Recently, Erik Rogers, D+C Chief Strategist for Donor Advancement joined Trent on the Cause+Effect podcast to unpack the importance of developing a mid-level donor program. We hope his insight inspires and equips you in developing fresh giving strategies.
Since the close of 2021, many new factors are affecting the giving environment for nonprofits and ministries alike. Inflation is running hot, gas prices are sky high, and we have a scared stock market… not to mention we are coming out of a major pandemic.
It seems as though it’s becoming harder and harder to raise a dollar.
How people prioritize giving in this current environment has a serious impact on your organization. More than ever, you have to be on point with your strategies and can’t afford to let off on the accelerator when it comes to cultivating and acquiring new donors.
So as you look for opportunities to improve the health of your donor file, be sure to consider the development of a mid-level donor program.
What is a mid-level donor?
When we think of giving, we typically think of two categories. The first bucket is the major donor (those giving large gifts) and the other one is the general donor. But we often miss what lies in the middle.
A middle band of donors exists that, if cultivated properly, doesn’t necessarily behave like a general donor file, yet they aren’t going to be your six- and seven-figure donors on an annual basis.
And they are critical to a healthy donor file.
In the faith-based space and from a financial perspective, the majority of organizations would classify a mid-level donor as one who gives $1000 – $5,000 gifts. Of course, these numbers fluctuate based on the size of your organization and the revenue you generate.
But think of it this way: Mid-level donors give a gift that causes you to raise an eyebrow. It was more than you were expecting.
In many organizations, mid-level is simply seen as the prospect pool for major donors. We may have major donors sitting in the middle of our file, not giving to their potential. And most of the time, it’s simply because we haven’t inspired them. We haven’t given clear communication, provided adequate information, or shared a clear point of contact.
And it’s here that we find an opportunity to take this person from being a donor to an investor.
Why should I implement a mid-level donor program?
Think about this in light of a prospect pool. Year after a year, we see about one out of every 25 people leveled up as a new emerging major donor. The average age is a bit younger and they are sold out for your organization. They are likely investing at what they would deem as a major gift level, but they just don’t have the capacity yet so they’re living in this mid-level space.
If you simply share with these donors a few specific details about your organization and treat them slightly different, it can make all the difference.
Because major donors are important and building a broad base of support is great… but mid-level donors are the game changers.
They’re the ones that provide a consistent, predictable, healthy stream of revenue over time. They are engaged and they are advocates for your organization.
When and how should I launch a mid-level donor program?
First, access your current file. If you have between 500 -1000 donors in this category, it may be time to dedicate someone fulltime to this job in order to cultivate these relationships. Next, subscribe to a wealth screening service. There are many vendors who can help with this.
Out of the donors you want to cultivate, they will help you understand how many meet a certain criteria that would deem capacity for growth. This will leave you with a bucket of donors that you now can dedicate someone to either fulltime or part-time.
What you don’t want to do is spend a lot of time cultivating a relationship with someone who gave you a gift but really isn’t interested. They’re not necessarily philanthropic or generous, or even invested in your organization long-term.
Next, get personal! Interacting with your donors will tell you all you need to know. Make sure your donor is cared for and that they are the priority in the relationship, not your organization. Serve them well and help them meet their desired outcomes through your ministry.
The goal is for your donors to feel like they are part of the mission and vision of what the organization is set to accomplish, not simply a glorified ATM machine.
Finally, inspire these donors through very transparent communication to step up and be a part of your mission at a greater level.
What happens if you go out of your way to show appreciation to your donors and their past history of giving, if you present them with ways to invest in the future of your organization and then turn back around and give the impact of their giving?
You take your program from average to excellent… in no time.
For more giving strategies and donor development insight, listen to the Cause+Effect podcast episode, Developing Mid-Level Donors with Erik Rogers.