7 Ways to Drive Revenue Growth by Transforming the Mid-Level Donor Experience
During this time of economic uncertainty, many organizations are renewing their focus on higher-value donors to generate revenue and build relationships that will keep them engaged with their mission.
Whether starting a mid-level program or taking an existing program to the next level, there are several successful strategies organizations are using to elevate their current mid-level donor experience to increase donor value and drive stronger retention with their most valuable donors, all while helping to feed their major-donor pipeline.
Defining ‘Mid-Level’ Donors
Organizations tend to define mid-level based on each organization’s unique philanthropic landscape. A typical mid-level program will include donors who give between $1,000 and $10,000, although some organizations classify donors giving higher amounts — even as much as $100,000 — as “mid-level.”
A mid-level donor program strives to create a feeling of a one-to-one donor experience at scale, leveraging the mass-marketing capabilities and support provided by a direct-response fundraising program to reach and cultivate a large group of charitable donors.
Often these programs build on existing campaigns and outreach to create a specific, multichannel track for donors, featuring tailored content and special onboarding strategies to drive stronger retention and upgrade donors to higher giving levels. In addition, mid-level programs help to identify potential individual giving prospects and higher-capacity donors who are ready to be personally stewarded by major gift officers.
Why Mid-Level Donors Matter
While they may be few in number, mid-level donors can contribute significantly to an organization’s annual income. A report by Sea Change Strategies found that across 12 causes, donors who gave between $1,000 and $10,000 represented only 1% of individual donors, but made up 34% of total individual revenue.
Further, mid-level donors are loyal and deeply care about the organization’s work. They are a committed group of donors who are tuned into the mission with a strong, emotional alignment to the cause. They are looking to not only make a monetary contribution but also to be a part of making a difference, which only strengthens their relationships with their chosen causes.
Mid-level donors also tend to have higher household wealth that supports continued giving even during challenging economic times, compared to lower-dollar donors who may pull back on their charitable giving.
All in all, more organizations are recognizing the potential bottom-line impact of engaging these supporters and are investing in and scaling up their mid-level fundraising programs to cultivate this group of donors.
7 Strategies for Mid-Level Fundraising Success
Use these practical insights to elevate your mid-level donor program and inspire donors to upgrade their giving levels and deepen engagement with your cause.
1. Make Them Feel Special
Deliver special high-end touches, including handwritten, thank-you cards and personal phone calls to share gratitude and thanks for donors’ support. Invite donors to in-person and virtual events and exclusive insider experiences that make them feel appreciated and integral to the work their contributions support.
2. Give Personal Attention, at Scale
Incorporate a “concierge” role on the development team, who acts as a bridge between direct marketing and the mid-level program team, using mass-marketing techniques and tools to provide a high-touch feel and support donor cultivation. This role provides donors with additional personalized attention by being an inbound contact for donors’ questions and support.
3. Leverage Donor Data
Develop custom audience propensity modeling to identify prospects and current donors primed to upgrade their giving level. Use giving history to craft unique, upgrade ask strings that establish aspirational giving targets.
4. Share Good News About Donors’ Impact
Send cultivation mailings to share the impact of donors’ giving, such as newsletters, press articles about your organization and key institutional updates.
5. Engage Donors in Different Ways
Expand and diversify not only the channels you use, but also how you communicate with them. Pivoting to incorporate more online fundraising and virtual events has allowed many organizations to engage with more supporters than they might have with mid-level programs only focused on mail.
6. Actively Gather Feedback
Stay attuned to donor behavior and preferences by surveying donors and conducting periodic donor focus groups and stakeholder interviews. Invest time to engage supporters and gather critical insight into how they feel about the organization and what they want to hear.
7. Test It Out
Run a pilot program to find what approaches and tactics work for your organization and your donors, then roll out successful strategies at scale. Incremental changes and phased investment can reap benefits without putting significant revenue at risk.
Cultivating mid-level donors is a critical focus for fundraisers, especially as more organizations have recognized the potential that engaging these supporters can have on the bottom line. Take time to assess your current mid-level donor experience and add market-tested techniques that will improve the giving and engagement of your high-value donors.
Related story: Tips for Retaining and Upgrading Mid-Level Donors
Eve Smith is an experienced fundraiser with more than 20 years of nonprofit direct response marketing expertise. As senior director of client strategy at Merkle, Eve brings extensive knowledge and practice with integrated strategy, omnichannel fundraising and marketing, and program innovation. She specializes in both scaling up already-successful fundraising programs to raise more funds and crafting new programs that leverage peer-to-peer fundraising and social giving to bring in new revenue.
At Merkle, her clients have included major national health charities, international relief and faith-based organizations and animal welfare nonprofits, among others. Before joining Merkle, Eve was lead consultant to national cause-based nonprofits and worked with leading nonprofits and foundations to advance their online marketing and fundraising programs.