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Rabbits, deer and elephants and the 80/20 rule

Updated: Oct 27


As a young kid, I went to the Bronx Zoo. I also went to the Queens and Palm Beach Zoos. This blog has nothing to do with real animals - I just like thinking back to the easy days in light of the last 18 months.

When I was in sales I had the opportunity to sit through a number of sales trainings. As I have discussed before, most left me with a lot of excitement that soon faded as no one would ever follow up on the new knowledge.

That was until I was able to secure the budget to set up training for my teams and myself and the other managers with a company called Sandler sales.

It was real, get in the mud and learn how to be a great “asker of questions” type of training for my team and here is what I learned from their training…

1. If you have an “A” or “B” salesperson and you put them in great training it is worth every penny you pay. They get the big picture, they easily integrate information and they soar. Plus, Sandler was not a one time training; instead, it was a series that each time taught something new as well as reinforcing what had been taught. ALL GOOD

2. The salespeople who were struggling did not experience much improvement and were more vested in talking about why the theories taught were wrong.

So, hire well, invest in those who are coachable and find someone to teach and coach them through the new knowledge.

What did I learn from the management training?

1. To ask good questions from myself, my team and our clients

2. When you think you know it all-Think again

3. Hire smart people and coach them to success

4. Depend on the other managers - they are your best sounding board and are usually having the same challenges

Now, back to the animals…

Most of you by now have heard of the 80/20 rule of Fundraising.


About 80% of your donor revenue will come from 20% of those donors. (And in recent years it’s been closer to 90% of revenue coming from 10% of donors).


And as we all know, as many as half can leave every year. Some find another calling, many move, some even pass away.


So you MUST keep adding new donors to your funnel. But what do you focus your time on?

With that in mind I am pleased to introduce (drum roll please)


The Elephant- Large and in charge

The Deer- Elegant and midsized

The Rabbit- Small, cute, and a bit demanding, especially around Easter.


In this case we use the elephant to represent your large donors. They could be individual or corporate, event-driven or a grant. These are the donors that cause dancing and parties when the money comes in and deep depression and angst when they exit.

The deer are your midsize donors - They are large enough to make you happy as heck and if you have a couple of these you can win the race.

The rabbits are small- they come and go and usually require an unbalanced amount of attention for the amount they donate.


One more thing to contemplate…deer have the potential to become elephants and rabbits can become deer…but, there is very rarely a rabbit that becomes an elephant.


So what is the optimal mix?


Some say 100% elephants are the way to go.


Not me…While I really do want elephants in my portfolio of donors, I also want to have deer as I can nurture them and grow them into the most beautiful elephants. Plus, having some deer keeps you alive if you lose an elephant.


I want to allow my teams to have a few rabbits they see potential in but not so many they have no time to hunt the bigger game.


Teach your team how to create a roadmap that includes all three types of donors and watch them soar!


So, when I went to the zoo, I really liked the meerkats…They were fun and silly and you simply have to smile at them...they are not at all part of this story. Just though you may want to know.




With Thanksgiving so close, I want to add that I am so thankful for all of you who read our blogs.

We are nonprofit consultants who simply LOVE what we do and look forward to working with many of you in 2022.



Contact Team Kat & Mouse (and Meerkat??)



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