Fundraising theory used to suggest that our job was to move donors up the giving pyramid from first gift, to major gifts, to the ultimate legacy gift. In a 2011 article, Sarah Clifton noted: “The problem with the pyramid is that it is only useful to show one metric – donor financial value. But it doesn’t tell the larger story of engagement – how a donor interacts with and builds a relationship with an organisation (sic) over time: the lifecycle.”
Deborah Kaplan Polivy, Ph.D has taken Sarah’s work to new levels with her two books, Donor Cultivation and the Donor Lifecycle Map: A New Framework for Fundraising and The Donor Lifecycle Map: A Model for Fundraising Success in which she explains in detail how to work with donors throughout the lifecycle in which they will move from first gift, to second gift, multiple annual sustaining gifts, to major or stretch gifts, and ultimately a legacy commitment. Throughout the process, the donor will be repeating different parts of the cycle as they make more annual gifts and major gifts.
I highly recommend both books and Dr. Polivy as a speaker/trainer.