Eek! It’s almost scary how fast year-end is coming…
With fundraising fortune tellers (i.e. 2019 giving reports from respected sources) foreshadowing potential bad news for December again this year, there’s a sometimes-overlooked group of donors who may come to your rescue.
I’m talking about mid-level donors – those folks who give generously and are some of your most valuable partners, but maybe there are just too many of them for you to meet with for a face to face meeting.
Most organizations define a midlevel donor as someone who’s made a gift between $1,000 and $4,999. Others may dip to $500+ if the donor count isn’t overwhelming, while many larger organizations consider a donor to be in the middle range if they’ve made a gift of up to $9,999. The definition doesn’t matter as much how you cultivate and steward these important relationships once you’ve identified them.
So how can midlevel donors help you narrow the gap between budget and reality before the end of the year?
Step 1 – If you don’t already have a midlevel donor group established, select anyone who’s given at your determined level last year and/or this year.
Step 2 – Make an ask! Pull them out of your regular holiday direct mail or phone campaign and create something really special, just for them. We recommend a proposal packet that has a cover letter, a brief one-page proposal with a specific ask, and a full-page donation form. Print it on your letterhead and mail it flat in a 9×12 envelope to make sure it gets seen and opened.
*Important: Make sure the proposal gives the donor an opportunity to help someone in their community, not just help your organization. Tell a real story that illustrates the need for your mission and connect the donor to the end result. Take out the middleman as much as possible (hint: you’re the middleman).
Step 3 – Follow up. After you send your proposal, follow it with a reminder letter, a phone call, an email or all of the above! Depending on your level of staff ability and how large your midlevel donor group is, the more personal follow-up you can pull off, the better. People give to people.
Step 4 – Say thank you. You know what happens when you thank your donors? They give again when you ask! There are so many ways to show your donors some love but start with an acknowledgement letter in the mail within 48 hours of receiving the gift. Then don’t stop saying thank you whenever you get the chance.
Make the Most of Your Midlevel Campaign with These 3 Tips:
Tip 1 – There has to be a reason to ask…you have to answer for the donor “why me, why now?” A great way to make that case is by utilizing a matching gift challenge if at all possible.
As an example, we sent a proposal mailing to midlevel donors on behalf of a client the first year we worked together that included a match. The next year, the client didn’t have a match, so the proposal went out with a traditional holiday ask. The difference in income and response were almost mind-blowing. The proposal with the match raised 88% more than the one without the match and had a response rate 8.5 percentage points higher. Average gift was 10.5% higher, too.
Tip 2 – Don’t try to upgrade unless you can meet with the donor and have a conversation. We’ve observed that a donor is typically able to give 10 times the amount of their single largest gift to the annual fund. There may be a few exceptions based on the donor’s giving history, but in general, don’t request a $5,000 gift from a $1,000 donor through the mail. The goal here is to retain donors at their already- self-identified level and not let them lapse! Once you have the capacity for a face to face relationship, then you can move toward a significant upgrade.
Tip 3 – Exception to Tip 2. If you have demographic data on your donors and you can identify people who have high income as well as high net worth (something like $200k annual income and $1mm net worth), but have only giving in amounts between $100 and $999, go ahead and send them a proposal because you know they likely have capacity to do more. Ask them for “a gift of at least $500” to start. If they’ve already given a gift larger than that, ask them for $1,000.
I know you’ve got tips and tricks flying at you from every direction at this time of year, especially in the current fundraising climate. But if you focus your energy on where you’ll get the best return, you’ll have a better shot at meeting your goals. Midlevel donor campaigns can’t be ignored when it comes to making a big impact for a relatively small investment.
Have more questions? Brad Cecil & Associates has a wealth of experience with midlevel donor programs. Reach out to us at through our contact form.