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May 22, 2017

The One-to-Some Strategy You Need for Your Mid-Level Donors

Donor Pyramid Fundraising Direct ResponseIt’s no fundraising secret that direct-response programs are the conduit to significant giving. The longer and smarter the program, the better it is at producing upward donor movement. Direct-response programs rely on a one-to-many approach in order to maximize all of the donor touchpoints in a multichannel fundraising strategy. For direct-response fundraising, we seek themes, offers, and cases for support that will resonate with an entire base of donors. A common mistake many organizations make is treating a mid-level donor program as an enhanced direct response program. 

Successful mid-level programs utilize a one-to-some approach.


3 Ways to Use a One-to-Some Approach with Mid-Level Donors: 

  1. Identify donors who are able and willing.
    The top priority for mid-level donors should not be focused on a short-term revenue gain. The number one goal for mid-level programs is to move donors into a more committed relationship and identify those that are able and willing to make transformational gifts. 
  2. Encourage a two-way conversation with donors.
    Fundraisers need to understand individual donor intentions, and through the program, engage in a two-way conversation with donors. This requires investment in specialized marketing and communication calendars, multi-channel communication, and asking donors for their feedback.
  3. Prepares donors for a one-to-one relationship.
    Ultimately, mid-level programs exist to move donors into a one-to-one relationship with a gift officer to foster transformational gifts. A one-to-some relationship requires investment in staff, a commitment to providing enhanced stewardship appropriate for the gift level, and a desire to listen to the donor group and make them feel like your “insiders.”


The One-to-Some Approach Requires Enhanced Donor Stewardship

While all donors should be appropriately thanked for their gift, mid-level donors require enhanced stewardship: a timely and personal thank-you with reporting on the impact of their gift.

NextAfter recently completed a study on The Mid-Level Donor Crisis. For their research, NextAfter made gifts between $1,000 and $5,000 to 37 different charities. Now as mid-level donors, they tracked the communication from those charities for the 90 days after the gift was made.

The results of the study were shocking:

  • Only 8% of the charities made a personal thank-you call.
  • Only 31% of communication received came from a real person.
  • Almost half (49%) of organizations sent nothing at all or stopped communicating after one month. 

This is not the way that mid-level donors should be stewarded! A well-designed, and ultimately successful, mid-level program must have a robust, personal, and timely way to thank donors for their time and generosity. Additionally, stewardship at this level should include recognizing donor milestones, such as: years of giving, giving thresholds, anniversaries of giving, or birthdays.

Stewardship goes beyond just thanking donors. Study after study shows the information donors most want to know is how their gift made an impact. Most mid-level donors have more than a casual interest in the impacts their generosity enables. Develop enhanced content newsletters and digital projects showing how donors have impacted the mission. Where a casual donor might not read 3-5 pages of content, a mid-level donor is likely to. Treat them like insiders. They want to know the triumphs, organizational challenges, funding priorities, and opportunities within the charity they’re supporting. 


The One-to-Some Approach Enables Deep Donor Understanding

In a one-to-some relationship, it is important to understand donor intent: Why is it that your case for support pulls on her heartstrings? Every good mid-level program should include survey opportunities for the donors. These surveys should be asking pointed questions that you can act on and make your one-to-some relationships even stronger. An example survey question might be, “Which of these three areas of our mission is most important to you?” This donor feedback should be utilized for targeted impact and mission-specific stewardship and solicitations.

Fundraisers need to step back from the one-to-many approach to solicitations and stewardship. These committed, mid-level donors require less appeals and more communication about their gift’s impact and stewardship. Mid-level donor programs should have their own marketing and communication annual calendar. Telephone is the strongest channel for this group, particularly when supported by a multichannel strategy. 

To hear phone conversations with real mid-level donors, click here!

This level of personalization is designed to mimic the one-to-one approach of major giving in a scalable way to a larger group of donors. Most organizations need one staff member for every 600-800 mid-level donors. 


The One-to-Some Approach Prepares Donors for a One-to-One Relationship with a Major or Planned Gift Officer

Another key part of the strategy for a mid-level program is implementing a design to move donors to portfolio. If this is well thought out, it can relieve the tension between gift officers and annual fund as to who owns a donor. A mid-level program is designed to move donors to a “tipping point” of giving. 


A donor tipping point is the last and largest gift a donor typically makes to your organization before they make the leap to a transformational gift.

The tipping point is different for every organization — so know yours. For most who consider major giving between $10,000 and $25,000 that tipping point tends to be between $3,000 to $5,000. When a donor reaches a tipping point and shows the capacity for a major gift, she should be moved to a portfolio. Each organization should create a mid-level donor scorecard that ranks participation, giving, and targeted responses. Review this scorecard with your major gift officers and your mid-level team to determine the best “score” that indicates that a donor is ready for portfolio. Get everyone on board! The mid-level team gets credited for “graduating” donors, and the major gifts team gets many more qualified donors.


Get your free copy of our free white paper to learn how to single out, engage, and cultivate your most important audience segment — mid-level donors.

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