10 Top Strategies to Grab Your Nonprofit’s Mid-level Fundraising Opportunity
Are you making the mistake of focusing all of your energy on donor acquisition and major gift fundraising, largely ignoring the fertile middle of your database? This is a big missed opportunity. There’s gold in the mid-level hills, but you won’t find it unless you go digging.
Who Are Mid-level Donors?
So, who are mid-level donors? Here are a few generalizations about this donor cohort.
They Give More Than Average and Less Than Major Donors for Your Organization
What qualifies as mid-level in one organization may qualify as major at another. The amount doesn’t matter as much as how you think about these supporters.
Try to think from the donor perspective. Maybe they give $500, and it’s the largest gift they’ve ever given anywhere. They feel someone should notice. Yet, since this is well below your major gift threshold, you treat them the same way you treat a $25 or $100 donor.
Generally, They’re Loyal
They’ve been giving year after year and/or more than once annually. Often, folks approach mid-level after having given a number of times. They’ve liked what they’ve seen about what you do and how you do things, so they’re ready to be more actively engaged. They’re just waiting for you to notice them.
They Have a High Return on Investment (ROI)
If they come in as a first-time donor at a mid-range, this is especially promising. But if you treat them as if they’d given you $10, you’ll lose more than 80% of them. Treat them right, or they’re out of sight.
Ultimately, your goal is to get an even higher ROI. And if you invest more, you’ll retain and upgrade more donors. In fact, once you’ve renewed a donor once, the likelihood of renewing them again skyrockets. The most recent Fundraising Effectiveness Project numbers show 9% of donors in the first quarter of 2023 had been renewed for the first time, whereas 52% had been renewed for two or more consecutive years.
They’ve Given at an Above-Average Level Without Much Cultivation
They’ve demonstrated interest in what you do. They’ve shown capacity to give at a level above your average gift. Essentially, they’ve qualified themselves to be treated with some extra tender loving care.
Your job is to pay attention. Build a bridge between mid-level gifts that come in via direct response (mail, email or website) and future gifts that will be made via personal email, text, phone or face-to-face. The more personally you communicate and solicit the gift, the larger it is likely to be.
Be a philanthropy facilitator so they can engage more meaningfully and passionately. I often tell development staff, “You’re in the happiness delivery business.” Alas, stuck in the middle, these donors often don’t get the joyful attention they deserve.
What You Should and Should Not Do With Mid-Level Donors
Now that you know who mid-level donors are, here are 10 strategies to carve out this donor cohort and cultivate them properly.
1. Decide What Constitutes a Mid-level Donor for Your Organization
Begin with your average cumulative annual gift. Use the past 24 months as a guideline. Generally, donors above this average but below your major-gift level can be considered worthy of special communication and cultivation.
2. Pull a Database Report Segmenting Out Your Mid-level Donors
This is how you identify who you want to work with more closely. Add some segments, depending on your average gift and number of donors. I happen to believe anyone who makes a first-time gift of $250 or more is a diamond in the rough just waiting to be polished. For your organization, this level might start at $100, $500 or something else entirely. You can have a portfolio that includes mid-level ongoing donors and mid-level first-time donors.
What’s manageable? Large organizations, like universities and hospitals with dedicated mid-level donor officers, will generally have portfolios of around 600 donors (compared with 150 donors for major gift officers who do the lion’s share of their cultivation face-to-face). Adjust according to the time you have.
3. Assign a Dedicated Donor-Centric Staff Person
Ideally, you need someone with a title of “Donor Relations Manager” or “Donor Experience Manager.” This job is all about donor service and support. It simply won’t happen if you don’t put someone in charge.
4. Learn as Much as Possible About Your Mid-level Donors
People are constantly giving you useful information, even when you don’t ask. Use it! Begin with clues in your database:
- Recency and frequency of giving.
- Purpose of gift.
- Soft credits matching employers.
- Donor-advised funds (Clue: They’ll be a donor for many years. Folks don’t set them up unless they intend to use them).
- Events attended.
- Volunteer history.
- Other affiliations (e.g., client, parent, patient, subscriber, member).
- Other engagement (website visits, emails opened, e-news click-throughs, social shares, etc.)
5. Develop a List of Possible Touch-Point Outreach Strategies.
First, brainstorm standard moves to incorporate into mid-level donor prospect relationship-building plans. Then consider more tailored (higher touch) for the most promising folks in your mid-level portfolio.
6. Don’t Remove Mid-Level Donors From Your Regular Mailing Lists
Unless people ask you to remove them from your mailings, don’t. In your quest to treat them extra special, avoid the risk of delaying your communications or even ignoring them completely. Otherwise, you’re apt to disappoint donors used to receiving these communications.
7. Don’t Try To Do Too Many Other Things
It takes time to effectively work a caseload. If you can’t dedicate a staff person 100% to this job, be clear what percent of their time should be spent on this. Clearly state their responsibilities regarding mid-level-donor relationships in their job description. Adjust their workload accordingly. And hold them accountable in their work evaluations.
8. Don’t Assign Someone Who Doesn’t Enjoy Talking to Donors
People who succeed in this work enjoy building donor relationships. They like talking on the phone and getting out of the office. They also don’t mind, ultimately, handing these folks off to major gift officers when the time is right.
9. Don’t Fail to Identify Key Metrics to Determine Success
A mid-level donor program will pay off, but you have to be patient. Give yourself 18 months to see if it’s having a real impact and set goals that you can measure. For example, the number of donors talked to and emailed personally, as well as who renewed, increased their gift and transitioned to major-gift level.
10. Track Your Most Effective Strategies
Pay attention to the touches that seem to work the best. Is it phone calls? Small events? Shared videos? Personalized emails? Creative thank yous? Whenever you execute a touch, enter this into your database so you can pull a report and track results. Otherwise, you’re throwing spaghetti at the wall and not even noticing which pieces stick.
A thoughtful mid-level program will overflow your major gift pipeline with viable prospects. Just a small lift in performance among them can yield significant increases in revenue. And even if these folks don’t ultimately transition to your major-gift level, you’ll still have made them feel happier about their engagement with you.
And they’ll likely say nice things about you to their family, friends and networks. And then — only good things can happen!
The preceding blog was provided by an individual unaffiliated with NonProfit PRO. The views expressed within do not directly reflect the thoughts or opinions of NonProfit PRO.
Related story: Tips for Retaining and Upgrading Mid-Level Donors
If you like craft fairs, baseball games, art openings, vocal and guitar, and political conversation, you’ll like to hang out with Claire Axelrad. Claire, J.D., CFRE, will inspire you through her philosophy of philanthropy, not fundraising. After a 30-year development career that earned her the AFP “Outstanding Fundraising Professional of the Year” award, Claire left the trenches to begin her coaching/teaching practice, Clairification. Claire is also a featured expert and chief fundraising coach for Bloomerang, She’ll be your guide, so you can be your donor’s guide on their philanthropic journey. A member of the California State Bar and graduate of Princeton University, Claire currently resides in San Francisco.