Much has been written lately about the benefits of a strong Middle Donor program — and rightly so. With other fundraising areas showing a decrease in returns, a robust Middle Donor program can offset some of these losses. While many agencies are trying to “figure it out,” there is a proven best-practice approach ready to be implemented.
In this blog, I’ll pass on some of our top secrets to help you develop your own program. But first, let’s start with some basics.
Organizations use very different definitions for “Middle Donors” (also known as “Mid Level Donors”). A new program tends to be geared towards lower giving levels, while a more mature program has higher levels. As a program matures, organizations adjust the levels.
The objective of a Middle Donor program is to get it to its optimal size — from a cost and manageability perspective — and then maintain that size while you grow income. This naturally leads to setting a higher giving level for Middle Donor eligibility.
In general, however, a Middle Donor program is specific to donors who give $1,000 to $9,999 per year. It is a bankable way to predictably grow the top-end of your Mass file and feed your Major Donor program. Year-over-year growth for programs that follow a disciplined system outpace any other file-growth investment I’ve seen.
A successful Middle Donor program is also:
When launching a new program, it’s imperative that you create a detailed Middle Donor strategy that includes various touchpoints with donors. Most, if not all, of the following elements should be part of your plan:
The starting place for effective Middle Donor fundraising is knowing that fundraising is about two things: relationships and discipline. All the elements of a successful program are built on those two principles.
Organizations commonly polarize their efforts between Mass Donor engagement and Major Donor engagement. The thinking is that Major Donor management is about relationships and Mass Donor management is about science and discipline.
We beg to differ.
In our view, every donor would benefit from a close and meaningful fundraising relationship, but the cold hard truth is we simply can’t cost-justify providing that level of service for donors who give at the $50 per year level. Meanwhile, without a disciplined, accountable, and systematic process, those who are engaging Major Donors are not being as effective as they can and should be. So, while Mass and Major tend to be polarized, Middle can be the bridge that pulls these two ends together.
The only reason not to jump into the deep end of the Middle Donor pool is if you don’t think your organization has the discipline or appetite to do it right and stick with it. The results are predictable, but the approach and system must be followed rigorously.
Again, the secret to making it work is discipline and commitment.
A disciplined, efficient, relationship-centred Middle Donor program will have profound impacts on your file:
If we accept the two principles that the program must be both disciplined and strongly relational, what does that mean?
These are some of our top secrets to creating an effective Middle Donor program. While it may take some time to get your program up and running, the long-term benefits cannot be overlooked.