“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.