Fundraiser conducting survey
Bequests and LegaciesMajor and Mid Value DonorsMonthly Giving

Here’s One Easy Tool That Transforms Your Fundraising

Suppose I told you there’s a fundraising tool you (yes you!) can put to work that will do these things:

  • Gather information on what motivates your best donors to give, so you can speak more personally and relevantly to them.
  • Meaningfully increase your number of monthly donors.
  • Help you find and upgrade mid-value and major donors who’ve been “hiding” among your general donors.
  • Find donors who are ready to put your organization in their Wills — resulting in a revenue windfall that will play out for years to come.

You might think I was selling a certain bridge over the East River in New York.

But what I’m talking about is 100% real. And you can do it now.

It’s not even all that difficult to create.

It’s called the Supporter Connection Survey. It’s a very specific type of survey that can be fielded by direct mail or email (preferable both!) to find out what individual donors think about your organization and the cause you share.

Connecting with individual donors is the key. This is not a research survey to uncover what “the file” knows and believes. You will not get meaningful statistically valid findings about your donor file with a Supporter Connection Survey! In fact, you will almost surely lead yourself astray if you try to use it to get valid research. (Real research is hard. If you need to do some research, get professional help if you want to do it right!)

It’s also not a fundraising “push” survey. You know that kind that basically gets the reader to agree with your values, leading up to a fundraising ask. These work well for some organizations, but they are not at all what we’re talking about here!

Here are the types of questions in a Supporter Connection Survey:

Questions about their connection with you and their motivations for donating. These questions are highly qualitative and aimed at giving you specific insight into that donor — why she cares and what matters most to her. Her answers arm you to speak back to her later with super-focused communication.

  • A question about being a high-level donor — sometimes more than one. This helps uncover donors with a desire and capacity to give at a higher level than they have before. It almost always finds “hidden gold” in your file.
  • A question about being a monthly donor. This one helps you find donors who are ready to make the leap into this high-value group.
  • A question about bequests. This is the “money” question because it surfaces bequest leads, which can result in huge revenue in the coming years.
  • A question about the donor’s “loyalty” – highly tested to find donors who feel most connected with you, regardless of their current giving level. This helps you find people who you might want to concentrate on more than you have.
  • Donor facts that help you build a better relationship, like email and phone number (if they’re willing to share); mailing address, in case you have it wrong; birthdate and other demographics that can help you connect with them more.

In case you’re thinking, “There’s no way we could field such a complex survey” … I have good news for you. You can do a Supporter Connection Survey.

We’ve worked through Supporter Connection Surveys with fundraisers at every level of experience.

We’ve done it with very small organizations, huge global organizations, and everything in between.

We’ve done it with all types of causes.

And we’ve done them in every part of the world. Supporter Connection Surveys are quite common in Australia and New Zealand, but less so elsewhere. They are especially new to North America — so if you’re in the western hemisphere, you can benefit from “first mover” advantage!

If you aren’t doing Supporter Connection Surveys now, chances are you eventually will … ideas this good tend to spread!

So why not start now?

Discover the success your own Supporter Connection Survey will have, take our online course The Most Powerful Communication Tool: The Supporter Connection Survey. It’s available for members of The Fundraisingology Lab and will show you how to raise more funds for your cause from every channel! 

More blog posts about Supporter Connection Surveys:

Have you done a Supporter Connection Survey? Please share your experience by leaving your reply below. We’d love to learn from your experience.

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Major and Mid Value Donors

How Much Is Too Much for High-End Direct Mail Packs?

Great question from an alert reader: I was talking about the power of elaborate mid-value direct mail packs. You know, the kind that mails in a special envelope, has a multi-page letter, and all kinds of interesting enclosures. It can cost $2 per piece and up … and is usually worth every cent when mailed to the right donors.

The question was this: How often can you send a pack like that? Does it wear out its welcome?

Answer: You could send an elaborate, expensive direct mail pack to your mid-value donors every time, all year ’round. It would be no harm, from the donors’ point of view. You can mail these to every donor who meets the criteria for a high-end mailing according to RFV+ selection (that is, they’ve given recently and of high enough amounts, along with any additional information like survey responses, preference choices, what they’ve told gift officers).

But — and I almost hesitate to say this — it isn’t just about the donor.

It probably takes 25-50% more effort to make these packs, and up to double the pre-production creative costs. So far, so good, because you’re spending more to make more.

For most organisations I’ve worked with, the cost of these elaborate packs — in terms of time, creative, planning, and associated opportunity cost — mean that doing one of these packs every time may not raise more money! It’s more revenue, but maybe not enough more!

This is one reason agency models that rely on print and production income have never found a way to integrate them into their client offering. The boost in net revenue and long-term income are great. But the profit margin for each elaborate project doesn’t always pencil out!

In Australia our costs for post, print, and everything else are (on average) much, much more than in North America. But so are our response rates and average donations.

So in Australia, most charities do just four direct mail cash campaigns plus a couple of other programs. A solid program for an average charity I would have worked with is 15,000 to 20,000 donors who make the grade to be mailed plus 3,000 monthly givers would look like this:

  • Survey in Jan/Feb
  • Bequest follow up Feb-April (and year round conversion)
  • Autumn / Easter campaign around March/April
  • Tax campaign around May
  • Tax follow up in June
  • Monthly giving campaign July / August (phone and mail, upgrade and conversion)
  • Spring campaign around September
  • Christmas campaign around October/November
  • Christmas follow up November/December

However, if I had a big team, 100,000+ donors and was raising over $1m from the big appeals I would be doing these elaborate packs to a carefully selected audience every time.

As for those high-end Express Post style outer envelopes. I have a theory — not yet proven — that they might “wear out” after a while and lose their impact. That’s why I’ve made sure that donors only receive one of those a year. No charities here had volumes to ever test that properly so we erred on the side of caution.

Conclusion: You should mail these elaborate packs as often as possible — but not more! Think about the most effective use of staff time. Don’t “wear them out” with constantly preparing high-end direct mail.

Would you like to become an expert on creating these awesome packs and dramatically boost your appeal income? Check out my Mid Value Donor Super Course that is available for all members of The Fundraisingology Lab.

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FundraisingMajor and Mid Value Donors

VIDEO: New US Tax Law: For Fundraisers, the Sky Is Not Falling

Claire Axelrad of Clairification talked with Jeff about the recent change in tax laws in the US. While many have predicted terrible drops in revenue from some donors because of changes in the tax code — Claire says, Chill out!

There are some encouraging things for fundraisers in the changes. And, Claire points out, it might push some of us to do things we should have been doing all along!

No matter what you think of the new law, you’ll find comfort and challenge in Claire’s wisdom.

Have you seen any changes stemming from the new law? Share your reply below. We’d love to learn from your experience.

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How to visit your donors
Major and Mid Value Donors

How to Visit Your Best Donors

We know that speaking one-on-one with people who care about our cause is the very best way to build relationships.

“Most donors are significantly under-giving,” Amy Eisenstein told me.

Amy is one of the most successful major donor fundraisers I know. She is also a superb trainer and teacher.

In this awesome short video, Amy gives some really simple tips on how you can get and meet certain key donors and increase their donations – often by TEN times!

She also tells you how you could effectively meet with a donor when they are geographically a long way away and how to get through other barriers.

This brief discussion could revolutionise your fundraising and dramatically increase income!

Find out more about the Mid-Value Donor Super Course.It’s available for all members of The Fundraisingology Lab.

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Major and Mid Value Donors

Two Ways to Approach Your Mid-Value and Major Donors

A well-researched tale about two fundraising approaches.

Featuring Bastian the fundraiser at Malnutrition: Unacceptable For Children (MUFC) and Jamie from Let’s Feed Children (LFC).

Bastian and Jamie both became fundraisers at about the same time just over a year ago. Both had the job of increasing revenue from their ‘mid-value’ donors: people who had given more than average.

Neither charity had ever had a mid or major donor program beyond their existing direct mail programs.

Bastian, MUFC

Bastian knew that the more you know about donors, the more chance you have of getting a large donation from them. MUFC had never had a major donor program so this was a great opportunity.

Since he arrived at MUFC, he identified prospects ‘worth’ approaching for a personal visit:

  • A: 955 donors currently giving large amounts through the direct mail program.
  • B: 196 donors currently not giving lots, but with potential. Determined by asking a major donor prospecting data agency to scan the MUFC donor database for rich people, (36 were giving more than €500 to MUFC)
  • C: 254 prospects who were identified as wealthy connections to MUFC. For example, some were friends of board members, others were ‘known’ wealthy locals.

Bastian had spent about €3,500 plus his time getting the data from the database.

He now had over 1,400 prospects: 955 + 196 where he knew their past giving history and 254 who hadn’t given.

Bastian now knew he had to prioritise. He asked the prospecting agency to provide profiles of the 36 prospects giving over €500 (i.e., rich people who were already giving large-ish gifts).

In addition, he asked the agency if they had profiles of any of the 254 ‘C’ prospects on their database.

They had quite a few and he paid extra for 44 of the best prospects profiles.

This cost of these 80 profiles (36 + 44) was €60,000 plus about twenty hours of work -– but now he had a lot of great information.

For his final research, he hired a temp researcher who helped him Google and use other public information to learn more about the remaining prospects.

Bastian managed to achieve all that within three months of starting his job with MUFC.

Next, he started building brilliant, individualised cases for support for the top 80 prospects.

This work took him about nine months – back and forth with field workers, case studies and trying to get a ‘shopping’ list of items donors may be interested in.

Now he had everything lined up.

He started trying to contact the top 80 prospects: which included the 36 rich people who had given over €500 (donor prospects) and the 44 really rich people (cold prospects) who were connected to board members or just wealthy and local.

After another three months, approximately one in four of the donor prospects agreed to meet. And nearly all those who did made donations.

Only one board member managed to get a meeting specifically about donating to MUFC with any of the cold prospects. She met three people but wasn’t able to ask. She said it was the ‘wrong time.’

About 15 months from starting, he had raised €90,000 plus €50,000 in pledges.

Another board member committed to raising €10,000 for MUFC at an upcoming golf day. That board member ‘ring-fenced’ his contacts, telling Bastian to wait until after that day to follow up. Of course, he would ask for a decent time-frame between the golf day and a formal approach. Probably a year.

So, after 15 months, tons of work and a cost of about €65,000 Bastian had raised €90,000 and had  €50,000 in pledges. If those pledges came in, he should have covered all of his costs in just 15 months.

Jamie, LFC

Jamie took a different approach.

She knew that the most likely to donate were people who had donated before, but since only about one in four or one in five would ever agree to meet, she decided to research people after they had agreed to meet.

Step one for her was the same as Bastian’s. Look at the database.

She identified these prospects:

  • A: 812 donors giving large amounts through the direct mail program. These mid and major gift prospects had all given to LFC’s direct mail in the past.

Jamie worked with the direct marketing team to identify what the next campaign would be. She interviewed a worker from the field, collected some extra photos from the direct marketing team and copied some videos they had on the website to her iPad.

After six weeks she really understood the cause, had lots of stories and lots of video from the next direct mail (and web) campaign.

She then went through the list of donors, called them and asked them for meetings.

Over the next six weeks, she managed to speak with 380 of the 812 donors! Twenty actually made donations over the phone – usually about the same size as previously, but one gave €20,000.

Of the remaining 360, 205 agreed to meet. Before each meeting, she Googled them to find out what she could. Even after that, she knew nothing about most except their previous giving to LFC. But that was enough.

Within those six weeks, she had met up with 160 of her mid and major gift prospects. She managed to get total donations of €390,000.

In total, she had raised over €400,000 in her first three months. She knew from the database it was €250,000 more than what these people had ever donated before in a year.

Not bad, but next she needed some really big donations which wouldn’t be as quick. So she convinced the boss to take on someone else to keep this pace up, whilst she started looking at those BIG prospects.

Learnings from this story:

  • Most donors won’t meet you. But that’s OK. Even attempting is good donor care.
  • Focus on people who have given to your organisation in the past. They are much more likely to give than those who have never given. And don’t be tempted early by those big wigs your board knows. Board ‘leads’ can be awesome, but rarely. Start with the low hanging fruit.
  • Wait until donors agree to meet you before you spend time doing research beyond previous giving.  That way you will be more effective and be able to meet many, many more donors. Living in this state of frantic research is fine if planned. And don’t worry if you don’t find much more out. Their previous giving is the gold dust of research.
  • You probably already have great major gift propositions within your current programs. You don’t have to develop new cases for support straight away.
  • Fundraising planning and tactics are all about the numbers. Jamie chased the numbers.
  • This approach doesn’t excuse you from chasing the biggies, where things take longer and more thorough research is worth the effort. Ultimately do both, but in the first place – just get out there and ask.
  • There are no excuses for relationship/philanthropy/major donor fundraisers getting out there and asking. Fast.

Ready for the powerful boost in revenue when you transform your relationship with your mid and major donors? Take the Moceanic Mid-Value Donor Super Course that includes a full module about making the BIG ask. It is available for all members of The Fundraisingology Lab.

Any connection between the names of these charities and English Premier League teams is nearly coincidental.

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Pop Art Woman talking on phone e1511128330370
Major and Mid Value DonorsMaths of FundraisingMonthly Giving

The Challenge with the Phone and Fundraising

The telephone is one of the most important tools fundraisers have. It truly is a wonderful machine, because it allows us to speak with our lovely donors for little cost.

But there’s a problem.

Quite often we simply can’t get through to the donor we want to.

What can we do about this?

One solution is to use a professional telephoning agency. It is well known that these agencies are used widely for lower value donors (especially for monthly giving calls). But these companies can also help build relationships with mid to high-value donors, and with legacy prospects.

Using these agencies is usually cheaper than making the calls yourself when you factor in the costs of your time preparing, failing to get through, having the conversation and typing up the notes in the database.

One of the secrets of success for phone agencies is ‘penetration’. They have systems and processes to make sure that they can get through to as many people as possible.  Even with all that though, penetration can vary from 40% to 65%:

Unfortunately, no technology exists to allow you to get through to everyone.

However, not all charities can use these agencies.  Perhaps your volume is not high enough to prove good value for you, or no appropriate agency has the capacity to take you on when you need them. So what then?

The key is to take a leaf out of the agencies’ (phone) book.  They understand that it is about numbers, so that’s where you should start.

Let’s say you want to get through to 50 donors to invite to an event.

Firstly, you are probably going to have to attempt to call them an average of five times.  And even then you may only get through to about one in three.

So to get your 50 invites, you’d need to try to call 150 people on average five times each.  That is dialling 750 times!  Sorry, this is just reality!

Calling donors is a good and wonderful thing to do.  Just make sure you have the resources (people and budget) and patience.

The phone is an important part of a powerful mid-value donor program. Want to learn more about how to use it? Take the Moceanic Mid-Value Donor Super Course which includes one full module about Top Tips for the Conversation that Gets the BIG Gift from the Mid-Value Donor. You can get access to that and more when you join The Fundraisingology Lab.

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FundraisingMajor and Mid Value Donors

Mid-Value Donors: Neglected and Desperate to Help

Harvey McKinnon, Harvey McKinnon Associates, and Sean Triner, Fundraisingologist at Moceanic, discuss that important group of donors who fall between your top donors and your general donors.

Learn how to treat them and communicate with them in ways that will keep them giving — or even upgrade to much larger amounts. It’s one of the most important and least-practiced ways to maximize revenue.

Want to know more about Mid-Value Donors? Sean covers this important topic in the Mid-Value Donor Super Course which is available for all members of The Fundraisingology Lab. Find out more here.

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BenchmarkingMajor and Mid Value DonorsTrends

Where do BIG donors come from?

This might surprise you: Your next generation of mega-donors are not hiding out at the country club or in CEO suites at the tops of the tallest buildings in town.

They may or may not be at those places. But nearly all of those who will eventually be your top donors are already on your mailing list. They’re donating to your direct mail. They’re giving above-average amounts, but not so high that you’ve noticed them yet.

Here in Australia as well as in the USA (and pretty much the rest of the world), the percentage of major donors who started their relationship as regular direct mail donors ranges between 85% and 95%!

How do you find these hidden-treasure people?

The first step is wealth screening — where a company compares your donor list with wealthy people or known large givers.

Next step: Meet these potential large donors!

And it usually starts with a phone call. These are not sales pitch calls. They are question sessions: the goal is to get a meeting with the donor — but only if it is worthwhile. A visit is not worthwhile if you determine that the prospect is not a major gift prospect (maybe they tell you they are broke, just lost their house, gone bankrupt etc.).

Here’s how to start: Introduce yourself, thank for previous gifts and ask something like “I understand that you were recently at my hospital and I would be interested to hear about your experience there”.

Examples of questions assessing interest:

  • Tell me about your personal experience
  • How do you see your involvement
  • Would you be interested in learning more about our work?
  • What areas interest you most in our work?

Basically, ask why they believe in your cause.

Examples of questions to determine the next steps

  • I’m planning a trip to (your town) next week, would it be convenient to meet in person?
  • I would like to invite you to a unique tour of our facility
  • Would you like a tour of something else?

That should help you get appointments.  But remember: you won’t get through to everyone you want to. It’s a numbers game, and it takes methodical patience. But the payoff will be HUGE.

Want to know more about Mid-Value Donors? Sean covers this important topic in the Mid-Value Donor Super Course which is available for all members of The Fundraisingology Lab.

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Pop Art Woman with Christmas Gift e1510632339324
Direct MailMajor and Mid Value Donors

Using Christmas or Holiday Campaigns to Deepen Donor Relationships


In some countries, and for some charities, Christmas (or Holiday) appeals are the biggest fundraisers of the year.

They also offer a wonderful opportunity to strengthen relations with some of your most generous and wonderful donors.

Try these ideas for your top donors…

  • Send them a beautiful gift before the appeal lands.  Something mission focused is great, like a locally made dream-catcher or a scarf from the village they have helped.  Can’t think of anything appropriate? Try flowers, sponsored by a local florist. It really works!
  • Call them, say thanks for previous donations and explain what they (not you) achieved with these donations. Finish by asking them to look out for a letter about whatever your case study is. For example ‘about Jane who cannot afford shoes for school…’
  • Two to five days before the campaign deadline, call those who haven’t donated yet, but usually do.  Ask them what they thought of the campaign and if they intended to donate. That’s a nice reminder and again, you are building on your relationship.
  • Call people who give to the campaign, say thank you and tell them what they will be achieving with that gift.  It is also an opportunity to ask for more if you are short of target.

All these things should work – but you need to be aware of the volumes.  You may only get through to a third to a quarter of those you want to speak to.  So make enough calls!

Want to know more about Mid-Value Donors? Sean covers this important topic in the Mid-Value Donor Super Course which is available for all members of The Fundraisingology Lab.

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The Hitchhikers Guide to Major Donor Fundraising part 2
Major and Mid Value Donors

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Major Donor Fundraising, Part 2

A few years ago I was telling my Hitchhiker’s Guide to Major Donor Fundraising story to Amnesty International Canada.

AIC for hitchhikers guide Sean Triner

We were looking together at their major donors, identifying potential people and then going through the hardest bit: asking.

I play a naughty trick, ensuring that the training finishes an hour ahead of schedule and then suggesting the attendees actually call some donors to say thank you, and make some appointments.

I have found that this helps build confidence and get some momentum going.

Anyway, as time was ticking along one of the callers got into a conversation with a lovely donor.

At first, the donor agreed to an appointment, then when he thought about it more, he decided it was too difficult to make a date.

Don't Panic For Hitchhikers Guide_Sean Triner

But our Amnesty International Canada colleague was charming, involving and listened well. By the end, the donor had agreed to make a donation there and then of $10,000. His previous largest gift was $1,000.

What a great bloke. The amount he gave was exactly 10 times his previous largest gift. And also the amount the training had said we should ask for.

Want to know more about Mid-Value Donors? Sean covers this important topic in the Mid-Value Donor Super Course that is available for all members of The Fundraisingology Lab. Find out more here.

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