Refining Your Mid-Level Donor Program

In the focus to raise more money, far too often nonprofit leaders and fundraisers get laser focused on major donors (however they define a “major” gift).  Did you know that a recent study showed that nearly 1/3 of dollars contributed came from mid-level donors?  Mid-level donors are a core part of your supporter base. They’re a loyal and reliable group who bridge the gap between your lower dollar and major donors, and represent an important part of your community who are willing to take on a deep commitment to your mission. In fact, other research shows that their retention rates are higher than everyday donors.

This group is well worth your time – while they are usually a smaller percentage of the usual donor pool, they’re usually responsible for a larger percentage of total revenue. The donation range required to be considered a mid-level donor varies from organization to organization, but can be anywhere from $250 – $1,000, or even higher. This type of donation amount can add up and have a big impact on your fundraising goals. If you don’t already have a mid-level program at your organization, it might be time to think about setting one up. If you don’t already know where to find donors who could be considered good prospects, or need a general refresher on how to make your mid-level program the best it can be, consider these first steps.

Take Stock of Your Donor Audience

First, start by looking at your donors’ giving history to see how gifts to your organization have generally fallen.  Are there higher-level recurring gifts? Are there individuals who have repeatedly given to your organization over the past two, three, or five years? If a donor is gradually increasing their giving over time, this is a good indication that they could be ready to consider that next step with your organization. Doing a deeper analysis of your donor file helps you to uncover trends and opportunities to build on. If you aren’t sure how to do that, reach out to us so we can share how we use data analytics and predictive modeling to inform a mid–major upgrade strategy for our clients.

Can you tell what type of communication they respond best to? Do they only give online, or prefer direct mail? By identifying what motivates each donor to give, you can better engage them and ask for their support in an appropriate and meaningful way. Because of their ongoing commitment to your organization, they probably have a personal connection to your mission, and that’s also important to take into consideration

It’s not easy to create a program that will attract and retain mid-level donors, but once you do, it’s more than worth the effort because of the ongoing support they provide. The better you’re able to engage with your mid-level donors, the greater the opportunity you’ll have to increase future donation amounts. 

Understand the Case for Building a Mid-level Giving Program

Building a mid-level giving strategy involves more than just segmenting based on gift amount. It includes developing a carefully crafted outreach and engagement approach so that donors become inspired to want to increase their giving.  In case you need to make an internal case for building out a giving program strategy, consider these added value:

  • ⮕ Sustainability. Relying too heavily on major donors or grants is risky, and not worth the inconsistency or volatility these funding sources often have. Mid-level donors provide a steady stream of income, and offer the benefit of financial stability while also reducing an organization’s dependency on a small number of large donors.

Donor Pipeline. Mid-level donors are a crucial part of the donor pipeline. Many of those who make up this group have the potential to become major donors over time, so building relationships with these individuals can help identify who may take their commitment to the next level over time. Large-gift donors rarely make their best gift the first time they make a donation to an organization. So, building a ladder for gradual increased support is a nice way to deepen a donor’s relationship to your mission.

Program Impact. These donors bring in a higher total of revenue than most other segments which can have a significant impact on your nonprofit’s programs and initiatives. Their donations can support specific projects that don’t usually get prioritized within funding, leading to tangible outcomes for your organization.

Advocacy and Support. Mid-level donors contribute the amount they do for a reason! They can play a crucial role in advocating for the nonprofits they support within their networks. They can act as ambassadors, and promote your cause to encourage others to get more involved.

Some organizations might wonder if they need a dedicated mid-level donor representative, and the answer is, it usually depends. If your staff has the capacity, it is worth considering. Having someone dedicated to understanding this group and their motivations to give is more likely to lead to even larger donations down the line. A mid-level giving officer manages a portfolio of donors who are giving in whatever your organization defines as a “mid-level” range, and can dedicate their focus on regularly connecting with this segment of donors through meaningful acknowledgement communications, reports of impact, event invitations, more personalized communication that builds relationships.

Engage With Current & Potential Mid-Level Donors

Create an identity.

Your mid-level donors are a community, and they need to feel as such. Developing a brand for this group will help them better connect with your organization. Using specific branding and style elements that are unique to them will help develop a level of identity that they can specifically tie back to your nonprofit.

Offer benefits.

Why should someone choose to engage with you through a mid-level donation amount? Give them a reason to! Designating benefits for just mid-level donors is important to signal to them that their contributions are incredibly valuable to your organization. They can be featured in email appeals, or on your website as a donor spotlight. Maybe you send them some merchandise as a thank you for reaching the mid-level donation amount (which could also end up being some free publicity for you!). If there’s a tour of a facility you can offer, extend an invitation! And, they receive a quarterly newsletter with “exclusive” information of what your organization is helping accomplish.

There are plenty of options for benefits you can offer this group of donors. Donors giving at this level generally are committed to the impact their gift can make and they are really interested in learning how you do your work and what ways donors like them are part of the solution you’re creating.  

Cultivate and steward.

You need to both attract and retain mid-level donors to keep this segment as connected as it can be. Sustainers can be a good place to look, especially if they’ve upgraded over time. Make sure you’re keeping an eye on your file’s giving history to see who is most likely to convert if this type of ask is put in front of them. And for your current mid-level group, they need to be thanked and recognized regularly for their commitment to your cause in order to build a relationship that lasts.

Ask for feedback.

Don’t be afraid to ask mid-level donors to weigh in! This is one of the best ways to show this audience that you care what they think, and you should create a survey that’s just for them. You can send it through the mail or via a website link, and include questions you think your organization could learn the most from – whether it’s what inspires their giving to your nonprofit, what information or programs they want to read about most, events they would be interested in attending, or if there’s a specific type of communication (or frequency) they’d like to see from you.

Track your progress.

If you don’t keep track of the success of the retention of your mid-level donors, you won’t be able to assess the effectiveness of the program. Set goals based on your past trends around the amount raised from this cohort giving range, number of donors in this segment, number of donors who are ready to upgrade to an even higher level, etc.  Having an understanding of what tactics might be working or falling shorts will be beneficial to implementing meaningful and productive solutions within your fundraising strategy.

Mid-level donors are an incredibly important part of your donor ecosystem, and require a specific strategy that will best retain them. They often have a personal connection to your cause, which makes their donations both financially and emotionally valuable. If you want to maximize the benefits of mid-level donors, engage them! Emphasize the unique and vital role they play to your organization, and demonstrate your commitment to building relationships with them through thoughtful and meaningful messages.

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