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Mid-level Donors: The Hidden Treasure In Your Database

December 12, 2017

by Marlena McCarthy

Mid-level giving strategies are the new “it” thing in fundraising—and for very good reason. If done correctly, a mid-level program inspires donors to happily give more – often much more – than ever before.

The First Step

Take a good look at your database. Do you have donors who have been giving a higher-than-average cumulative annual amount for three years or more?  These are donors who are loyal to your cause and mission and aren’t always giving guilt-induced gifts because they receive up-front premiums. These quietly dedicated and often overlooked donors are strong major and legacy gift prospects.

Yet, because they currently don’t give enough to be considered a major donor (as defined by your charity), they are typically treated like every other donor in your annual giving program. They receive direct mail appeals. Some charities acknowledge their loyalty with a variable line in their letter that references their generosity, and a few go the extra mile by putting a live stamp on their envelopes.

These things may give the response rate for this segment a bit of a bump. But it is nothing like the magic that happens when you segment these donors and communicate with them in a unique and special way.

Mal Warwick’s time-tested mid-level strategy – which he calls, “raising $1,000 gifts by mail”—inspired me to  adapted the program to Canadian values and implement it with my clients.

Building Relationships

By using direct mail in a very different way, my clients have strengthened their connection with carefully selected mid-level donors and are building a stronger, more enduring relationship with them. For example, donors are pleasantly surprised by letters that look and feel like personal correspondence from one consistent signer—and on occasion don’t ask for money.

By telling powerful, heart-warming stories full of gratitude that illustrate how these donors make a difference to the organization’s mission, donors are inspired to make online gifts, call in a donation, or mail in a cheque, whether they are explicitly asked for money or not. Then, when the charity’s staff follows-up with a thank-you phone call – without including an additional ask – these donors know that their loyalty has finally been noticed.

The result? The donor becomes more respectful of the organization’s work. They realize that they are being treated better and respond in kind. They start giving at a higher level than they ever have before, including making $1,000+ single gifts. They even ask how they can do more. Some will make the charity the recipient of a legacy gift, and they feel great about becoming more involved.

The key to creating or strengthening your mid-level giving program is to treat your special mid-level donors as a vital part of your inner circle, and demonstrating personal caring for their generosity in a way that most other charities don’t.

By telling your loyal donors creative stories that illustrate their powerful impact on your charity's mission, your donors feel your love for them, and in turn respond, “I love you more!” 

Hidden treasure awaits in your database… get mining! 

Marlena McCarthy, President of Done Write Communications, is an expert in mid-level giving programs that help inspire donors to deeply connect with - and more generously support – their preferred charity.


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