Christopher Robin.

Remember: not all donors are created equal. Understanding donor personas and engaging with them in the proper way, through the proper channels, is the key to fundraising success!

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  • Lindy

    This is an excellent article. Very few other articles (and I have recently read over 500) segment the donor typologies in pragmatic terms. Love this and will be sharing with Development professionals I advise (pro bono)
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