Some Keys to Success With Mid-level Giving
St. Vincent Meals on Wheels in Los Angeles is the largest privately funded Meals on Wheels program in the United States, serving more than 3,000 hot meals a day to home bound seniors in Los Angeles County.
In the last 20 years, SVMOW has grown its low-dollar individual-giving program dramatically, starting with just a few hundred donors to more than 50,000 people who regularly contribute to and support the organization.
Over the years, SVMOW has enjoyed increased revenue from its donor base through strong renewal rates, increased frequency and upgraded gifts. However, as the program matured, the organization was faced with the same questions that many organizations confront when trying to build and grow a major-gifts program: how best to identify, cultivate and steward potential major donors. And, for a mid-sized, regional organization, SVMOW couldn’t afford to spend a lot on staff or financial resources on the project.
At Schultz & Williams we worked with SVMOW to take a critical look at the current-donor appeal program. While SVMOW was asking donors to make increased contributions (through variable gift-string testing and manipulation), there were no natural opportunities for donors to make significant increases and no way for the development staff to identify those who had both the capacity and propensity to do more for the organization.
With that knowledge, we created the Circle of Angels program — an annual, mid-level gift program that gave donors an opportunity and a reason to significantly upgrade their support.
Circle of Angels has been incredibly successful. Last year, it solicited 2,000 targeted donors and generated more than $490,000 from 396 donors — an 8 percent response with more than a $1,200 average gift.
Its success can be attributed to several key factors:
* It’s a membership club, not a recognition program. In other words, a donor has to contribute to be identified as a Circle of Angels member. With very few exceptions, every Circle of Angels member (and we do call them members) responds to a COA solicitation and is expected to renew each year.