What stories have we been telling our mid-level donors?

what-stories-have-we-been-telling-our-mid-level-donors

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!

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for ten years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
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What do you need for your mid-level giving program?

What do you need for your mid-level giving program-

If this is your first time on this blog, first of all – WELCOME!

Second of all, although I – and guest bloggers who join me – write about anything and everything related to fundraising and philanthropy, there’s one topic that’s my favourite.

Mid-level giving.

Yes, mid-level. That awkward middle child between the well-oiled machine called “annual giving” and the refined big sister called “major gifts”.

Many organizations have been playing in the mid-level sandbox for years now, but for many others it’s a new frontier.

If you’re one of those “many others”, I’ve got a piece of advice to get you started.

Just one thing, that’s simple to understand, but by no means easy to perfect.

Here it is:

To have a successful mid-level giving program, you must use a hybrid approach of direct response fundraising and personal solicitation.

Translation: You can’t just reach mid-level donors through the mail, and you can’t just try the major gift approach with them.

Why?

Well, we’ve conditioned most of our donors to be inspired to give via the mail, and so we can’t just take that away from them. Moreover, in my experience, a lot of mid-level donors just don’t want to meet with you. When I was running the mid-level giving program at Wilfrid Laurier University, I would reach out to donors and ask them to meet and they would be (a) very nervous about why I wanted to meet with them, and/or (b) appreciate the thought, but were very happy giving the way they always had.

Fair enough! So you have to keep up with the direct response approach. Although, the mail you send your mid-level donors can’t be the same ol’ appeal you send everyone else. But that’s a topic for another day.

But mail on its own isn’t enough. A lot of these donors are dying for more engagement with your organization, and reaching out to them personally, to meet with them one-on-one, is exactly what they need to stretch their giving to the next level.

This approach has worked wonders for major giving for years, and there’s a good reason. It’s personal, it’s intimate, and it gives you a chance to really understand your donor.

However, of course we can’t justify the resources it takes to travel to meet a donor, take them for lunch, etc. when they make a $1,000 gift at the end of it all. So, these face-to-face meetings have to be done a bit differently than they are with major gift donors/prospects. But that’s a topic for another day, too.

So that’s it, folks! The essential approach to start your mid-level giving program.

Let me know in the comments what you want to know more about.

And thanks for reading!

~~

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for over nine years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
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Why do donors give so little?

why do donors give so little-

I heard Mark Phillips talk about this once and I want to wax philosophical on it for a few minutes.

We seem to hear year after year from research like what Penelope Burk does that donors didn’t feel they gave as much to charity as they could the year before.

Why is this?

Put simply: We’re not asking enough of our donors.

We’re not asking them often enough. We’re not asking them for enough money. We’re not giving them enough ways to engage with us more deeply.

On the point of not asking donors for enough money, Mark has a great illustration of this.

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Why do donors give so little? Because we ask them to.

Now don’t think for one second that I don’t think every gift is important, that every donor is important, or that every person who supports a cause with a dollar a day is stupid.

I value all donors.

But we have been part of this misconception that that’s what charity costs: a dollar a day. That’s all a donor needs to give to make a difference and feel engaged.

We have been doing ourselves – and donors! – a disservice by perpetuating this falsehood.

And when it comes to mid-level donors – or potential mid-level donors – who you know I love talking about, this is part of the reason why we have disengaged and uninspired donors in the middle: because we aren’t giving them a special enough opportunity to engage with us.

We aren’t inspiring them with a big problem for them to solve through a big investment.

Donors give us a lot and they are so amazing and we are so grateful.

However, donors seem to be telling us that they aren’t giving as much as they can.

So let’s find ways to inspire a new level of giving among our donors.

And then steward the hell out of ’em so they know how much they mean to us.

~~

Sign up for my email list and get a FREE E-BOOK on mid-level donors!

Written by Maeve Strathy

20150326_Strathy_Maeve_02
Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for over nine years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

Let’s inspire mid-level donors!

let's inspire mid-level donors

Last week I wrote about mid-level donors and what we’re doing wrong with them.

Mid-level donors are neglected, uninspired, and disengaged.

Why? Because we’re making assumptions about them.

We’re assuming they want to be treated like a major donor — in-person meetings, more targeted asks, and more information to inspire their giving, because they see their gift as an investment.

Or we’re assuming they want to be treated like an annual donor — they’ve been conditioned to give by mail, after all, so let’s just throw in a variable paragraph to distinguish them among our other donors, and maybe put their letter in a square envelope with a real, live stamp on it.

WRONG!

The mid-level donor is neither the major or the annual donor. They’re telling us they’re different, by the ways they behave and the ways they give. They’re saying, “I have capacity to give more, and I want to be more engaged in your organization.”

So how can we capitalize on that?

The mid-level donor is a hybrid, so we need a hybrid program.

Don’t pull the mid-level donor out of the mail. Instead, start to find ways to enhance the content we send them. If they see their gift as an investment, think of how they’d want to be asked. Would we give a corporate sponsor a traditional direct mail appeal? Or would we give them something that feels more customized, that feels more detailed and informative, that has more “behind the scenes” information and feels more exclusive? We’d give them the latter, so let’s do the same for mid-level donors. It doesn’t have to be a customized proposal; it just needs to feel like one.

But let’s also give the mid-level donor new ways to connect with us. Let’s try to arrange in-person meetings with our top mid-level donors. They might not want to meet us in person, or at least they might not want to meet with us every year, but they might jump at the opportunity for some one-on-one attention, so let’s give them that opportunity. What could we find out if we sat across the table from a mid-level donor? How could we inspire their giving in a new and enhanced way?

These are some important learnings on mid-level, but here’s the thing: you need to find out what works for YOU.

So here’s an action item: call a mid-level donor today!

Try calling 15 donors over the next two weeks. Ask them: what inspires you? What engages you? What are we doing to involve you in our organization that you love? What aren’t we doing?

And while you’re at it: THANK THEM. Make them feel how important they are to the organization.

They are.

And if they feel they’re important to you, you’ll continue to be important to them.

Thanks for reading!

~~

Sign up for my email list and get a FREE E-BOOK on mid-level donors!

Written by Maeve Strathy

20150326_Strathy_Maeve_02
Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for over nine years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

 

 

4 tips to find mid-level donors

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Mid-level donors continue to be a hot topic for us fundraisers. There’s always room to improve in our annual giving and major gift programs, but the generous mid-level donor has gone neglected all these years like the awkward middle children they are.

How to find mid-level donors & what to do with them

Join me in putting a stop to that!

But first we need to know: How do you find mid-level donors???

I’ll start by acknowledging how we do not find mid-level donors.

Don’t segment your donors or prospects by postal codes (or zip codes for Americans!), looking for potential in the most affluent areas in your city or country.

And don’t go looking based on who’s giving generously to other organizations.

Basically, throw away your typical prospect research toolkit!

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OK, Maeve, so we don’t use our usual tricks… what do we use???

Great question! Here’s the answer: Look right in front of you.

When I worked to develop the mid-level giving program at Wilfrid Laurier University, the first place I started looking for mid-level donors was in the existing annual donor pool.

So what are you looking for exactly? Well, there’s no right or wrong answer, but here are some good tips:

Who’s stretching?

What’s the average annual gift at your charity? Is it $100? Well then I’d look at donors who are stretching considerably beyond that. Maybe start with everyone who’s giving $500+. They could make a perfect mid-level prospect.

Who’s starting off with a biggie?

I’d also look at what donors are making as their first gift. Did someone come out of the blue and give you $250? That’s pretty generous for a first-time donor. I’d want to take a closer look at someone like that.

Who’s giving and giving and giving?

It’s not just about dollar amounts either; has someone given $100 every year for 10 years in a row? That kind of consecutive, loyal, generous and committed support should be acknowledged!

Who’s demonstrating unusual donor behaviour?

Now this is one of my favourite mid-level prospecting tips that I’ve ever heard: did one of your donors reach out to you and update their mailing address without you prompting them to?

That sounds hilarious, doesn’t it? But for any of us in fundraising, we know that rarely happens!

If you matter so much to a donor that they want to make sure you have their updated address and you didn’t have to reach out to them first? You need to pay attention to this person!

But this isn’t the only example! It’s just one idea of “unusual donor behaviour” that should cause us to pause and think.

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And that’s what finding mid-level donors is all about – paying attention! Paying attention to what’s already happening and capitalizing on it.

Now group those individuals together and you’ve got yourself a mid-level prospect pool!

How do YOU find your mid-level donors??? Share in the comments!

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Written by Maeve Strathy


Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for over eight years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
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Mid-Level Gifts

Happy New Year!!!  I hope that everyone enjoyed a lovely holiday season and that 2014 is off to a good start for you.  I am a person that really enjoys the promise a new year brings – opportunities for fresh starts, recommitting to goals, reflecting on the accomplishments of the last year, and considering with excitement the year to come.  Bring it on!

But on a totally unrelated note, I’d like to talk briefly about mid-level gifts.  When I attended the 2013 CCAE National Conference last June in St. John’s, Newfoundland, I attended a session on mid-level gifts.  These gifts, categorized differently by different organizations, are becoming a bit of a hot topic in fundraising.  We keep our annual funds running smoothly (they are the life-blood of our organizations, after all), and we focus our attention on those ever-important major gifts, but what about the area in between???  What about those people who are giving (or have the capacity to give) year after year in, for example, the $5,000 – $25,000 range?  These are meaningful gifts, making a measurable difference for your organization.  Are they getting attention?  Do you know anything about these donors?  Are you stewarding them?

What do we know about mid-level donors?  Some of the things I’ve learned from colleagues, at conferences, and in my own experiences, are that these donors don’t necessarily know the difference they’re making through their gifts.  They give loyally and consistently, and aren’t asking for much in return.  There’s not much of a culture built around these gifts.  6-figure and up gifts often have more fanfare – naming opportunities, receptions, gift agreement contracts, and expectations from the donors, but mid-level gifts don’t have that.  I’m not saying they should, but perhaps mid-level donors should have a bit of a community built around them.  I talked about a culture of philanthropy in my last post of 2013… perhaps there could be a culture of mid-level giving…

What would a culture around mid-level giving mean?  Well, it could mean that mid-level donors know that they’re mid-level donors.  They have “chinned themselves up”, to borrow a term from my current Executive Director, to a larger gift than the average annual donor, because they have the capacity to, and the passion to.  Their gifts are making a significant impact on your organization, and they ought to know it.  Perhaps this group of donors could have a name, and a way of being recognized, like an annual cocktail party.  Maybe instead of just passively watching those larger gifts come in, you could meet these people face-to-face; get to know them, have them get to know you, understand where their passion lies at your organization, and then let all that information simmer so that when the right project comes along… they could be the major donor.  

But don’t get me wrong, it’s not only about the donor pipeline.  Yes, these mid-level donors have the potential to be major donors down the line, but they’re also incredible just as they are… and we need to make sure they know it!

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Written by Maeve Strathy

livestrong
Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past 6 years.  Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
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