More and more non-profits are discovering that a mid-level program is the key to a healthy donor pipeline. If you’re wondering where to find more major donors, the answer is almost always: look to your mid-level donors.
But how do you know if your mid-level program is working as it should? At Veritus, we evaluate mid-level programs based on three key objectives: Keep, Lift, and Move. When you measure each of these components, you’ll be able to see the real impact of your mid-level program in growing your donor pipeline.
For this podcast episode, Richard and Jeff hand it over to Lisa and Kara, two of our in-house experts on mid-level programs, for a conversation about how to approach your mid-level goals and KPIs so that you can retain more donors and move those who are ready into major gifts.
Show Highlights: In this episode, you’ll learn about…
- How to measure and report on the success of your mid-level program, and the three main KPIs for mid-level:
- Keep – What are your donor retention and attrition rates for mid-level?
- Lift – How many mid-level donors are increasing their giving year over year?
- Move – How many of your mid-level donors are you moving into major gifts?
- Getting a baseline for your donor attrition rates and average gift sizes. (You can request our free donor file analysis here.)
- What kind of timeline to expect before you see results from a new mid-level program.
Read the Full Transcript of This Podcast Episode:
If you’re wondering where to find more major donors, the answer is almost always: look to your mid-level donors. But how do you know if your mid-level program is working as it should? At Veritus, we evaluate mid-level programs based on three key objectives: keep, lift and move. When you measure each of these components, you’ll be able to see the real impact of your mid-level program. For today’s episode, Richard and I are handing the podcast over to Lisa Robertson and Cara Ansotegui, two of our in-house experts on mid-level, for a conversation about how to approach your mid-level goals and KPIs.
Welcome to the Nothing But Major Gifts podcast from Veritus Group featuring Richard Perry and Jeff Schreifels. Twice a month, we bring you the latest and best thinking about major gift fundraising so you can develop authentic relationships with your major donors. Here are your hosts, Richard and Jeff.
Welcome to the podcast today. I’m Lisa Robertson. And my colleague Kara and I are taking over the podcast, while Richard and Jeff practice what they preach. They’re taking the day off. So we’re excited to be with you today. So Kara, let’s start by making some quick introductions so people know who we are.
Sounds great, Lisa. My name is Kara Ansotegui. I’m one of the Client Experience Leaders here at Veritus. And I’ve been with Veritus for a little over a year now as a CEL, but much longer in general, I actually worked with Veritus to help build a mid-level program at a really large national non-profit years ago. And my fun fact for the day is that Lisa was actually my Client Experience Leader all those years ago.
I was. And I’m Lisa Robertson, the Director of Client Services at Veritus. And I’ve been here for about nine years, and a leader in the non-profit industry for nearly 30 years. And a fun fact: Kara and I are both Pac-12 women. Our schools were rivals, but she’s still one of my favorite people. And I’m privileged to call her a colleague.
Thank you, Lisa. And I’ll data us for a minute, because we were actually Pac-10 rivals. We’re old. This is gonna be a really great conversation today, Lisa, we’re going to talk a little bit about mid-level programs, which we both really do share a love for and talk about some of the key performance indicators, KPIs, that we look for in a successful mid-level program. So I’m going to start us off with a question if that would be alright for you. What are the three main ways we measure success in mid-level? And can you define what those mean?
I sure can. Well, it’s super simple, right, there’s a saying that we have of keep, lift, and move. And so I’ll share some definition around those terms and we’ll dive into that a little bit. But we “keep” meaning we want to retain as much value as we can. In major gifts, we see significant growth annually. In mid-level, we want to try to stop the bleed of lost revenue by keeping as much value as we can. And I think we’ll illustrate that more later. And then we “lift” meaning the amount of the donor’s give increases. And we “move” because we want to move relation-qualified donors to major gift officers. So Kara, you mentioned earlier that you actually managed the mid-level program for a large national organization. So what did that idea of keep, lift, and move look like in practice?
Yeah, that’s a great question, Lisa. I think it can look a little bit different for all organizations. But when I was running my mid-level program, “keep” was probably our biggest obstacle. We saw attrition rates, and you probably remember this because you did our data, they were around 73% for our $1,000 plus donors. So that means we were only retaining 23% of our donors at that level. After just one year with Veritus, our mid-level program for the donors we were working with specifically, we’re retaining about 44% of our first year donors and 71% of our multi year donors. So it I know it sounds simple, but it’s so incredible how much personal touch can help with that “keep” side of our metrics. Now, if you don’t mind, I would love to take a step back for a moment and talk about why we focus on these areas and that level rather than you know, the more traditional metrics.
Absolutely. Yeah, they sound squishy, don’t they, but they’re really wonderful. “Keep,” as you illustrated, for a mid-level program can continue to have some value attrition in year one, right it’s going to have some. But if we were losing significant sums, and that has been decreased, it’s still a win because we’ve secured income for our organization. We’re talking percentages here, right Kara, but you and I both have seen that that can mean hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars that’s retained for the organization.
And then “lift” is we look at the number of active donors on the file. Those that gave last year and those who gave this year, we want to see and we typically do see, that the average value of their annual donations increases. And then we want to “move” them. And this is the real beauty of mid-level is how it fits into the pipeline. We want to move relationally qualified donors to major gifts. And that’s a great thing for the organization. Because the cost to qualify the donor is lower, and the pipeline movement is smooth.
Now I say all those things like they’re really easy. There’s a few challenges we’ve seen. And some of them are, really, there’s threefold. Right? So one is, organizations want immediate results, right? So we talked about in major gifts, we often see large numbers, and sometimes we start mid-level. And they’re like okay, six months in, what have I done? How have I made huge strides? Well, it might not be that immediate and huge, but it’s always impactful and wonderful.
Then the second thing we see sometimes is that mid-level officers and leaders question how and why we build caseloads. And you you and I see this all the time, but when we build them, we’re looking for the best donors, and frankly, some might be slightly lapsed, but significant donors, and some may be in the lower end of what we consider major gifts, but we choose them in mid-level, because we’re attempting to reengage them or discover more about them. And in doing that we found a lot of donors do appreciate the attention, like you said. That personal touch does something wonderful. And they’ve been recovered, or they’ve increased their giving.
And then finally, the other thing that is kind of a fear is credit. There’s a fear about who gets the credit for the gifts from mid-level. And it can initially limit the program or there’s this level of competition, and therefore it limits the ability to move the donor. So those from my perspective are kind of three challenges we really do see a lot in mid-level. So those are potential downsides, they’re boring. But let’s talk about the exciting work of how people can actually measure and report on their mid-level program using that framework.
Yeah, that’s something we actually do every quarter here with our clients at Veritus. And while it can actually sound complicated, it doesn’t have to be. As a leader for a mid-level program, you really should be using these KPIs to measure your success. So let’s kind of as you mentioned, let’s walk through what that could look like. Let’s start with “keep.” So let’s know what your attrition rates look like. Let’s start there. You want to work to improve those, as you talked about, because improved attrition actually means more money stays at your organization. You retain more donors and more revenue as a whole. I think people forget that they have these programs, and they acquire new donors every year, and that really covers up the donors that they’re losing.
And you know, what I love about what we do here, Lisa is if you don’t know your attrition rates, we can actually help with that. We offer a free data analysis for any organization that wants to better understand how they’re performing with attrition and retention. And it’s how I actually got started in my journey with Veritus. When I got that analysis back and saw that 73% attrition rate, it made it very easy to help the organization see the value of a program like this. So “lift,” we recommend looking at average gift sizes for your current donors and aiming to lift those averages, right. So there’s no doubt when you start a mid-level program, you’re going to see immediate lift in your gift averages through those second gifts and increased gifts. One of the steps we do in our Veritus process is a survey. And I always tell people, include a business reply envelope, because you’re gonna get money back. And a lot of organizations have apprehension of the cost of that. But it pays for itself because we see these second gifts and we see these increased gifts just for this attention that they’re receiving.
And finally, “move.” This is the part a lot of people struggle with. I’ve been there, so I got it. How are you moving your donors to the major gifts program? If you’re doing it right, you’re gonna move 2 to 3% of your mid-level donors annually to major gifts. And you truly are building the most important pipeline you can for the organization. Donors with interest and inclination, are going to start giving more. So with a caseload of 600, that’s going to be at least 18 donors that are going to move up annually for a mid-level gift officer. 18 more donors that probably were moving up than they were last year. And I will mention again, I know that move is hard. We track that move. We look at the revenue for that move, we report on that move, because we know that without the mid-level team, that move wouldn’t have probably happened.
Really important stuff. Well, this has been a lot of fun. Thanks for joining me today, Kara. And thank you to everyone who’s been listening in on this episode. I hope this has helped you learn more about how to approach your goals with mid-level. You can learn this entire system and structure for creating and developing your own mid-level program in our Certification Course in Mid-Level Fundraising. So check out the upcoming session dates to find the right one for you. Thank you and take care.
Thank you for joining us for the Nothing But Major Gifts podcast from Veritus Group. Richard and Jeff also write an ongoing blog that you can subscribe to for free at VeritusGroup.com. Please join us again next time.