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Nonprofits can often feel like their fundraising strategy is pulling them in several directions at once. You have a plan to acquire new donors, and a stewardship program to help retain them. You’ve built a multi-touch strategy to keep donors engaged and take time to reach out with personal and relevant communications. But do you have a strategy for dealing specifically with mid-level donors?

Many nonprofits fail to put enough thought into their fundraising approach for mid-level donors. These donors often suffer from middle-child syndrome, as the bulk of a nonprofit’s strategy is focused on acquiring new, usually low-level, donors and locking-in high-level contributors for the long haul.

However, nonprofits who fail to target mid-level donors are shooting themselves in the foot! Mid-level donors may only account for 5 to 10 percent of an organization’s donor base. But, they can account for 40 to 50 percent of a nonprofit’s total revenue, according to Nonprofit Pro.

Who are Considered Mid-Level Donors?

You may need to dig through your database to find out! Typically, mid-level donors give more than the largest average donor, but less than your smallest major donor. This means that different organizations will use different giving levels to determine who their mid-level donors are.

To get started, analyze all the donations you have received in the past 6 to 12 months and identify trends in giving. You may have a slew of donations under $200. You also notice several donations over $5,000. In this scenario, any donors who give somewhere in between would be considered mid-level donors. You need to communicate with this group differently than you would the average donor to maximize your fundraising efforts.

Using Data to Understand Engagement

Nonprofits should look at their mid-level donors as a bridge between base-level donors and major givers. Again, you will need to dig through your data to determine what makes your mid-level donors unique, aside from the amount they give.

What similarities and differences can you pinpoint between your mid-level donors and high-level donors? Identifying these trends will help you determine which mid-level donors are likely to become major donors with an extra push. Send this segment targeted communications that encourage them to join the ranks of your high-level contributors.

It’s fair to say that your mid-level donors are more engaged with your organization than your low-level ones. Something in your organization’s mission or messaging compelled them to choose the option at the high-end of your ask string, or write in a larger amount on their own. Determining what moved these donors to engage with your organization can help you come up with communications that entice all donors to give more in the future.

While you can glean much from the data you already have, consider picking up the phone and asking mid-level donors why they gave the amount they did. Be sure to ask them what would want to make a larger donation next time. Use their responses to encourage low and mid-level donors to increase their gift amount on your next appeal.

Sending the Right Message

Your organization should develop communications that are specific for mid-level givers. Hopefully, you’ve used our advice and have been sending all your donors personalized communications that feel relevant for each recipient.

Personalization is especially important for your mid-level donors. They will likely be even more receptive to personalized materials, since they already engage with your organization at a higher level than the average donor.

Remember, your outreach should be focused on the donor, and not the organization. Try incorporating the strategies we discussed in our blog posts covering stewardship storytelling and starting with why.

Reach out to mid-level donors with direct mail and email appeals.

Making the Ask

Your organization should reach out to mid-level donors with direct mail and email appeals. Generally, donors who give more than $300 prefer to do so offline, according to the 2018 Fundraising Effectiveness Project report. However, millennials and the very wealthy were willing to give more online. Reaching out through both direct mail and email allows them to donate in the way they feel most comfortable. Providing this level of comfort can subconsciously encourage donors to give more.

You can also try a more direct approach and be specific with your ask. Ask mid-level donors who are closer to the major donor level to increase their support and move up a giving level. This is especially powerful if the organization has specific benefits for becoming a leadership donor. The mid-level donor may not know that, so let them know what they are missing!

When you follow up after a mid-level donor makes a gift, be sure to demonstrate the impact that their gift made. This is especially important if they specified what programs they want their donation to help fund. Be sure to use pictures and images to really show them the difference they made. Also, provide some insider information that you may not share with your low-level donors and as always, include a heartfelt thank you as part of your follow-up.

Measuring Success

Remember, your mid-level donor program should serve as a bridge between your average donors and major donors. The goal is to encourage these mid-level donors to take the next step and join your high-level gift givers. You also want to push your average donors to become mid-level ones.

There are two key metrics to examine when determining the success of your mid-level donor program. First, look at your long-term giving history, and calculate how many mid-level donors have graduated to major donors. You don’t have to convert all of them, but you will see a significant impact on revenue for each donor that moves into the high-level classification.

Second, you should determine your mid-level donor retention rate.  Nonprofits with a thorough and effective outreach for mid-level donors should be retaining this group at a higher rate than average donors. If you are seeing fewer recurring gifts from those in the middle compared to average donors, you need to re-evaluate your strategy.

You Can’t Put a Price on Loyalty

A nonprofit’s ability to retain donors has a huge impact on annual revenue and how successful the organization is in the long run. As we discussed earlier in this five-part series, it’s actually more expensive to acquire new donors than it is to retain the ones you already have. Furthermore, most nonprofits spend more to acquire a new donor than they can collect from their first donation.

It will take more than a simple thank you to convince donors to support your cause and stay with you for the long haul. You need to make the donor feel like their contribution truly makes a difference and continue building your relationship with them after they donate.

When it comes to donor retention, securing a gift is just the beginning. The real work comes in when you make sure they are engaged with your organization and ready to give again the next time you send an appeal.

In case you missed it, here’s the rest of the five-part donor retention blog series:
  1. Donor Retention: Why You Should Care if You Want to Raise Money – Guest Post by Mary Cahalane, Hands-On Fundraising
  2. Is Your Nonprofit Doing Enough to Thank Your Donors?
  3. 9 Easy Ways to Extend the Donor Communications Lifecycle Without Making an Ask
  4. Effective Strategies for Recovering Lapsed Donors
  5. The Secret to Success: Making the Most of Mid-Level Donors
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