No, Your Direct Mail Campaign Isn’t Relational Mid-level Fundraising
I started my career in the direct response world. There is some incredible work being done through direct mail, and my time in this space really helped to create a strong belief in the importance of data.
But sometimes, the role of direct response can get confused with the role — and approach — of relational fundraising.
Sometimes a nonprofit will tell me something like, “Well, we already have a mid-level program. We send high-touch mailings twice a year to those donors.” Or, “We have someone who calls to thank mid-level donors for their gifts.”
Neither of these strategies are bad or incorrect. In fact, they can be very effective. But they are not a relational approach to your mid-level programs.
When I talk about relational mid-level fundraising, they include these specific elements:
- A dedicated mid-level officer.
- A portfolio of 500 to 700 donors with which the mid-level officer is working.
- A strategic communication plan, based on tiers.
- A strategy and process for moving qualified donors into major gifts.
This sort of approach is a one-to-some relational strategy, in comparison to one-to-many in direct response or one-to-one in major gifts. The goals of this approach are to:
- Keep. Retain the donor.
- Lift. Increase the donors’ giving.
- Move. Move the donor to major gifts and/or planned giving.
To achieve these goals, you must have a focused, dedicated fundraiser, as well as a system and structure that will allow for the management of this size of portfolio. So, let’s break down each of the needed mid-level fundraising program elements.
1. Dedicated Mid-level Officer
This is pretty self-explanatory, but, to effectively build relationships, you need to have focused relationship managers. That means you aren’t adding extra, non-portfolio-related tasks to their job description. (If you’re starting with a hybrid role, then you’ll need to adjust the portfolio size accordingly. And the goal would be to move from a hybrid position into a full-time, dedicated role.)
2. Portfolio of 500 to 700 Donors
First, you need to establish where your mid-level range is. Typically, this range starts right below your major gifts level. For some organizations, that will start at $1,000. For others, mid-level may start at $10,000. Doing an assessment of your file is a helpful way to get clear on your mid-level range and what opportunity you have.
Once you know your organization’s range, you’ll pull a list to identify your pool of donors. You’ll need to make sure you have clean data and understand any suppression codes that may need to be considered. Then, you’ll take the top of that pool for the mid-level caseload. I recommend starting on the smaller size (500 to 600 donors) to start. With mid-level, I consider a donor “qualified” to be on a caseload if they meet the mid-level criteria.
3. Strategic Communications Plan
Your communication with donors will start with an introductory series that will help you identify which donors want to connect and serve as a great beginning for learning the donor’s passions and interests. The introduction series typically takes about eight months, and then you’ll move into regular touch points, personalized by tier. Throughout, you’re listening for indicators that the donor may be interested in a more significant relationship with the organization.
4. Strategy for Moving Donors to Major and/or Planned Gifts
As you listen for those indicators, you’ll identify donors who are ready to be introduced to a major or planned gifts officer. So for a successful relational mid-level program, you’ll want to make sure you have a clear, well-communicated transition and hand-off process. You’ll also want to set some protocols. Do donors wait to move until there’s space on a caseload? How does the mid-level officer introduce the other gift officer? Creating a warm transition is vital as you move the relationship.
If you’ve only been doing high-touch direct response campaigns for your mid-level donors, it’s time to take it to the next level with a relationship fundraising strategy. When you do, you’ll easily cover the cost because you’ll be retaining more donors, raising more money and moving more donors to major gifts.
And that’s the kind of impact you can’t wait any longer to make.
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.
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.