Do You Need Goals for Mid-Level Donors?
While more and more organizations are realizing the value of a mid-level program, the concept of having mid-level donors, and creating specific strategies and a program for them is still in its infancy.
Let’s start from the beginning on why a mid-level program is necessary. It’s quite simple: to identify donors who want to give at higher levels and challenge them to do more by engaging them in a more one-to-one experience. This means your organization will have more donors retained, giving at higher levels and moving into major gifts at a higher rate than if your organization did not have a mid-level program.
In short, you are unclogging your donor pipeline and creating a clear pathway upward for donors.
Well, fundraisers hear — and they often ask — this: How should you measure the success of your mid-level program? It’s harder than measuring a pure direct response or major gifts program. In direct response, you can tell how well a mailing does within 30 days. And you can tell how well certain groups of donors are performing by doing a donor performance analysis (i.e. new, second-year from new, 2-plus-year, lapsed, etc.). This is very common in our industry.
In major gifts, we can track performance by donors easily. At the most, you are working with 150 major donors. You have a revenue goal for every donor, you know what they did last year, and you can track performance against those two metrics. You can also measure other KPIs like meaningful contacts, how many solicitations, etc.
But mid-level goals and metrics aren’t as clear because these programs have only been around for fewer than 10 years. People are still trying to figure it out. Why do I say this? Because almost every organization that we have seen with a mid-level program is evaluating them using all kinds of different KPIs.
Here’s how I look at it. Break down the strategy into these three categories.
This revolves around donor and donor value retention. In a caseload of 500 to 700 donors, what percentage of donors are giving this year compared to last year, and how much revenue are you retaining year over year from the same donors? So, before you begin your program, figure out what this number is from those donors in a mid-level portfolio. This will give you a baseline.
For example, let’s say your baseline is that you are retaining 40% of donors and 35% of their value. Make a goal to increase donor retention to 60% and 55% of value retention. Remember, the first year you do this, you are making an educated guess based on the information you know. Next year, you will have better information to guide your goal setting.
This is revenue per donor. Revenue per donor is a combination of average gift plus average number of gifts per year (e.g., $1000 multiplied by 2.5 gifts equals $2,500 in revenue per donor). Again, find your own baseline. For this example, you can make a reasonable goal of $1,150 multiplied by 2.75 gifts equals $3,162.50 revenue per donor. But find your base and then, in your first year of the program, make a reasonable goal. Then measure it against that goal so that in year two of the program, you will be more precise.
This is the number of donors moving up from mid-level into major gifts during the year. This may be hard to find as your baseline, but in organizations that do not have mid-level programs, I have seen donors move up into major gifts organically at about 0.02% to 1% of the organization’s mid-range donors. But when organizations have strong mid-level programs with clear goals, I have seen between 2.5% to 3.5% of donors move into major gifts from mid-level. Tracking this number will be key in showing leadership the value of the program.
And, in addition to tracking how many donors move up, also be sure to track subsequent donors’ behavior after they reach your organization’s major gift status. To report back to leadership and show how 20 donors at a value of $50,000 moved into major gifts and, after a year in major gifts, those same donors now had a value of $200,000. This will give your mid-level program added value in the eyes of leadership.
Again, if you’re just starting out, make sure you find your baseline KPIs for the keep, lift and move categories for mid-level goals. Then, set a reasonable goal for each area and measure it to have more precise goals for the following year. While you won’t see the same percentage of growth that you should be achieving in major gifts, you can expect to see continued incremental year-over-year improvement in mid-level. The reason for this is that in mid-level, you’re moving out your best donors into major gifts every year, and you’re always bringing in a new class of donors who are meeting your mid-level metric.
Keep tracking your mid-level performance, and, over time, it will become as easy to track as other areas of fundraising that the nonprofit sector has been tracking for more than 60 years.
Jeff Schreifels is the principal owner of Veritus Group — an agency that partners with nonprofits to create, build and manage mid-level fundraising, major gifts and planned giving programs. In his 32-plus year career, Jeff has worked with hundreds of nonprofits, helping to raise more than $400 million in revenue.