First in a two-part series

Mid-level is hot right now! Everyone is talking about the need to create a solid mid-level program, and we couldn’t be happier about it – because it’s a key component in creating a successful pipeline into major and planned gifts.

More and more non-profits are finally understanding the value of going beyond an enhanced direct-response program (which is all good) and adding a mid-level officer to start building relationships with donors and qualify some of them into major gifts.

But what actually makes a great Mid-Level Officer (MLO)? This is what I and my colleague Karen Kendrick (Senior Director of Client Engagement at Veritus Group) want to explore with you over the next two blog posts. We want to discuss two areas: key skills and key traits that make up an extraordinary MLO. I’ll take the key skills, and Karen will expound on the key traits.

Key Skills

The role of the MLO has two key dynamics: administrative and relational. No individual is going to have strengths in all areas, but you must have an aptitude and a great attitude of openness in both of these areas to be successful.

1. Phone skills

Not everyone has them. In fact, we have stories of non-profits who hire someone within the organization that they “think” would be great for this role, but they find out quickly that the new MLO absolutely hates talking on the phone. Great MLOs are very comfortable on the phone because they possess the ability to a) ask open-ended questions; b) listen for key information; c) grasp time management and understand what it means to respect the donor’s time; and finally d) speak clearly and comfortably on the phone and leave great messages. In our work with MLOs, we find that this is a huge component to their training.

2. Email skills

This may seem weird, but can you write like you’re a human talking normally? You have to be able to convey emotion through your writing. Emails have to be well written, grammatically correct, not too long, and have impact and meaning. That isn’t easy, and it’s no small thing. The key for the MLO is to be able to take personal information about the donor and, in that email, ask great questions that the donor will be compelled to respond to. For example, we had one MLO who sent out an email to some of her donors about new guidelines on the age of a person getting cancer screenings. She asked her donors if they would pass the word on. Many of her donors responded saying they would talk with their friends. They also thanked her for sending the information. This MLO knew how to get her donors to engage, not just send out information.

3. Organizational skills

The MLO has to have great organizational skills so that they can track and record key information about the donor. Having a strong balance of communication, execution and administration are all skills a great MLO must have to be successful. A related skill an MLO must possess is above-average time management abilities. Our experience on the frontlines have shown us that MLOs who are successful at this will block time, several times per week, to make sure they have plenty of space for the tasks on hand.

4. Facilitation skills

Do you know how to engage in active listening? Are you quick to ask open-ended questions without being interrogating? How curious are you as a person? Being curious goes beyond asking questions; it means you’re doing online searches on your donors to discover more about them. One MLO we work with researched a $1K donor and discovered he’s the estate manager for his mother, who is the owner of a professional sports team worth billions of dollars. In another organization without a curious MLO, that donor may have slipped through the cracks and become “one of many.” Instead, because that donor is connected and interested AND we know his capacity and passions, they were able to immediately move that donor to be cultivated by a major gift officer.

These are the four key skills your Mid-Level Officer needs to possess in order to be successful. Great thought, care, and consideration by management is important to bring in good people who are going to care for some of your best donors.

Check out the next post to hear from Karen on the traits of a great MLO.


This post originally appeared on the Passionate Giving Blog on April 14, 2021.