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Looking for Your Next Major Donor?


There is so much conversation about major donors, and I am guilty of it as well. We forget about the mid-level donors. At the vast majority of organizations these are donors between $500 and $5,000. At some organizations they are donors who give $2,500 to $9,999. An organization needs to analyze its data to determine their pool of mid-level donors.


The problem is that like the middle child in a family, they get lost in the organization’s hubbub. Not on purpose – it just happens. They are often loyal donors who an organization has spent very little resources cultivating. They have so much potential to do more – volunteer, spread-the-word about the organization’s mission, and make larger gifts.


These are donors whose first gift was a mid-range gift and have shown interest in what the organization does. How do you respond to them? Does the organization have a plan?


Changes to the Giving Landscape, a recent study by the Indiana University Lily Family School of Philanthropy, found that from 2000 to 2016 13% fewer American households made charitable contributions. That is 20 million families that stopped making donations to nonprofit organizations. This trend has continued as noted by the Giving USA report released in June of this year with a 10% decline in the number of individual donors.


What if you treated the organization’s mid-level donors just like you treat its major gift donors? You could invite them to breakfast with the executive director. Perhaps you could send them an additional hand-written thank you note.


It is worth repeating – does the organization have a plan?


Here are a few ideas:

• First, analyze the organization’s database and determine what a mid-level donor looks like. You should dig a little deeper. After finding a dollar range, you should look at how they give. Are they giving online or are they sending checks? How long have they been donors? Can you determine their interest in the organization’s mission? You could call a few and ask, “why do you support this organization?” Are they interested in specific programs delivered by the organization? Don’t forget to look at recurring donors whose annual gift totals would place them in the mid-level donor group.

• The organization’s database should be able to allow you to segment this group into three to five smaller groups based upon their interests in the organization. Smaller groups will be easier to manage and determine if the organization’s strategies work. Create a plan to cultivate each group. The plan may be the same for all the groups. The difference might be in the wording of letters and events to which you invite them. If a donor has expressed interest in the organization’s program for homeless veterans, you will not invite them to learn more about vaccinations for homeless children.

• You will want to include in the organization’s plan various ways to cultivate these donors. One way would be to invite the mid-level donors to joint events with major donors. Whether these are volunteer-work events or social-educational events, having mid-level and major gift donors share time and conversation together will enrich both groups and the organization.


With declines in giving by individuals and families, nonprofit organizations need to consider different strategies. First, know how many donors an organization has. Second, utilize segmentation, not to treat donors differently, but to be able to apply appropriate cultivation strategies based upon donors’ interests in the organization’s mission.


I realize that many organizations are short-staffed. By experimenting with one segment of donors, an organization could test new cultivation strategies. Mid-level donors would be a great place to start.

An organization has so much to learn and gain from working with these donors. Ask the organization’s mid-level donors what they would like from the organization. The concept of donor-centered fundraising is about donor appreciation. Mid-level donors would be a great place to begin a fundraising shift.

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