Mid-Level Donations and Their Importance in Fundraising
As a nonprofit professional, you’ve likely read hundreds if not thousands of articles regarding donor acquisition and major gifts. Acquiring new supporters through unique fundraising ideas and stewarding your major donors for major campaigns are undoubtedly an important part of your organization’s strategy.
However, only investing in these supporters leaves a whole group of essential donors that your organization may not be stewarding appropriately: mid-level donors.
If supporters donate at a lower level and they never increase the size of their gifts or if you’ve found that you have a drop off in your retention rate for your mid-level donors, you’re in drastic need of a new approach to steward these important supporters.
In this guide, we’ll discuss mid-level donations and the part they play in your organization’s fundraising strategy. We’ll cover the following subjects:
- Identifying your mid-level donors
- Fundraising capacity of mid-level donations
- Turning mid-level donors into major supporters
- 5 ideas to engage your mid-level donors
Building relationships with all of your supporters is a vital part of your fundraising strategy. However, understanding who your supporters are and what level they give at is necessary to steward them appropriately and maximize your fundraising efforts.
Identifying your mid-level donors
To build relationships with your mid-level supporters, you first need to recognize who your mid-level donors are. This means taking a look into your current base of supporters in your donor database or nonprofit CRM and calculating the range of donations that falls between your minor and major donations.
You can easily determine the average amount of money people give your organization when they make their first gift. Similarly, you can calculate what major gifts look like by reviewing your top gifts from the year and averaging those numbers.
As you’ll see, there is a lot of room between the amounts that your newly-acquired donors contribute and your major gifts. In this space lies your mid-level contributors.
Meyer Partners created a donor pyramid image that is helpful in showing where mid-level donors lie:
As you can see, your mid-level donors generally fall between your first-time major supporters and your recurring minor donors. This means they’ve probably already established a relationship with your organization, have an extensive history recorded in your nonprofit CRM, and have given on a number of occasions.
Determine the average donation for each level in your organization’s donor pyramid. Then you’ll have a good understanding of the general donation amounts that your mid-tier supporters give along with the other donors in your database. From there, you’ll be able to recognize who your mid-tier donors are and create segments based on donation capacity.
Fundraising capacity of mid-level donations
The Pareto principle dictates that 80% of your funding is expected to come from 20% of your donors. However, by focusing on your mid-tier supporters in addition to that top 20% of major donors, you can subvert this expectation and raise more funds overall without losing revenue from your biggest donors.
Imagine that your nonprofit raises:
- $800,000 from 200 major supporters (an average of $4,000 per donor)
- $150,000 from your next 300 supporters (an average of $500 per donor)
- $50,000 from your next 500 supporters (an average of $100 per donor)
This means your organization raises $1,000,000 annually and 80% of your contributions came from your 20% of major donors. The next 15% of your contributions came from your mid-level donors and the final 5% of your fundraising came from the lower-level donors.
Imagine if you were able to increase your average mid-level contribution by $100. You would end up raising $180,000 from your mid-level donors, increasing your total revenue by $30,000! Rather than following the 80/20 rule, your fundraising would break down like this:
- Major supporters give $800,000 or about 78% of your fundraising revenue.
- Mid-level supporters give $180,000 or about 17% of your fundraising revenue.
- Lower-level supporters give $50,000 or about 5% of your fundraising revenue.
Focusing on mid-tier donations is an easy way to raise more money for your nonprofit. While donor acquisition and the stewardship of major donors are essential, remember that effectively stewarding mid-level donors can also have a significant impact on your fundraising success. To develop richer relationships with these key donors, create donor segments for your mid-level supporters. This allows you to better identify them and provide opportunities and communications that best engage them.
Turning mid-level donors into major supporters
Not only do mid-tier supporters offer significant fundraising capacity now, but they can also source your major fundraising in the future. Bloomerang’s major gift guide states:
“Major gifts don’t come out of thin air. A major donation will rarely be given to a nonprofit out of the blue without a previous conversation between the donor and the organization. Therefore, one of the best ways to encourage additional major contributions to your organization is by building relationships with supporters and focusing on your donor retention strategies.”
Donors don’t usually start a relationship with your nonprofit by donating a major gift. They may start by participating in a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign and then give to annual campaigns, volunteer with the organization, or attend an event. After a while, they’ll reach your mid-tier donor threshold. This pool of supporters is where you’ll find your prospects for major contributions.
As you look for new major supporters, start with your mid-tier donors. The three factors that make up a mid-tier donor are that they have a strong connection to your cause, a concern for your mission, and the capacity to contribute.
Encourage your mid-tier supporters to deepen their connections with your cause and your organization by engaging them with emails, events, fundraisers, social posts, and other opportunities.
Ask your supporters about their drive to get involved with your organization. Was it because they had a family member stumble on hard times and the organization helped them get back on their feet? Or maybe you provide research and funding for a disease that affects their family or friends. Finding the reason the person is supporting your nonprofit will help you further strengthen the relationship.
Finally, keep in mind that donors’ capacity to give changes every day. Just because someone doesn’t have the capacity to give in large amounts right now doesn’t mean they never will. People often get promoted, receive raises, pick great stocks, and earn more as time goes on. Therefore, continue building relationships with all supporters because you never know whose capacity to give will increase and when.
5 ideas to engage your mid-level donors
The best way to maximize your relationships with mid-tier supporters is to develop a specific engagement strategy for them. Don’t wine and dine your mid-level supporters in the same way that you do your major donors. Otherwise, your major donors won’t feel as special. However, you also don’t want to treat your mid-tier supporters exactly like the lower-tier supporters.
Rather, the level at which your donors give should reflect on the level of stewardship you provide.
Stewardship can take all shapes and sizes. Some of the stewardship activities you might consider for your mid-level supporters include:
- Communicating impact. Storytelling is an important element of stewardship no matter what level of supporter you’re communicating with. They chose to support your cause because they believe that your nonprofit will carry out your mission effectively. Therefore, tell them about how that support helped your cause so they know they made a difference.
- Provide appreciation gifts. Show your appreciation for donations with small gifts like a sticker or t-shirt. This not only allows your nonprofit to say thank you to donors, but it also helps your marketing strategy. As supporters sport branded merchandise in public, they’ll start conversations with others about your cause.
- Ask supporters to get involved in other ways. Donations are great, but the more involved mid-level donors get with other activities, the more they’ll grow their commitment to your mission. Ask them to volunteer, participate in advocacy campaigns, or join your next peer-to-peer fundraising campaign.
- Diversify your outreach efforts. Diversification keeps your supporters from getting bored or losing interest in your communications. Therefore, you should change how you reach out to them. Leverage Facebook, Instagram, email, direct mail, phone calls, and more. Also, vary the content of your messages. Asking supporters to donate every time can get bothersome and make them wonder if you only think about them as, for lack of a better description, ATMs. Tell stories, introduce campaigns, and provide educational materials about your mission to engage them.
- Invite them to events. Appreciation events are key to getting to know your supporters on a more personal level. Be sure to provide lots of fun, engaging opportunities for attendees—and don’t ask for donations during the event. This shows that you’re not only interested in their money.
Create a stewardship strategy to engage your mid-level supporters. Show appreciation for their dedication to your cause and encourage them to deepen their commitment to it.
Too many nonprofit organizations focus all of their time and effort on new and major donors. Although these are both two important groups of supporters, there is a great opportunity for organizational growth that opens up when nonprofit leaders also pay attention to mid-level supporters.
To increase revenue and nurture your base of support, be sure your organization reaches out to and stewards all supporters for your cause with appropriate, successful engagement strategies for each donor segment. Good luck!