In my last post, I talked about what it meant to have a strong brand for a non-profit. It’s giving your donors a great experience. Not just when they become a new donor to your organization, but all through their relationship with you, to become major donors and hopefully one day to leave you in their estate plans.
When Veritus Group first started, our focus was exclusively helping non-profits to create, build and manage major gift programs. But while working on those major gift programs and seeing some amazing success, we realized fairly quickly that there were donors sitting in the middle not moving into major gifts.
Our major gifts officers were clamoring to have more qualified donors move into their caseloads. We just needed to make it easier for those donors.
In further research, we found that for most organizations, the middle level donor was experiencing the same thing as a $25 donor… mainly direct mail. That is not a bad thing, because those donors were still giving – yet the question was: “Could we do more of what we do with major gifts and inspire these donors not only to continue giving more each year, but could we move them into major gifts much faster?”
Our hypothesis was “Yes.” Then the question became “how do we do that?” Below, I’m going to give you our answer. I hope the answer will inspire you to look at the experience you are giving your donors with your organization, so that your donor pipeline becomes free and clear to allow donors to trust they can make a real investment in your mission.

  1. Identify your mid-level donor. To do this I would first ask what do you consider a major donor? Then I would conduct a donor pyramid analysis on your donor file, to show the number of donors and their value by cumulative giving range. For most organizations we work with, the mid-level falls into two camps: $250-$999 or $1,000-$9,999. Occasionally, for universities it could even be as high as $1,000-$49,000. It really depends on how large your organization is.
  2. Move toward more intimacy. The objective with your mid-level donors is to start introducing them to a higher level of service and intimacy with your organization. Think back to my last post about how airlines create a higher level of service as you fly more. While these donors are not major donors yet, you are trying to give them the first experiences of being a major donor. Just like we do with major gifts, you need to create a structure for the mid-level program. I’m not going to go in detail here, but all the steps are there for you in our white paper to have the proper structure to be successful.
  3. Be creative. Once you have the structure in place, you now have the ability to be creative in how you are doing to give the donor a new experience with your organization. Here are some ideas:
    1. Thank donors when they haven’t given a gift
    2. Write personal notes on mass communication pieces like newsletters
    3. Send out personal “you made a difference” pieces.
    4. Call to find out why the donor supports your organization.
    5. Write a personal letter introducing yourself to the donor, and give her your e-mail and phone number so she knows she has a personal representative that is there to answer any question that comes up.
    6. Call to let donors know there is an event approaching that they may be interested in attending.
    7. Create a multi-channel campaign using mail, email, social media and phone to ask for a special gift.
    8. Acknowledge milestones in the donor’s relationship to you.
    9. Ask for a large gift based on the donor’s passions and interests.
    10. Talk to donors about planned giving opportunities, and ask if you might be able to assist them.
  4. Have a service mentality. Great non-profits, like great for-profit companies, are successful because they have a “service mentality” toward their donors. Not just a reactive-type of service waiting for a donor to reach out to you, but one where the organization is always thinking of ways to enhance the experience that donors have with your organization.

What experience are you giving your donors? How quickly are donors moving into your major gift programs? Do you think there is more opportunity for those donors to move up, if you could unclog that pipeline?
I urge you to get your major gifts and direct-response teams together to figure out how you can give your donors a great experience at all giving levels. The donors will respond. We know – we’ve been running mid and major gift programs for many years, and the success has been dramatic. What are you waiting for?