Five Key Strategies to Developing a Mid-Level Donor Program
Looking to improve retention and increase revenue per donor? Is your support base split between small donors and major donors, with a big gap in between? Maybe it’s time to give a serious look at developing a mid-level program.
A few steps above basic membership and a few steps below major giving, a mid-level program should be seen as a bridge between the two, as well as a terrific source of member retention, revenue growth and upgrade potential.
A mid-level program can mean different things to different organizations. For some, mid-level donors are those giving $1,000 or more. For others, it’s $250 or $500. Whatever the level, it’s important to realize that these individuals demonstrate a greater affinity to your organization and donate for different reasons than basic members, and they can thrive under a more personalized and communicative recognition strategy.
Identifying key prospects to invite to join your mid-level program consists of some careful segmentation. You want to identify donors by their length of time on your file, their propensity to upgrade and give additional gifts, and their loyalty and attachment to your organization. Critical information to take into account includes donor enthusiasm, level of commitment to and involvement with your organization, and ability to support you at a higher giving level.
Loyal donors at this level tend to be among the most valuable on an organization’s file. While representing only 5 percent to 10 percent of an the donor file, the mid-level file can represent 40 percent to 50 percent of the total revenue.
To manage a successful mid-level program, a nonprofit must leverage best direct-marketing practices with major-gift components. It’s best to approach a mid-level program as an enhanced form of direct marketing. A primary goal is to raise revenue, but an equally important objective is to cultivate and nurture a strong bond and relationship.
Following are some strategies to create communications that help cultivate relationships with prospective mid-level donors.
1) As with all direct marketing, mid-level solicitations should be donor-centered, not organization-centered. Copy should be thoughtful and gracious, demonstrating appreciation for the donor’s level of commitment. Every communication, whether it is a solicitation, an acknowledgement, a cultivation effort or anything else, should thank the donor for her support and reflect that she has a direct, active relationship with your organization.
2) A mid-level communication should provide “insider” information and insight into the organization. Correspondences also also provide results and information on how well the nonprofit is meeting its mission and goals.
3) Donor involvement and interaction should be incorporated into communications. The nonprofit should listen to and heed donor preferences through surveys, questionnaires and other feedback devices.
4) This increased use of personal, warm and conversational copy should be incorporated into packages that are unique and compelling. The use of direct-mail methods such as closed-face envelopes, First Class stamps, distinctive fonts and script styles, and other major-giving techniques should be integrated into the program.
5) Receiving a gift from a mid-level donor does not end the communication. Prompt and personal acknowledgements, recognition and follow-through are essential.
What can you hope to expect from a strong mid-level program? You can expect to see an increase in revenue and an improvement in overall retention from these donors and, as a result, from the overall file. You can expect to see the retention of the mid-level file to be better than the retention of your lower-level file, but not as strong as your major donors. And you can expect to have a strong and stable core group of loyal donors for years to come.
George Whelan is vice president of marketing and strategic development for White Plains, N.Y.-based full-service direct response marketing and advertising agency Carl Bloom Associates. He can be reached via www.carlbloom.com.