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How To Break The $100 Logjam

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A Way to Cultivate Mid-Value Donors

There’s a strange thing that happens on nearly every donor file I’ve looked at. It could be happening on yours: The $100 Logjam.

It goes like this: We expect a donor file to be like a pyramid, with more donors at the lower end and decreasing numbers as you move up the giving levels. So you have a lot of donors at the up-to-$25 level, somewhat fewer at the $25 to $50 level, and so on.

But on most files, it’s not a smooth, perfectly triangular pyramid. There’s a “bulge” at the $100 level. And a constriction just above it. (There’s also usually a similar bulge and constriction at the $1,000 level.) People are crowding at the $100 level.

Because those bulges were found by fundraising people here in Logging Country (The Pacific Northwest of North America), we started calling them logjams.

Logjams are not good for your file. They limit growth where growth is most important.

We don’t know why donors get “stuck” at $100. For some, it’s no doubt capacity: They don’t have more than that to give. But I think for many donors, it’s a psychological barrier. Giving more than $100 feels different from giving $100 or less.

Here’s the good news: You can help donors get past the logjam and rise to a higher level of giving. Ask in a way that’s more in line with the $100+ level.

That can mean a lot of different things, and I’m going to show you one of those things here:

It’s a special form of direct mail that’s specifically aimed at the budgets and expectation of a higher-level donor. It’s sometimes called a Prospectus Appeal, because it borrows from the conventions of investment prospectuses — it treats the donor’s gift as an investment in the cause.

The offer is generally a large project that’s somewhat like a capital campaign offer, in that it has long-lasting impact. Maybe building is involved, perhaps setting up a new program. It needs to be something where donations made now will have meaningful impact in the future. Investment!

I’ll start by showing you some typical specifications for this kind of appeal. These are just suggestions from formats that have worked for me:

  • Outer envelope: Large size, such as 9×12. Make it look like it was put together in an office, not by marketing professionals.
  • Cover letter: Usually a short message (single page). Briefly touts the offer, but mostly refers to the Prospectus.
  • Prospectus: Multi-page document (possibly personalized) that gives a lot of detail about the project you’re asking the donor to support. A lot of details, photos, charts, maps, etc. But still emotional, like all fundraising must be!
  • Inserts: Possible other pieces that exhibit or illustrate things about the project.
  • Reply memo: A fancy, large-size reply device that really looks official and important.
  • Return envelope: With first-class stamps affixed.

These are ideas for you, not requirements. The point is that it’s larger-than-normal and has the feel of an investment prospectus.

It’s like “normal” direct mail in these ways:

  • It has a strong and clear offer.
  • It’s emotional.
  • The words and images all work together to touch the donor’s heart.

It’s different from “normal” direct mail in these ways:

  • It’s detailed, even complex.
  • It’s more future-oriented (not so much save lives today as save lives for years into the future).
  • The cost per piece will be several times that of normal DM. What will make it successful will be high response rate and high average gift. (Spending more on higher-value donors is a classic Pareto Principle tactic!)

In testing, it appears that you can send two of these per year to the middle and upper donors. (The third doesn’t do as well, perhaps losing the “ooh” factor.)

A prospectus appeal is just one part of breaking your $100 logjam. Other things you can do include:

  • Stewardship phone calls that only thank donors.
  • Personal-touch mailings, such as birthday cards.
  • Mailings that ask their opinions.
  • Special insider announcements (mail or email) about meaningful changes in the organization.
  • Newsletters sent with handwritten personal cover message.

It’s all in service of treating special donors in special ways.

Give these things a try and watch those $100 “logs” float to a higher level of support!  Know any other powerful ways to upgrade your donors? Share please leave a reply below.

There’s a lot more you can do to cultivate your mid-level (or almost mid-level donors).

Want to learn how? Check out our Mid-Value Donor Super Course and we will show you step-by-step how to raise more money from mid and major donors. It is available for all members of The Fundraisingology Lab.

It’s the quickest, cheapest and easiest way to raise more money for your charity!


P.S. Interested in what to mail to your mid and major donors? Here’s a Great Mid-Value Pack Explained

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