In much of the world this mountainous view of the ocean would demand a million-dollar price tag, just …
In much of the world this mountainous view of the ocean would demand a million-dollar price tag, just for the view. But this is Haiti and this is the coastline that 600,000 residents of Port Au Prince came to after the earthquake nearly seven years ago.
The ‘homes’ built here were not meant to be homes. They were built as temporary shelters. “There’s a difference,” Vijonet Demero, Bethany’s Country Director for Haiti, reminds me. “They are all falling down now, yet the people have nowhere to go.”
I was warned that we were going into an area that was not safe. There could be problems because I am a white outsider.
“Look around before you get out of the truck.”
“We will always think about our quickest exit route and park so that we can easily get out if we need to.”
“Sorry, we can’t go see that family because there is a group of men gathered nearby that could create a problem.”
“The windows are blackened, so they can’t see who is inside.”
“We need to make sure we are out of this area well before dark.”
This was all part of the conversation…before we got lost. And for the record, although I was listening, I never saw anything that made me feel concerned.
The trails, paths and roads that weave this squatter community together are a maze. Even though our driver claimed to “know every road in Haiti” we got lost. And every set of directions we received contradicted the last. “This is not good,” he muttered. At night it is absolutely black. There is no electricity or running water in this region, just temporary shelters and 600,000 people. After passing the same people, signs and shelters several times, we found a bird’s eye perch and mapped a route out of the maze before dark.
“Sure, we could help them start small businesses. We could give them a loan,” says Vijonet, “but no one could pay for their products, so they’d give everything away out of compassion. How do we ask them to repay the loan then?”
What about the hundreds of millions of dollars that have gone to Haiti over the past several years? That’s too complicated for this short piece. There’s corruption, there are many reasons, but the road to hell can sometimes be paved with good intentions. Pointing over to a multi-million-dollar Olympic park that was recently built on the edge of the squatter community, Vijonet reflects, “They think that giving is always a blessing. Sometimes it’s not. They give you what you don’t need and can force it on you. This park has never been used once. The area is far too dangerous for people to travel to, and those who live here are not thinking about athletics.”
Distant view of Olympic Park
We met a family that is supported through child sponsorship but the support was only enough to send four of their five children to school. With a pained look in her eyes the mother told us which one she simply couldn’t afford to send. A choice no mother should ever have to make.
It feels like it should be solvable. But looking at the beautiful Caribbean coastline and the Olympic park and the thousands of permanent-temporary shelters, it all just feels wrong.
Talking Middle Donors Across the Globe
“Wow, I’ve been to a bunch of talks and workshops on middle donors but this is the first …
“Wow, I’ve been to a bunch of talks and workshops on middle donors but this is the first one that the presenter actually knew what he was talking about.”
That’s feedback we got after our Toronto Middle Donor workshop on May 11. And I’m not even sure how to respond.
Granted, I can shoot from the hip with the best of them. Over my career I’ve been guilty of suggesting we know more about certain topics than we actually do because I’m confident we can figure it out. But agree to give a workshop on a topic I know nothing about, dude, that’s outta my league.
I’m glad that our friend finally got the solid help he’s been looking for at our workshop. And it’s help that couldn’t have come at a better time. Truth is, acquisition and cultivation costs are rising and donors are apparently becoming more fickle. So focusing on an area that will increase revenue and produce great cost-to-income ratios makes a ton of sense.
But remember folks. Do your research to make sure your presenter didn’t sign up for the wrong session by accident!
Seriously, though, the day was good. We had a full room of people from a diverse range of agencies: international development, advocacy, hospital foundation, university, animal protection, a summer camp and a bunch of others. The case for support varied dramatically between organizations, but the challenges and experiences were remarkably consistent.
Everyone had the same questions: How do we make a case for Middle Donor investment to leadership? What’s the optimal donor file size for our donor reps. Where’s the best place to start building an effective Middle Donor program?
The thing I liked most about the day? The fundraising community is very competitive. I was standing in front of a room full of ‘competitors.’ People who might have held back, not wanting to share the recipe to their ‘secret sauce’ or admit to others that they had challenges and were not perfect. It could have been almost awkward. It wasn’t. This was a room full of people doing serious good in the world. I think everyone realized pretty early on that is was safe to share and if you are willing to give something away, you’ll get more back in return.
Following our Middle Donor Workshop in Toronto, I boarded a plane to travel to Hong Kong to train World Vision International Middle Donor reps from 11 Asian offices.
This group of fundraisers in Asia was awesome — they were experienced and engaged. I got to ‘teach’ but left thinking I’d learned as much as I taught. As Asia becomes increasingly critical in the world economy, it’s important for us to understand their cultures better, because everything we do here does not translate there. We had many good discussions about what fits and what doesn’t.
Whether East or West, both experiences reinforced what we’ve learned over the past decade focused on growing this segment for our clients — strategies and disciplines are lacking in many organizations to meet the revenue growth potential Middle Donors represent.
Stuck in the Middle: A Little-Understood Segment with Huge Potential
Last month, I started banging the drum about Middle Donors, writing about the benefits of extending your fundraising …
Last month, I started banging the drum about Middle Donors, writing about the benefits of extending your fundraising relationship with this undervalued group. Well, this month I’m still bangin’ away. After more than a decade of focusing on this high-value segment, I’ve got lots to say!
Fact or Fiction?
See if you can tell whether the following statements are true or false.
- Middle and Major Donors should not receive mail. They will end up giving $100 to a mail piece rather than $10,000 to me at the kitchen table.
- Middle and Major Donors should receive the exact same mail treatment as everyone else.
- Middle Donors are no different than Mass Donors.
If they’re being honest, most folks have no clue! And that’s totally understandable. Middle Donor programs live in a weird kind of purgatory between Mass and Major Donors and there tends to be a lot of confusion about which kind of treatment should win out.
Let me give you some information that’ll help put an end to some of the confusion.
(Skip to the end of this post for details on our NEW worshop which will help you separate fact from fiction about YOUR particular Middle Donors.)
Middle Donors are people who love your organization. They likely give monthly or fairly regularly to your ongoing programs. And at the end of the year, at tax time, or when holiday love is on their minds, they often WANT to give a little something more. If you position yourself well, get to know what’s important to them, and present ideas that align with their interests, they WILL give more.
How to Target
I like to encourage organizations to set a percentage that dictates the amount of money they will spend to welcome, cultivate, steward, and ask Middle Donors to give again. To illustrate, let’s just say that number is 10%. That means that for a donor who gives $40 per year, you give yourself a budget of $4 to spend on them — that’s about two pieces of mail and a few emails.
For a donor who gives $2,000, you can spend $200. While that’s not enough to send someone to their home or take them out to lunch, it is certainly enough for a few mail pieces, several emails, and a couple in-depth phone calls with someone from your organization.
This is the unappreciated beauty of the Middle Donor. You can give them a highly customized treatment, a real live person they can contact, and targeted offers — the kind of treatment that makes a person want to give more. Significantly more!
In the end, the goal of a successful Middle Donor program is to create a real, meaningful relationship with someone you’ll never actually meet. It’s got to be efficient, cost-effective, and highly relevant.
Think of it this way: interacting with Middle Donors is more than “talking” with Siri, and it’s more than a guy at a sweat-box call centre with a rigid script. But it’s not quite an expensive personal banker who visits a customer’s home to drop off their new black card.
Hands-on Middle Donor Workshop
If you want to separate fact from fiction about YOUR Middle Donors, you should really join us at our NEW workshop: “The Art and Science of Strengthening Your Middle Donor Core” on May 11 in Toronto. It’s all about harnessing the power of your Middle Donor segment for optimal fundraising impact.
Be sure to check out the full agenda and registration options.
Hope to see you there!
Are you on the Middle Donor bandwagon?
Back in 1989, Stephen R. Covey published his best-seller The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and for …
Back in 1989, Stephen R. Covey published his best-seller The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and for some time after that everything in business was about time management.
Marketers were selling calendars as time management devices, and conference talks and seminars were all about making you a more effective time manager. It was a bandwagon that everyone simply had to be on.
The bandwagon right now in the fundraising industry is Middle Donor management.
Everywhere I go, people are talking about Middle Donors. It’s the most popular talk at conferences, everyone is an expert, and every single organization is trying to figure out how to engage this high-potential group most effectively.
Here’s the thing — Middle Donor fundraising is not that hard or complicated. There is a specific, proven way to do it. If you do it right, it will work. We’ve found that out over the last 10+ years and have lots of documented case studies to show it.
Middle Donor management combines the relational components of Major gift fundraising with the discipline of Mass fundraising. It allows you to grow your Middle Donor relationships in a scalable, manageable way. In fact, Middle Donor fundraising may be the answer to a recent industry study that asked, “Relationship Fundraising: where do we go from here?”
The authors of this study rightly point out that a good donor relationship involves timely, relevant communications, a willingness to listen to your donors, and a willingness to respect their preferences. All of this builds trust and helps to foster long-term donor relationships.
The relationship approach has long been focused on Major Donors. As fundraisers, we meet these donors in person, get to know them well, and present them with tailored offers. Nothing will ever replace direct human contact in fundraising. But it’s now possible to extend aspects of relationship fundraising to your Middle Donors. In fact, by taking advantage of technology tools, you can extend the relationship approach to your entire donor file.
If Middle Donor management is a bandwagon concept, why did I jump on it in this blog post? It’s because it seems to me that the bandwagon is furiously trying to invent a wheel that’s already invented. This is not the place to spend your R&D money, folks. There are answers and proven approaches. Here’s a short video where you can learn more.
And if you’re looking for an agency to help you with Middle Donor fundraising, be sure to ask a few questions. Do they understand the principles of relationship fundraising? Do they know how to apply these principles to their Middle Donors? Can they show you some success stories that demonstrate a measurable increase in file size? Ask the right questions, and you’ll be on your way to growing your Middle Donor relationships.