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January 25, 2018

Starting the Conversation: The Mid-Level Donor Survey

Mid-level donors are a very important audience segment.  With an annual cumulative contribution of over $1,000, mid-level donors create an opportunity for The Salvation Army to invest in deeper and more meaningful communication.  In fact, the mid-level audience is contributing more than 25 percent of gross revenue, and a much higher percentage of net revenue, for many of our nonprofit partners.  Incremental gains in average gift and retention can result in important financial gains.

TrueSense uses an integrated model for engaging mid-level donors, with thoughtful enhancements to the communication strategy that produced their current value to an organization.  The changes that are made to this segment’s marketing calendar are focused on two goals: increased donor feedback to the organization, and increased donor knowledge of their mission impact.

Creating Opportunities for Two-Way Communication with Your Donors

Direct-response fundraising, by its nature, is often one-sided, with the organization sharing the value of giving in outbound channels, and donors using their giving (or lack of giving) to communicate their desire to make an impact.

To increase donor feedback to the organization, we often launch the fiscal year with a donor survey.  The survey provides valuable information on how the donor chooses to give, but also helps the organization identify key trends that will inform future communication and cultivation.  We conduct our surveys by telephone and a follow-up mailing for those we don’t reach by phone.

The telephone survey is the first of a few conversations that the mid-level program implements to increase meaningful interactions with a donor, and to eventually create an opportunity to solicit a more substantial gift.

By using the telephone for the survey, we are creating a neutral engagement that introduces an important element for deeper engagement: conversation.

In our most recent mid-level donor survey, we spoke with 1,162 mid-level donors who support The Salvation Army.  Through these conversations, we were focused on answering 4 important questions:

  1. What factors cause the donor to increase their giving?
  2. What kind of impact does the donor want to make?
  3. What type(s) of services are important to the donor?
  4. What type(s) of interaction has the donor had with the organization?


What Mid-Level Donors Had to Say

Here are the insights from our most recent survey, which will guide our communication and help navigate the desires and limitations of the donors we engage:

  • The biggest identifiable factor in increased giving is the ability of a donor to give more. Giving decisions were highly influenced by the individual donor’s understanding of their ability to give, including the balance of giving decisions they made to different organizations.

    Factors for Increased Giving mid-level donor survey 2018
  • Education and solicitation were factors in some donors’ giving decisions.  These two responses were encouraging signs that communication explaining the impact of a donor’s giving and direct solicitation of a gift could produce greater revenue for the organization’s mission.
  • Donor giving was tied to the gratitude they felt for their success in life.  The desire to “share their blessings” resonated with a high percentage of donors.

    Desired Impact mid-level donor survey 2018
  • Donors were making giving decisions based on a value system that balanced a humanitarian response with a smaller subset that were interested in finding solutions.
  • Since the survey was conducted after Hurricane Harvey, the response showed an increased interest and awareness of The Salvation Army’s disaster services, and continued the historical trend for supporting an impact on homelessness and hunger.

    Important Services Mid Level Donor Survey
  • Most mid-level donors have very little engagement with the organization outside of financial giving.  The closest was donating goods and services at just 6 percent.
Mid Level Donor White Paper

The survey reaffirmed TrueSense’s mid-level strategy.  Our approach includes continuing the direct mail and online engagement that produced the donor’s level of giving, while adding incremental increases in the quality and depth of interaction.  This hybrid between direct-response cultivation and major-giving engagement allows for an allocation of costs that ensures: 1) opportunities for upgraded giving aren’t lost, and 2) costs aren’t too high to manage a multi-year horizon for donors unable to increase their giving in a single fiscal year.


To learn more about our strategies to achieve success with mid-level donors, check out our free fundraising white paper.




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