In a few hours, I’m jumping on a plane to Chicago to speak at the Nonprofit Storytelling Conference and I couldn’t be more excited!
This conference has had such a positive buzz about it since it started 3 years ago, and I can’t wait to be part of it.
What will I be talking about? Surprise, surprise: mid-level donors. You know they’re my favourite kind of donor, and I can’t wait to share some thoughts on them with the crowd.
My presentation is called “Telling mid-level donors the stories they want to hear”. I don’t want to give away all my secrets, but I will say this: if I’m saying that we need to tell mid-level donors the stories they want to hear, am I suggesting that we haven’t been?
The answer is yes.
So what stories have we been telling our mid-level donors that haven’t been working?
#1 – The brand story
I spoke about this in my post on “The Field of Dreams Myth”, as I call it. A lot of organizations have the instinct to brand their mid-level giving program – give it a name, a logo, and letterhead. This tactic is not off-base, but it’s not enough. (And all too often, it’s based on internal organizational needs vs. the needs of the donor.)
#2 – The variable paragraph story
Variable paragraphs are best practice in direct mail (and email, to a degree) and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with them. But, if we expect to inspire mid-level donors to step it up just because we call them “generous” in a variable paragraph, then we’re going to be sorely disappointed. We need to do more.
#3 – The closed envelope story
One of the most commonly used tactics is to send mid-level donors exactly what your regular donors get, but with a distinction – rather than a #10 envelope with your usual postage indicia, mid-level donors get their letter in a closed envelope with a real, live stamp on the front! Don’t get me wrong – it’s a classy touch, makes the package stand out in a pile of bills… but is this going to inspire donors to give at a new level? No.
#4 – An insert story (if they’re lucky)
Finally, the most we might do for mid-level donors to try to distinguish their experience from everyone else is to insert something extra into their package – maybe it’s a lift note from someone meaningful to them/the package, maybe it’s a small insert that expands on the funding priorities… And this comes from a great insight about mid-level donors wanting more from the organizations they support. More content! More behind-the-scenes info! More! An insert will take you part of the way, but on its own will it do enough? No.
The stories aren’t working.
I promise you I’ll talk to you about what stories will work in a few weeks.
Until then – what are you seeing that doesn’t work? What does?
Let me know in the comments!
Written by Maeve Strathy
Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for ten years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.