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March 11, 2015

Doing Right by Your Middle Donors

high fiveIf your organization has an individual giving program, you have middle donors. You might not call them that. You might not know who they are. And if you are like most organizations, you have nothing special to offer them.

But you should.

Middle donors are those givers that have chosen to give you more than you standard average gift, but who are not quite large enough donors to be in your “major gift” category. Typically, these donors are giving somewhere in the range of $250 to $5,000 a year, depending on where “the middle” is for your organization.

Generally, this group of donors represents your major gift prospects. And even if they don’t give you a major gift, as a group they probably represent far more in revenue than they are currently giving.

Often ignored or subject to the same treatment as any other donor despite the signs that they have the interest and the capacity to give you more, middle donors are typically not given the opportunity to upgrade or engage with the organization. Their giving will often stagnate or even cease.

But regardless what size organization is, you can do something about your middle.

Here are some quick do’s and don’ts:

DO:

Analyze before you act: Figure out where the middle is for your unique organization. Is there a specific pocket of donors who are not quite at your major gifts level, but who are giving more than your overall average gift. Who are they? What has been their pattern of giving?

Personalize communication: Start personalizing your communications to this group. Can you make the mailings, e-mails, invites, or newsletters have a “special” feeling? Even just a handwritten note on a letter or a note that has a personalized first line can make a difference. Your middle donors will see that you are paying attention to them and years of testing has proven that they will respond.

Create tailored messaging: Generally middle donors want more than just your standard appeal to upgrade their giving. You don’t have to offer them restricted giving, but you do need to consider showing them how their level of increase participation and giving can really – concretely – make a difference.

Consider benefits: Many organizations at this level create giving clubs with levels of giving and attached benefits. You can see our two-part series on giving clubs by clicking here). Whether you create this kind of structure or not, you have to determine whether your donors will respond to some kind of incentive. It could be a special edition t-shirt or a quarterly call with the Executive Director – whatever works for your unique organization. The benefits must have meaning that will inspire your donor to give more.

Create a leadership group: Get some input from your target audience. Gather together a group of middle donors and see if they can help you shape the program. They become your founding leadership group and you may even be able to use their names, quotes, and stories to inspire others.

Track progress: As with any new initiative, you must track the progress of your middle donor work. Did the group respond to your actions? Did they give more? More frequently? What worked best?

DON’T:

Stop mailing or e-mailing: There’s a temptation to take middle donors and throw them in to the major gifts solicitation pool. They are major gifts prospects, right? But remember, most of them have been communicating and giving through direct marketing techniques like the mail or e-mail. If you stop those lines of communication, you might actually lose the donor for good! Keep those lines of communication open until you have been able to establish another avenue.

Go straight to personal solicitation: Donors who have been giving to you for some time may actually be really confused if you just call them up and ask to visit. Some people really like to give through the mail or through your website. A middle donor program is the place to pave the way for a deeper relationship through more personalized communications. See who responds to your calls, notes, and events before you show up on their doorstep!

Forget monthly donors: If you have a monthly giving or regular giving program, be sure to include the donors making a substantial contribution over the course of the year in your middle donor program. These donors may not have the capacity to give a major gift, but if you can upgrade their monthly giving by treating them in a more personalized way, that revenue can really add up.

Leave them alone: And for heavens sake, don’t forget to upgrade your middle donors. The number of times I’ve seen donor reports where middle donors have just continued to give the same amount year after year is staggering. It’s great that they give $500. But don’t just let them sit there. Open the door through a middle donor program and see if they can step up and give $1,000.

These middle donors deserve more. Identify yours today and take action!

photo by rocket ship via Flickr Creative Commons

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