Second in a Six-Part Series: What Should I Do If…?
Upgrade.Questions on mid-level donors come to us quite a bit. Fortunately, many non-profits are starting to “wake up” when it comes to mid-level donors. But they’re not exactly sure what they should be doing.
If you have a traditional fundraising program that is acquiring and cultivating donors with different forms of direct-response marketing, it’s most likely you haven’t had any face-to-face or human interaction with these donors. So the question is, how do you start moving in that direction when you begin a mid-level program with a mid-level officer?
Okay, here’s what you do:

  1. Make sure, before you start a mid-level program, that you bring both the direct-response and the major gift teams (including planned giving) together. Make sure each discipline understands the new program’s objectives. The objectives are to

    a. increase retention or decrease value attrition,
    b. increase revenue per donor, and
    c. move more qualified donors into major gift portfolios more quickly than a donor would on their own.

  2. Review the data. Go back 24 months and select out your mid-level donors. The cumulative giving range will differ depending on the size of your organization. Let’s say it’s $500-$2,499 cume in any one of the last two years. From there, you can create mid-level caseloads of 600 donors in each portfolio.
  3. Create the proper structure. Tier your donors, and create a 12-month communication plan that overlays on top of the direct-response fundraising strategy. Include protocols on how a donor moves from mid-level to major gifts. Get everyone on board with that protocol.
  4. Create a system of evaluation. This should track overall revenue year over year, retention rates, and how many donors move into major gifts.

If you click on the links provided, you’ll see we’ve written in-depth, and you can get more information.
But this next part is about fully answering the question about upgrading a donor you’ve never spoken to. Now, assuming you’ve done all the above, this is what you do:

  1. Write a welcome letter to your Tier A mid-level donors letting them know who you are and what your role is as a mid-level officer. Tell them you’ll be reaching out to them. Over time you can start to reach out more personally with Tier A and B donors.
  2. Start making personal connections with those donors – through phone, or even through surveys. The point is that you want to thank donors for their gifts. And highlight what the organization is doing with those gifts. The idea is to start building a relationship with those donors, get them comfortable that they now have someone they can talk with from your organization.
  3. As you develop trust with the donor, THEN you can ask them if they would like to consider a higher gift – an additional gift that matches the donor’s passions and interests. You can do this over the phone, in an email, or through a personal written proposal that shows the donor you know who they are and why they would find this “offer” something worth considering.

All of these steps are necessary if you want to upgrade the gifts of your mid-level donors, when no one has ever reached out to those donors. The mistake many non-profits make is that they think, “Oh I’ll just call a bunch of our mid-level donors and ask for a gift on the phone.” You may get a gift, but you’ll most likely lose the relationship because you didn’t build that relationship properly.
When thinking about your mid-level donors, play the long game. Remember, you want to ultimately build a robust major gift pipeline. (Tweet it!) Do that properly by investing in your mid-level donors and building relationships with them.
PS — If you want to know how to build a successful mid-level program, check out our Certification Course in Mid-Level Fundraising starting on March 16, 2020.
Read the whole series, What Should I Do If…?

What If Leadership Is NOT Entirely on Board with a Donor-Centered Program?
What If I’m Trying to Upgrade a Mid-Level Donor and No One Has Ever Talked to Them? (This post)
What If My Older Donor Stops Giving, but They Tell Us They’ve Made a Planned Gift?
What If I’m Trying to Promote Better Collaboration Between Departments?
What If I Can’t Get a Donor to Talk to Me?