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The Great Debate- Funnel Vs Pipeline

Updated: Jul 2

If you read my blogs, you often hear me talk about my roots in sales, particularly about my thoughts, feelings, and downright passion for new business development.

This blog is about that, with the exception being this is all about fundraising and new DONOR development.

We are going to talk about techniques, measurement, and all that…but, first a word on some of the soft issues involved.

  • If a new prospect does not answer your email, phone call, or other communication DO NOT TAKE IT PERSONALLY. Maybe you can improve your messaging, voicemail, or other skills; however, for the most part, these folks do not know you or your mission, so how the heck can you take it personally?

  • Avoid stress by putting a specific time in your calendar for doing outreach to new folks AND following up with those who you met recently or reached out to in the last week or so. This way you know you are adding new prospective donors every week and you are not looking for time to do that as you have already carved it out. I suggest you do this in the morning.

  • Most people will never call you back. Keep trying to reach out but mix up the way you reach out. Voicemail, email, snail mail, etc.

  • Make sure your messaging includes how they can make a difference with their donation: i.e., “Help 5 kids get a nutritious meal during summer break”

  • This includes corporate dollars. Employee engagement, underwriting sponsoring - How do they want to make a difference?

  • If possible, make your message time-sensitive and share when you will try to reach out again.

And remember, Folks say NO for many reasons-   It may be a NO forever or it may be a NO for now. Take a NO well and leave the door open.

OK - On to the measuring part.

Closing Ratio in Fundraising

After so many years of looking for new friends, I have discovered that if you pay attention, you can discover your closing ratio. I wrote an entire blog about this back in 2021, and I still stand by every word. If you measure your activity and see how much moves forward and for how much, you get to understand how many calls you need to make to hit your goal.

The Great Debate- Funnel vs. Pipeline

Great Debate

In theory, a pipeline is to measure process. 

How a particular Donor (new or existing) is moving forward in their path to donation. 

Your pipeline will measure the stages of the Donor Journey and let management know how much money is in each part of the funnel overall.

In theory, a funnel measures quantity and conversion as well as effectiveness. In other words, how you as a fundraiser can turn a suspect into a prospect 🙂

With that said very few people use these terms as they are meant to be used. In fact, many find them to be interchangeable.

The key to both is you are measuring (as my old Boss said - What get measured gets improved).


So, my message today is whatever you decide to call your tool make sure it helps you:

  • Measure how many donors you are presently moving through the donor journey.

  • Be sure, based on your closing ratio, that enough potential donations/donors are going through the top knowing only some will come out the bottom.

  • Discover how you are doing when it comes to conversion.

  • And MORE!!

So this may seem like a lot. If you need help discovering how to best use your pipeline/funnel, Team Kat & Mouse is here to help!

Reach out today!

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