I get no respect!A few years ago the comedienne Kathy Griffin had a reality show called “My Life on the D List.” Essentially she made fun of herself as a non-“A-list” celebrity and the lack of respect those celebrities get from the public. It was a funny show, but there were many cringe-worthy scenes of how badly other people treated her at times.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the “C” level donors on your portfolio lately. Why? Well, I was reviewing a mid-level program the other day and tracking all the donors that have moved from mid-level to major gift portfolios… it was quite impressive. It was exactly what the Director of Major Gifts was hoping for. “We need more major donors in our portfolio,” is what we all heard. And quite frankly, we delivered.
However, in digging a bit deeper, I noticed something disturbing about the donors that moved into these portfolios. Nothing was happening!
Nope, they were just sitting in a major gift officer’s portfolio without any contact from the MGO. And this is what I feared would happen once you take an active mid-level donor who is getting attention from a mid-level rep, then move her to a major gift portfolio.
So essentially, the major gift officer was technically getting “credit” for any gifts the now “C” level donor was giving, yet he was not doing anything to influence any of that giving. Worse yet, many of those donors that I was tracking stopped making gifts altogether.
This phenomenon is not just relegated to donors moving up from mid-level programs. I see many portfolios where the “C” level donor is considered an afterthought.
Richard and I understand how this can happen. I mean, even Veritus Group will tell you to spend 50% of your time on your “A” level donors after you have tiered your whole portfolio A-C. (Learn about Tiering Your Donors here.) This is the group that has the most return on your investment. Yet that means you still have the other half of your time for B and C donors.
I think you may be forgetting that part. I hope not, but from what I’m witnessing in the field it sure seems like major gift officers are not cultivating those lower-level major donors enough.
I’m not writing this to shame you. No, I’m just providing a “gut check” to see if you’ve really been trying to understand the passions and interests of your lower-level, or “C” level major gift donors. If you think about it, many of these donors will be your “A” level donors, and a few of them will even be able to make substantial or transformational gifts in a few years.
In fact, instead of worrying about how to reach the “rich, young entrepreneur” in town, if you spent a little more time with your own portfolio – really getting to know who your donors are – you would find more “gold” than you realize.
Here are some ideas on how to re-engage with your lower-level or “C” level major donors:

  1. Reach out. Make it a point to call 2-3 of your “C” level donors each week to thank them and find out why they give to your organization. This will lead to setting up at least one face-to-face meeting per week with a lower-level major donor.
  2. Meet with donors. If you are scheduling some donor trips in a particular area, find one or two “anchor” donors (“A” level donors that you have been cultivating), then find a number of lower-level major donors on your portfolio to fill up the rest of your trip calendar. This gives you a good reason to say you’d like to meet with the donor, since you will be in their area.
  3. Research constantly. As I said before, you may not realize how good your “C” level donors really are. By researching these donors, you will find that many of them have much more capacity than you realize. In fact, I know you will, because I’ve seen this happen all the time. The key is to actually carve out the time for these donors.
  4. Welcome donors. We always recommend that any new donor that joins your portfolio, whether he is coming from your mid-level program or not, should have a series of “welcome touches” which show the donor he is now receiving more attention and service. I’m worried that donors are being put into your portfolio and nothing is being done with them, as I mentioned earlier.

Remember, these lower-level major donors are your future “A” level donors, and some of them will make transformational gifts. While you can’t spend as much time on these donors as higher, net revenue producing donors, the quality of service and cultivation you put in can make a huge difference to that donor.
Let all your donors feel the love… and they will love you back.
PS — Make sure you have our White Paper on “How to Tier Your Major Donors“!
A version of this post was originally published in July 2016.