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The “Middle Siblings” of Fundraising, and How You Can Connect with Them

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Mid-value donors are sometimes the “middle children” of donor files. Like the stereotypical middle child, they get less attention than the others. They can “fall through the cracks” and not get the focus and treatment they need.

Nonprofits often have well-built general donor programs built around one-to-many channels like direct mail, email, and telephone. Many organisations also have strong one-to-one personal relationship-driven major donor programs. Both good.

But fewer organisations have a strategy or program to bridge the gap between general donors and major donors – and a lot of donors can be in that gap!

If you don’t have a program for mid-value donors, you are potentially missing out on revenue. Maybe a lot of it. The loss comes in two ways:

  1. Mid-value donors are not giving as often or as much as they might, because they are folded into your general donor program, which is not as personal and as special as it could be.
  2. Donors with the capacity to become major donors don’t make the leap, because you aren’t reaching out to them.

Who are mid-value donors?

It depends on the size of the whole donor file and the budget dedicated to fundraising. Typically, it’s donors whose 12-month cumulative giving is above $100 to $500, up to whatever you define as major donors.

Another way to define them is to use the Pareto Principle: Your mid-value donors are your top 20% of donors (by giving amount), except for the top 20% of that top 20% (4% of your donors), who are your major donors.

A final way of describing mid-value donors is to think of them as “spend more to get more” donors. Their giving justifies spending more to cultivate them, but not as much as you spend on your major donors.

You can define them in any way that works with your staffing and budget. The important thing is to define them – and have a plan for them!

Here’s something worth knowing about mid-value donors: When a donor gives you, say, a donation of $500, they may be signaling that they are a $500 donor. But a few of them are on a journey.

Among your mid-value donors lurk some even higher-capacity donors. People who may become major donors … those who can give you five, six, and even seven-figure donations. A very common journey for major donors is to make their first donation in the range of general donors, and then increase their giving amount over time until they reach their right upper amount. A strong mid-value program gives those donors an upward path.

The worst thing you can do with your mid-value donors is to sweep them into your major donor category. If you do that, they will be second-class citizens. They’ll get less attention because they promise less revenue – while not getting the steady diet of general donor solicitation, which at least gives them the chance to give.

That’s a costly and very common error. Mid-value donors fall between the cracks!

What should you do with mid-value donors?

You should treat them differently!

But how?

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel for your mid-value donors. They aren’t radically different from general donors. Just because they have a bit more money, they aren’t a completely different type of person. The messages and offers that work with most of your donors also work with your mid-value donors.

The part you should do differently is the way you package your fundraising, how you acknowledge their giving, and the way you cultivate them. You can afford to do more impactful versions of all these basic fundraising activities. Here are some ideas:

“Boosted” direct mail

When we think of direct mail, we usually think of a pack that earns its keep in part by not costing too much. That’s partly true: It’s possible to improve response by making a direct mail more “fancy,” but to come out behind because it cost too much.

But with mid-value donors, you are less likely to price yourself out of success. Instead, you can spend more to get more with a much fancier pack. It’s the larger donations from these donors that make it worthwhile.

Here are some ways to boost a direct mail piece for mid-value donors:

  • A large and stand-out outer envelope, such as Postal Service special delivery envelopes that are typically oversized, thick stock, and call out IMPORTANT.
  • 1st class stamps on the return envelope. This reliably boosts response.
  • Longer letter.
  • More lift pieces.

These things add cost to the pack – sometimes quite a lot of cost. But they boost response from your high-gift donors, making it a smart investment.

“Boosted” newsletter

Package your donor newsletter in a more hand-touched way. Put it in a large envelope. Paperclip a handwritten note to the first page. Add a lift or two. Like boosted direct mail, this can be a great investment with your mid-value donors.

Thank you calls

Calling donors to thank them for a donation improves subsequent retention. Make it a high priority to call your mid-value donors every time they give!

Special notes

Connect with your mid-value donors for reasons other than wanting a donation. Give them a progress report on how things are going. Recognize their birthday. Send cards for holidays that are important to your donors and your cause.

Donor stewardship events

Make them feel special with events that celebrate the impact they have through their giving. With the growth and improved usability of web meetings, you can create an event for a large group for a very low cost!

All these things are investments that can help mid-value donors engage with you, remember your organization and cause, and upgrade to the level they can afford.

That’s how you maximize these important donors.

Interested in more strategic insight like this? Reserve your seat at the game-changing online workshop, The Hidden Treasure of Fundraising. This ground-breaking session with Moceanic co-founder Sean Triner will show you how it “takes money to make money” – and how to help your boss believe that! It’s a $199 value, but with a long-term value that could climb into the millions for you! Many times and dates to fit your schedule, but it’s filling up fast!

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  • Jeff Brooks

    Jeff Brooks is a Fundraisingologist at Moceanic. He has more than 30 years of experience in fundraising, and has worked as a writer and creative director on behalf of top nonprofits around the world, including CARE, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Feeding America, and many others.

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