10 Success Factors of Mid-Level Giving, Moves Management
FACT: Mid-level giving programs—everyone agrees they are important.
FACT: Mid-level giving programs—everyone does them differently.
FACT: Mid-level giving programs—there are many, many moving parts to good strategies.
FACT: Mid-level giving programs—if you don’t have one at your organization, you really are leaving significant money on the table.
In 2015, several nonprofit direct-marketing leaders got together and talked about the lack of benchmarking and collaboration relative to “mid-level giving programs.” And, one of the reasons we have a lack of benchmarking focus is that there are just so many different ways organizations think through, track and even set goals for mid-level giving. So, this small group kept talking, and before they knew it, there was a meeting of the following 16 organizations that all wanted to talk through their mid-level programs, share challenges and successes, and learn from each other:
- American Diabetes Association
- Arbor Day Foundation
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
- Catholic Relief Services
- Compassion International
- Mercy Corps
- The Nature Conservancy
- Oxfam America
- Partners In Health
- Project HOPE
- Save the Children
- Sierra Club
- The Humane Society of the United States
- World Wildlife Fund
In October 2015, some amazing collaboration happened. The organizations above came together. It is highly likely that I mentioned this in a prior blog post, but what happened last week at the DMA Nonprofit Federation conference in Washington, D.C. is that six of these organizations volunteered to spend three hours with conference attendees around this topic. Similar to the large summit in October, I had the privilege of facilitating this session. There were an estimated 750 attendees at the two-day conference and nearly 200 of them were in our three-hour session. That told us that the topic of mid-level giving is really important and something that we need more of across our seminars, publications and conferences.
As mentioned above, there is a lot involved with a mid-level giving program. But half of the three-hour session focused on “moves management.” Here are the key takeaways from our discussion. (If you want to view materials from the meeting, email me.)
• Most of the programs defined mid-level giving with a floor of $1,000 and major giving as typically starting at $10,000.
• Each of the six programs reviewed in detail have goals and expectations for movement of donors into major-giving relationships, and the staff that runs the mid-level programs also was responsible for all direct marketing. Not a surprise, but what is a surprise? While this is an integral part of the direct-marketing team’s responsibilities, it has been talked about very little at direct-marketing gatherings. (We’re changing that starting now.)
• There was a mix of mature programs and new programs, along with a mix of programs perceived to be growing or stalled.
• One of the key outcomes of the larger Mid-Level Giving Summit in October of last year was that the “type” of program across the 16 organizations was different, and this was a big topic last week as well. There were three classifications:
- The program really is run like a “senior direct response” program and has many elements similar to the core direct-marketing program for the organization.
- The program really is run like a “junior major giving” program and has many aspects that mirror higher-end communication and personal touches.
- The program is a “hybrid” of the above types. In other words, there are high-touch elements (concierge programs, relationship managers with caseloads, etc.), plus the program leverages versions of the best direct-marketing touches in the mass market/core program.
• Moves management was perceived to be the key focus area that helped a program succeed or struggle. However, none of the 16 organizations actually felt their moves management was working exactly the way they wanted. In going through the areas of success (and challenge), the group agreed that 10 components were critical to successful moves management when it came to moving people from core programs into mid-level programs and upward into major-donor programs. Those are outlined next.
Moves Management Success Factors
If you are looking for a formal definition of moves management—via Wikipedia:
Moves management is a term used primarily with the nonprofit sector in relationship to donor development. It refers to the process by which a prospective donor is moved from cultivation to solicitation. “Moves” are the actions an organization takes to bring in donors, establish relationships and renew contributions. David Dunlop, the Cornell University senior development officer who developed the concept of moves management, described the idea as “changing people’s attitudes so they want to give.”
But the 10 nuts and bolts of moves management, according to this group of 16 organizations, are described below (in no particular order of importance):
- Consistent storytelling: As donors get invited or move from one program to another, there must be consistent messaging that helps them feel connected to the brand they already have gotten to know. If the experience from one program to another is dramatically different, then donors actually can become disconnected and even “miss” some of the prior communication.
- Engagement pathways and donor preferences: Your strategies for inviting/moving donors from one program to another should be well thought out to create a pathway for the donors to maintain the aspects of the prior program for similarity, but continue to build the higher-level relationships. Furthermore, donor preferences become more important the more personal the relationships get—so make sure you have as much flexibility in your communication coding as possible to capture those preferences. If your coding feels more like “get it” versus “don’t get it,” then you definitely need more flexibility.
- Identification of people—targeting: It is simple. Just as you do for your core, large direct-marketing programs, you must have a documented and clear segmentation strategy, which reflects what is “required” for people to move between programs, for your donors. Some of the organizations had what were described as “soft requirements,” yet this became a problem for tracking, evaluation, etc.
- Placement of donors in the right track: Building on No. 3, which is about definitions, your organization needs to have a data-based process for ensuring donors are placed in the right track throughout the year and accurately reflected in the database. (See No. 9, too)
- Program-to-program management: While this may seem like it is similar to No. 3 or No. 4, this is specific to how an organization works across what often are multiple teams to ensure all the donors are being cultivated based on the rules and definitions. Several organizations indicated that a close tie and regular communication with the major-giving staff was a key factor in a successful outcome.
- Enforcement of rules: You can’t be naïve and assume that just because you document something or create definitions about segments and have agreements about what happens when someone reaches a specific threshold that it always happens. This tends to come up around issues like what communication is “allowed/agreed upon” and who gets credit for certain gifts. The goal is to have an environment where “under the table” changes do not occur in the database to change relationship managers or, even worse, start to exclude donors from communication without discussing it across the programs.
- Financial tracking (who gets credit): Yep, it can be a big problem in some organizations. “Credit” toward goals often can become a real challenge if one program “loses” a donor and the other program “gains” a donor—and the associated revenue. One organization easily solved this problem by setting goals around movement for the mid-level program instead of solely around revenue. In other words, it was “great news” if a donor moved to the major-donor program because the mid-level program was charged with moving donors (as opposed to just raising money). The key here is to discuss this and make sure your goals are understood for each of the programs.
- Evaluation of movement: It’s all about the metrics and the reports for this item. First, you have to make sure there are goals (as mentioned above), and then you have to measure the success of your strategies. Evaluating the movement of donors is critical to understanding the value and attribution of other marketing techniques on how donors are upgrading their commitments with your brand.
- Strategy for movement up and down: As mentioned in No. 8, evaluating movement is a critical element, and most of the mature programs had reporting in place to show the upward movement of donors. Well, guess what? There are donors who either become inactive or actually move down. Your organization needs to have both reporting and analytics that monitor this, but you also need to have a strategy. How should donors be treated when they stop behaving like mid-level donors? If they fall out of the criteria for mid-level giving, do they automatically go back into the core-communication stream? Do they fall into a black hole because they were coded for removal from the core program? This is such an important aspect of any moves management approach. One of the organizations indicated it has a quarterly meeting where it literally reviews the donors who are falling out of criteria, and all parties are notified about what is happening with its strategy.
- Upgrading within the program: Last but not least, isn’t it OK if someone is just happy being a mid-level donor? Success should not always be measured by movement from one program to another (i.e., core to mid-level to major donor). Whether it is a donor’s capacity or interest, you may not be able to move them out of a mid-level bracket. But, you can still talk to them about upgrading his or her financial support within a small range of his or her current giving versus asking for larger jumps.
Clearly there is a lot to a mid-level program—and it is not always clear-cut as to a right way or a wrong way. Want more information about the meeting, the materials or being a part of the Mid-Level Giving Summit in 2016? Reach out to me.
Vice President, Strategy & Development
Eleventy Marketing Group
Angie is ridiculously passionate about EVERYTHING she’s involved in — including the future and success of our nonprofit industry.
Angie is a senior exec with 25 years of experience in direct and relationship marketing. She is a C-suite consultant with experience over the years at both nonprofits and agencies. She currently leads strategy and development for marketing intelligence agency Eleventy Marketing Group. Previously she has worked at the innovative startup DonorVoice and as general manager of Merkle’s Nonprofit Group, as well as serving as that firm’s CRM officer charged with driving change within the industry. She also spent more 14 years leading the marketing, fundraising and CRM areas for two nationwide charities, The Arthritis Foundation and the American Cancer Society. Angie is a thought leader in the industry and is frequent speaker at events, and author of articles and whitepapers on the nonprofit industry. She also has received recognition for innovation and influence over the years.