Mid-Level Donors: Get ’em, Grow ’em, Keep ’em
Do you need help developing long-term relationships with your mid-level donors? Do you want to launch some special mailings and tailored communications for these high-level donors but don’t know where to begin? Or is your current mid-level program in dire need of some fresh ideas?
Several organizations have made a big impact on the bottom line by attracting donors to the mid-level and by maintaining long-term, fruitful relationships with them, L.W. Robbins Associates President Lynn Edmonds said at Blackbaud’s 2008 Conference for Nonprofits held last month in South Carolina.
Bryan Terpstra, vice president of client services at Robbins, added that, “A big focus is on the creative approach used to attract the mid-level donors and how this differs from the approach used for other segments of the donor file.”
Terpstra presented a variety of strategic and creative executions that fundraisers should apply to their specific fundraising programs.
The speakers agreed there are several reasons why nonprofits should invest time, resources and money into mid-level giving programs, including:
* It helps generate significantly more gross and net revenue for mail programs.
* It allows an organization to pinpoint and effectively communicate to its best donors.
* It develops a pool of individuals that can be counted on for extraordinary expenses or projects and for special appeals.
They also offered these seven essential steps for growing a mid-level donor club:
1. Create a distinctive name and brand.
The name should be unique and meaningful. Terpstra said a good rule of thumb is to tie in the organization’s mission. “Create a logo treatment as a visual cue to boost awareness, recruitment and retention in all fundraising efforts,” Edmonds added.
2. Determine the giving levels of your program.
Giving clubs can serve as bridges between renewal programs and major giving. “It’s crucial to make donors feel like they’re part of a special group and appreciated within their level,” Terpstra said. “But also encourage them to aspire to higher giving levels by showing additional benefits.”
3. Create benefits for joining the society.
The benefits can be a combination of tangibles and intangibles. Tangible benefits include certificates, decals, lapel pins and medallions, while intangibles can be recognition in an annual report or other publication, a society-member page on your Web site, or invitations to special events.
“The benefits should be personal and tied to specific levels of commitment to drive larger gifts,” Edmonds said.
4. Develop an invitation series.
Promote the program to existing donors via an annual invitation series. Ideally, use a three-step invitation campaign including an original invitation and two follow-up appeals. Terpstra said the best targets are higher-value donors that have not reached major-giving status.
“Timing is also important,” Edmonds added. “You should mail first then follow up no later than three weeks after the original mailing.”
The invitation should emphasize the importance of the donor’s support and show how her generous gift is directly helping people in need. Donors today want to know that their gifts have real impact.
5. Send a special acknowledgement to mid-level club members.
Thank donors promptly! Send out acknowledgements within one week of gift receipt. Make personal phone calls to welcome donors to the club. Gently remind donors of the next level of commitment in the club and emphasize again the real impact of their gifts.
6. Promote the giving club throughout your fundraising programs.
Include a giving-society insert in select renewal campaigns and acknowledgements to selected renewing donors. Edmonds also suggested creating a giving-society Web page — include the URL for this page on all giving-society renewal efforts and link to it from the homepage.
“Remember to promote the giving levels in your newsletters,” Terpstra added.
7. Maintain and grow your program.
Continue to reach out to prospects that are in your regular renewal program. Cultivate existing club members through an ongoing, long-term communications plan to keep them engaged and encourage increased giving. Invite previous members to rejoin the club. And tailor your communications to this key audience of mid-level donors to maximize response and retention.
Ashley Shockley is an event marketer at Blackbaud.