How Are You Treating Your ‘C’ List Donors?
A few years ago the comedienne, Kathy Griffin, had a reality show called “My Life On the D List.” Essentially, she made fun of herself as a non-“A” list celebrity and the lack of respect those celebrities get from the public. It was a funny show, but there were many cringe-worthy scenes of how badly other people treated her at times.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the C-level donors on your portfolio lately. Why? Well, I was reviewing a mid-level program the other day and tracking all the donors that have moved from mid-level to major-gift portfolios… It was quite impressive. It was exactly what the director of major gifts was hoping for. “We need more major donors in our portfolio” is what we all heard. And, quite frankly, we delivered.
However (digging a bit deeper), I noticed something disturbing about the donors who moved into these portfolios… Nothing was happening!
Nope, they were just sitting in a major-gift officer’s portfolio without any contact from the MGO. And this is what I feared would happen once you take an active mid-level donor who is getting attention from a mid-level rep and move them to a major-gift portfolio.
So, essentially the MGO was technically getting “credit” for any gifts the now C-level donor was giving, yet they were not doing anything to influence any of that giving. Worse yet, many of those donors who I was tracking stopped making gifts altogether.
And this phenomenon is not just relegated to donors moving up from mid-level programs. I see many portfolios where the C-level donor is considered an afterthought.
Richard and I understand how this can happen. I mean, even the Veritus Group will tell you to spend 50 percent of your time on your A-level donors after you have tiered your whole portfolio A to C. This is the group that has the most return on your investment. Yet, that means you still have the other half of your time with B and C donors.
I think you may be forgetting that part. I hope not, but from what I’m witnessing in the field, it sure seems like MGOs are not cultivating those lower-level major donors enough.
I’m not writing this to shame you. No, I’m just providing a “gut-check” to see if you’ve really been trying to understand the passion and interests of your lower-level or C-level major gift donors. If you think about it, many of these donors will be your A-level donors, and even a few of them will be able to make substantial gifts in a few years.
In fact, instead of worrying about how to reach the “rich, young entrepreneur” in town, if you spent a little more time with your own portfolio, really getting to know who your donors are, you would find more “gold” that you realize.
Here are some ideas on how to re-engage with your lower-level or C-level major donors:
1. Reach out. Make it a point to call two to three of your C-level donors a week to thank them and find out why they give to your organization. This will lead to setting up at least one face-to-face meeting per week with a lower-level major donor.
2. Donor meetings. If you are scheduling some donor trips in a particular area, find one or two “anchor” donors (A-level donors who you have been cultivating) and find a number of lower-level major donors in your portfolio to fill up the rest of your trip calendar. This gives you a good reason to say you’d like to meet with the donor since you will be in their area.
3. Constant research. As I said before, you may not realize how good your C-level donors really are. By researching these donors, you will find that many of them have much more capacity then you realize. In fact, I know you will because I’ve seen this happen all the time. The key is to actually carve out the time for these donors.
4. Welcome donors. We always recommend that any new donor who comes on your portfolio—whether they are proactively coming on from your mid-level program or not—should have a series of “welcome touches,” which shows the donor they are now receiving more attention and service. I’m worried that donors are being put into your portfolio and nothing is being done with them, like the example I mentioned earlier.
Remember, these lower-level major donors are your future A-level donors and some of them will make transformational gifts. While you can’t spend as much time on these donors as higher, net revenue-producing donors, the quality of service and cultivation you put in can make a huge difference to that donor.
Let all your donors feel the love. They will love you back.
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.