Hand off donors to the right person.How do you take a donor that a mid-level gift officer has been working with and hand him over to a major gift officer?
Our team at Veritus gets this question all the time, because not only do we help build and manage major gift programs, we also do the same with mid-level programs. Before I get into how do make this transition, let me talk about why a good mid-level program is so helpful to major gifts:

  1. More Personal Attention — A mid-level program helps donors get “used to” more personal attention from your organization — this helps them realize they have moved from a mass communication effort from your organization to a more one-to-one relationship. And for the major gift officer, more personal attention means there will be more information about a donor that she can use to facilitate the relationship.
  2. Qualified Donors — For the major gift team, the best part of a mid-level program is that you are qualifying a donor before moving him to major gifts. In most cases where a non-profit does not have a mid-level program, it’s the major gift officer who has to qualify and ALSO cultivate their current caseload. That is not easy, as you know. Having QUALIFIED donors move into a major gift portfolio is one of the best things you can do for your major gift officer.

Now, before a transition takes place, I want to give you a list of indicators or triggers for the mid-level officer to be aware of to know when it’s probably a good time to transition them. There are three kinds of overall indicators for the mid-level donor representative: Giving, Life and Interests Indicators.
Giving Indicators

  • Made a significantly higher gift than in the past.
  • Just made first gift of ($5k, $10k, or higher – depending on set level).
  • More frequent large gifts (e.g., $1,000 every other week, or monthly)
  • Made a gift out of stock.
  • Mentions they give substantially to another non-profit.
  • Has an IRA they want to give charitable gifts from.
  • Mentions they have a Donor Advised Fund of use a Community Foundation for their charitable giving.
  • Mentions they have the organization in their will.
  • Gives for 10+ years consecutively.

Life Indicators

  • Mentions ownership of multiple homes (shore, mountains, etc.)
  • Mentions they are business owners/large number of employees
  • Mentions they travel extensively or talk about recent trips/cruises, etc.
  • Mentions they are thinking about selling real estate or other large items such as a boat, as they are no longer using them.
  • Have established a trust for their children or grandchildren.
  • Getting ready to retire.
  • Thinking about selling their business.
  • Mentions they are members of a culturally elite group or have season tickets to the opera, orchestra, etc.
  • Mentions that the donor holds a very-high-level job in a Fortune 500 company.
  • Mentions that a family member or close friend is on the national board for the organization.

Interest Indicators

  • Expresses an interest in visiting a program or service site.
  • Expresses interest in volunteering.
  • Mentions they have attended events to support the organization.
  • Mentions they have served on advisory, local, or national boards for the organization in the past.

These are all POTENTIAL indicators that the donor is ready to transition to a major gift officer. You and your colleagues will ultimately have to make the decision based on your overall knowledge of and relationship with the donor.
Now, here are the steps to transition a mid-level donor to a major gift officer. First, there are two types of transitions: 1) The mid-level rep does not have a necessarily strong tie or relationship to the donor, OR 2) The mid-level rep has a strong relationship with the donor.
For a mid-level rep that does NOT have a strong relationship with the donor, we recommend that the Major Gift Officer send a letter to the donor introducing himself and explaining that he is their new personal representative of the organization and is their main contact. He will say he’s following up with a phone call and would love to meet with them in the near future.
Very simple.
For donors that DO have a strong relationship with the mid-level officer, we recommend the following:

  1. Have the mid-level rep send an email or letter to the donor explaining that a different representative will be her new point of contact for the organization. Explain that the donor will be in good hands with the major gift officer, and he/she will be able to give her more personal attention and insight to the programs of the organization. In that letter, tell the donor you would like to introduce the major gift officer to her in a phone call (or it could be over email).
  2. Phone call — Here the mid-level rep will introduce the major gift officer to the donor. The purpose is to help transition the relationship and help the donor get comfortable with her new contact. In that phone call the major gift officer should try and schedule a face-to-face meeting.
  3. Referring back to the previous rep — During the course of the transition, it’s always a good idea for the major gift officer to refer back to the donor’s previous relationship with the other rep. For example, “Hi [donor], I was just talking to [mid-level rep] about how committed you are with our mission, and she told me a story about how you…” This just gives the donor a level of comfort that you are all one team, and that the donor is not just being passed around the organization.

Transitioning a qualified donor into a major gift officer’s portfolio with ease is one of the best things you can do for the major gift program, the organization… and the donor!
Anything you can do to keep the pipeline to major gifts free and clear of any clogs is your goal. Following these steps will help tremendously.
PS — Read more about mid-level giving programs by downloading our free white paper on the topic.