Recently, while co-hosting a live Q&A webinar with Jeff, it struck me – our community has a lot of the same questions, especially when it comes to relationship-based mid-level fundraising. In that moment I thought, “Ah ha… we need a blog on that!”
Today’s blog is part one of a two-part series dedicated to the top questions we hear. It also includes our answers and recommendations for these questions and/or circumstances. I hope it proves to be helpful in your journey.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention one key element – these are best practices that we at Veritus recommend. Still, we know organizations are beautifully unique. When we coach clients, we know it’s not a one-size-fits all approach. We begin with our best practices and build or adapt from there as needed. We confidently trust you will do the same!
Onto the fun…
Q: Should I remove my mid-level donor if I haven’t heard back from them? If they’re not responding, they probably don’t want to hear from us, right?
A: Please don’t remove them! My colleague Lisa Robertson just wrote a blog about the stories we tell ourselves about why donors don’t pick up the phone or respond to us. We often tell ourselves that it means they don’t want to hear from us, when the reality is they’re just very busy, or maybe they’re managing a sick family member and don’t have bandwidth right now, or maybe they’re traveling internationally and don’t even know you’ve been calling them.
Regardless of the reason, we don’t remove donors from mid-level just because they aren’t responding right away. Instead, we let their giving dictate whether they remain in our portfolio. If a donor isn’t picking up the phone but is giving the same amount of money, or better yet, MORE, they are responding. Just not in the way you’re expecting them to.
So, keep those donors in your caseload and keep making outreach based on your mid-level communications calendar. And, if at any point they become two-year lapsed donors, then you can remove them. That’s a great indication that they truly are unresponsive. (Did you know some donors only give every other year?)
Q: How do I qualify a mid-level donor?
A: You don’t! For clarity – all mid-level donors are qualified once they are put in your portfolio. Confused yet? Let me explain more. In major gifts, we say donors have to opt in by being “qualified” (which means they responded during our seven-step process of trying to reach the donor). In mid-level, the donor’s revenue range is what opts them in. The donor actually has to opt out of mid-level.
So, how does one opt out? Two simple ways: One, they tell us they don’t want to have a relationship with us. Or, two, they stop giving for two consecutive years in a row. As in the point above, they are now a two-year lapsed donor.
Q: What’s the difference between the qualification (major gifts) and the introduction series (mid-level)?
A: Nothing. And also, a lot. Clear? Let me explain. If you look at the mid-level introduction series, it nearly mimics the major gifts qualification series. At least it does at first glance. I think that’s why it confuses people so much.
There are two key differences. First, the mid-level introduction series continues through the touch points, no matter if we hear back from the donor or not. In major gifts, the seven-step series ends after a two-way connection is made. Why? Well, because that’s when they become “qualified.” Once qualified, we work to build a deeper one-to-one relationship by planning monthly touch points for each donor, specific to their passions and interests. Mid-level continues at a one-to-some pace throughout the entire introduction series, even if we have a two-way connection to the donors. We’re still trying to build a relationship and are still listening for passions and interests, but the communication plan is built for the entire portfolio.
Second, the major gifts qualification process concludes with a “final note.” If we don’t connect with a donor during the process, we send them a final note and close the process. We then move the donor to another part of the donor pipeline that is most suitable. In mid-level, we continue communicating until they are removed from our caseload.
Q: My donor told me they don’t want to hear from me, so I removed them from ALL communications, just like they asked. Is that right?
A: No! This is a “bee in my bonnet” topic because I feel so strongly about it. Please do not remove your donor from direct response if they tell you they don’t want a relationship with you!! We’ve seen time and time again that when fundraisers take donors out of the direct response stream, the donor stops giving. Please don’t do that!
This is a situation where you can use Permission-Based Asking™ to better understand what the donor wants. Here’s an example:
“Thank you for sharing that you don’t want to receive any more communications from me. Do you mind if I ask you a couple of follow-up questions to ensure I’m serving you properly?” (They’re going to give you permission). “Are you no longer wanting to receive the impact pieces I have been sending, or are you concerned about the number of mailing and solicitations you’re receiving from us in general?”
Let’s pretend they tell you it’s both. Your job is to ensure you keep this donor in your direct response mailings at least 1-2x a year, depending on when they give. That’s when I recommend you say, “I appreciate that you’ve been so open with me about your preferences. Looking at your history of giving, I see you normally support us in December and May. Would it be ok if we sent you a mailing in November and April as a friendly reminder that it’s your typical season of giving?”
A large percentage of the time, your donors are going to agree to this.
I know this is a lot to absorb, so I’m going to end Part 1 of our Q&A here. Stay tuned for the second half of this series, where I answer questions about how frequently you should move donors to major gifts, when we recommend removing donors from mid-level, and how often you should be reaching out to your mid-level donors.
Until next time, Veritus friends.
Kara Ansotegui is Director of Client Services at Veritus Group. She has over 20 years of experience in non-profit leadership serving in fundraising and marketing executive roles. Kara has been responsible for strategic program development in major gifts, mid-level, and donor relations. She has served as the CRM data management SME for numerous non-profits. Kara has an undergraduate in Business Administration from Oregon State University and an MBA in Marketing from Georgia State University.