You already know the value of having a mid-level donor program. There are two different approaches to mid-level fundraising, and it’s important to understand the pros and cons of each.
- One approach is to focus on short-term, year-over-year revenue growth.
- The other is to focus on long-term, transformational revenue growth.
Let’s explore each point.
Short-Term Value: Transactional
The transactional approach focuses on growing annual donor value within a fiscal year through upgrades and/or improved donor retention.
- Pro: Aggressive annual upgrading strategies will move more donors into the mid-level program and increase value for those within the mid-level program.
- Con: Retention will decline, as some donors are turned off by the aggressive upgrading tactics. The retention decline can be softened a bit if a gift officer is making the upgraded ask, whereby they can pivot to an acceptable gift level.
- Pro: Better one-way communication (organization to donor) of gift impact, higher quality creative, and personal stewardship can improve retention.
- Con: This approach lacks the critical two-way communication required to unlock greater lifetime donor value.
Long-Term Value: Transformational Relationships
The transformational relationship approach focuses on building a pipeline to major and planned giving through one-to-one relationships with a gift officer that increases a donor’s lifetime value.
- Pro: The gift officer creates a highly personal two-way communication pattern with the donor (calling or emailing donor, Zoom calls with donor, etc.), gaining insight into the reason they give and areas of funding interest.
- Con: This requires an investment in staff, and relationship-building takes time.
Major and Planned Giving Pipeline
- Pro: The gift officer focuses on discovery conversations with donors. When funding interest, donor capacity, and donor inclination align, the mid-level donor can be transitioned to a major or planned giving officer.
- Con: This requires the organization to have strong major and planned giving programs, along with the capacity to handle pipeline-identified mid-level donors. Goals and rewards must be clearly defined and focus on increasing a donor’s lifetime value rather than increasing a singular department’s budget.
Mid-Level Program Growth
- Pro: The relationship-building approach for major and planned giving will benefit the mid-level program as well. Donor retention will improve, and upgrade opportunities within the mid-level program will be identified.
- Con: This requires an investment in staff that are willing to ask donors for a gift. It seems obvious, but many nonprofits miss this key component with their mid-level program.
Both approaches can improve a donor value measurement. The question is, are you trying to improve the short-term or the long-term?
The greatest value to the organization is to focus on a long-term transformational relationship approach. Major and planned gifts will always outweigh the short-term boost of annual donor value.
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