Year-End is Coming………

My colleague Mackenzie and I are responsible for Blakely‘s monthly internal campaigns. They’re internal marketing campaigns, really, meant to make our colleagues laugh, think, feel supported, or get inspired.

May’s internal campaign looks like this:

Year-End?! What?!?! It’s early May!!!

I hear you. We thought Christmas in July was crazy, but the truth is that if you’re planning on doing an integrated, year-end campaign that starts with your holiday mailing and ends with your final e-blast on December 31, it’s time to start thinking about it. Seriously.

Why does year-end matter so much? First and foremost, this is when donors think about charitable giving the most. They’re in the giving spirit thanks to the holiday time period — they’re thinking about family and time together, and maybe they’re feeling really grateful for what they have, and a little emotional about those in need.

And even though at the end of the day donors are not purely motivated by tax credits, it is an incentive to make your biggest impact when the calendar year is wrapping up.

What’s our role as fundraisers? Since we know where donors’ heads are at, it’s time for us to be out there — reaching the right audience at the right time with the right message. That’s becoming increasingly difficult to do; there are more charities than ever competing for donors’ attention. We used to be able to send a beautiful holiday mailing to donors and prospective donors and that was that. Now that mailing can’t stand on its own; your overarching message needs to be supported on different channels shared in different ways to different audiences. It needs to be big, strong, powerful, and integrated.

So what do you need to be thinking about? It’s still early days in terms of planning, but here are some of the things you want to start pondering:

  1. Organizational Activities: You’ve heard me talk about the gin & tonic approach before, I think. It’s about mixing all the different departments at your organization so that you’re working together — for your donors’ sakes. Too often your marketing department has something totally different going on than you at year-end. See what you can do about aligning efforts so that donors aren’t seeing messages that don’t look like they’re coming from the same place. And if you can’t get marketing on board, ask them what they’re planning and see if you can align with it — as long as it’s not sacrificing donor experience, fundraising best practices, etc.
  2. Fundraising Proposition: Start thinking about what area of funding you want to put in front of donors. What’s your greatest funding need right now? What will inspire donors the most when they’re thinking about you? Whatever it is, it needs to be able to be shared across a number of communications on different channels, so you’ll want to be able to talk about it – and bring it to life – in a few different ways over the course of the campaign.
  3. Story: What story/ies are you telling to bring that fundraising proposition to life? How can you put it into context? Whose story will you tell? What will tug at donors’ heartstrings? Like the fundraising proposition, this story needs to be big enough to tell a few times in a few different ways, so make sure you have a good one — and lots of content to support it (interviews, videos, photos, etc.).
  4. Channel Strategy: The above speaks more to the creative strategy, but you’ve got to be thinking about how you’re sharing your message — is it mail only? Mail and email? Mail, email & landing page? Mail, email, landing page, video, Facebook ads, Google ads, Search ads, and a TV spot? Whether you’re keeping it simple, or getting your message out everywhere, start figuring out what that looks like, for the sake of budgets, content planning, and donor experience.

That’s it for now! Not too painful, right? But if you start pondering the above, you’ll get yourself into the year-end fundraising game. Brace yourselves… but we’re all in it together!

~~

Written by Maeve Strathy

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

Connect with Maeve via:
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What did Bernie Sanders do differently?

There are a lot of reasons why people give.

One of them that comes up a lot – especially in my FAVOURITE group of donors: mid-level – is this:

“I want to feel a part of something.” 

Donors don’t say this explicitly a lot, but their behaviour validates it. Here’s an example: Bernie Sanders’ election campaign.

I listened to a podcast recently that interviewed Mr. Sanders and I was fascinated when he spoke about fundraising.

These numbers might be slightly off, but he raised $137 million from 4.7 million supporters, which means an average gift of:

$29.15.

For those of us who work in annual giving or direct response fundraising, those numbers don’t necessarily make our jaws drop. However, when we think of American political fundraising, we think of the support coming from big insurance companies or the Koch brothers; groups or individuals that want to leverage their support for lobbying power.

If that’s the perception, then how could the average American – to my point earlier – ever feel a part of the process?

That’s what Bernie Sanders did differently.

In Canada, in national political fundraising, there is a cap on political contributions and donations to political parties can only be made by individuals (no corporations).

But in the absence of those rules in the US, Bernie Sanders created his own rules. The few fundraising events that he held had a maximum ticket price of $100 and he focused on individuals, thereby…

Making them feel a part of it.

So think about your organization. Is there a perception of who a donor to your organization is that excludes others? What do you need to do to make donors feel a part of your mission?

Food for thought this week.

~~

Written by Maeve Strathy

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

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

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:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

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!

~~

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

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:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

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.

category_dollar-a-day

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

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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:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

What are we doing wrong with mid-level donors?

what are we doing wrong with mid-level donors-

We haven’t been treating our mid-level donors right.

They are the neglected middle child among our donors.

We dedicate time and other resources to our major donors and we feel we understand them. After all, we get to know them individually, one-on-one.

And our annual giving programs are well-oiled machines. Maybe we could be doing better, but we’ve spent years reaching out to these donors in this way, and we generally know what we’re doing.

But what about mid-level? 

We’ve tried to fit them in both groups. We assign them to a major gift officer… and they fall to the bottom of the priority list. After all, we’re measuring our major gift officers on how much money they raise, so it’s in their best interest to chase after the 6-figure donors, not the $1,000 donors.

So we dump mid-level donors in our annual donor stream, with nothing but a variable paragraph to acknowledge their “leadership” or “generosity”, and maybe they get a closed face envelope with a real, live stamp on it!

Neither of these experiences speak to the mid-level donor. None of this inspires and engages this unique group of donors.

We’re doing it all wrong!

So – the question has to be: how do we do it right?

Well, I’m speaking about that at Cause Camp on Friday in Lincoln, Nebraska. Cause Camp is an annual 2-day “nonprofit extravaganza” hosted by Nonprofit Hub and the Lincoln American Marketing Association. I also spoke about this at the Women in Philanthropy Conference a few weeks ago, and I’ll be speaking on it again at AFP Fundraising Day in Toronto in June. It’s a topic I’m really passionate about, and I can’t wait to wave my arms on behalf of mid-level donors in front of groups of other passionate fundraisers.

With all that said, tune in next week to hear my thoughts on how to treat mid-level donors right!

~~

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

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:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

My most awkward fundraising moment EVER

My most awkward fundraising moment EVER! (1)

Let me set the stage for you.

I’m in a meeting with a mid-level donor. She had very positively responded to my meeting request, and actually invited me to visit her at her home!!!

So we’re in her house – her kitchen, to be exact – drinking tea together, and talking very comfortably. I’m getting to know her, learning about why she’s giving to my organization, finding out what she’s passionate about…

It’s the most perfect mid-level donor meeting ever!

Then it gets better.

I ask her for her continued support of the organization, and make a specific ask for a gift today.

She says yes! And decides to give more than I ask her for.

WOO HOO! I’m feeling really good now.

After thanking her profusely, we get into the specifics and I tell her I’m happy to bring a cheque back to the office, or I can take down her credit card number and process the donation when I get back.

But this is a modern woman, so she says, “No no, how about I just make the donation online while you’re here?”

I enthusiastically say, sure! She pulls out her iPad and I tell her the URL.

And that is when things go sour…

The online donation page is barely mobile/tablet-friendly.

There are SO MANY fields to fill in!

The designation drop-down box is so long and has so many designations, but it still doesn’t have the one this generous donor wants to support.

As she struggles through the overly complicated online giving form, I’m sitting next to her CRINGING! It’s taking so long, the process is clunky at best, and even though this donor is patient and gracious and says nothing about it, I am holding my breath next to her feeling as awkward as I ever have in a donor meeting.

We barely made it to the end of the process. Her gift was made, but it’s a miracle she got through all the obstacles our online giving process threw her way.

Looking back, I can’t help but think what would’ve happen if she’d tried to make her gift online without me there.

If I go to read an article online, one of the first things I do is scroll down to see how long the article is. I need to know if I have time to read it now because if not, “I’ll do it later.”

That’s what I would’ve done if I was this generous donor. I’d go to the online giving page, be totally overwhelmed by how long and clunky it is, and decide “I’ll do it later.”

Only to never do it later. Or at all.

Who are we turning off giving? Who is deciding to “do it later” but never does? 

An awesome and slick online giving page and process isn’t a nice-to-have anymore. It’s a must-have. And it’s not about just looking good; it’s about being donor-centric, and ensuring we put no obstacles in the way of their giving.

Don’t put yourself in my position and sit cringing behind your generous donor. I can tell you from experience that it’s very awkward.

~~

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

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:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

Mid-Level Donors & the Element of Surprise

Mid-Level Donors & the Element of Surprise

If you knew there was a pile of money that people wanted to give to you that you weren’t getting, wouldn’t you commit some time and energy to getting it?

Yes, fundraisers, I know you would.

Enter intermediate donors… leadership donors… “the muddle in the middle”. Whatever you call them, mid-level donors continue to be a bit of a mystery to fundraisers. But they’re there! They’re not annual donors and not yet major donors, but they want to give you more money than they’re giving you right now, and the benefits to you include:

  1. More money now (obviously)
  2. Some stability in the middle of your giving pyramid (cliche, but true)
  3. Future major gifts (should these donors have the capacity for it)

So how do we reach out to these elusive mid-level donors?

Before I joined Blakely as a Fundraising Strategist, I ran the mid-level giving program at Wilfrid Laurier University. My time at Laurier was full of trying new things, testing, learning, and growing, and I loved every minute of it.

What do I love most about mid-level donors?

The element of surprise.

Back when I was in my late teens, I became a camp counsellor, and I worked with the “intermediate” girls, ages 12-14 or thereabouts. Many of us look back on that “tween” age as our most awkward time, and don’t get me wrong, the girls I worked with were awkward, but they were equally awesome. They were more “with it” than the junior girls, but less jaded than the senior girls. They were a little more self-conscious than they’d been a few years ago, but they were still willing to have fun for fun’s sake and not be embarrassed by it.

Mid-level donors are the same, and that’s why the element of surprise is so much fun!

I once called a woman who had been giving to the university every year since she graduated. It was $50 here, $100 there, and occasionally a bigger gift around $500. For our annual giving program, it’s the $500 mark that shows that leadership giving potential, but more exciting was her consecutive giving. We thought she deserved some acknowledgement for that, so I called her to recognize her giving, and you know what she said?

“I didn’t know I was a philanthropist!”

High net worth individuals are pretty used to having fundraisers call them, but mid-level donors are surprised by it! They’re delighted to be acknowledged and thanked, and are shocked you’re there to meet them for those reasons. Sure, you want to make that connection to discuss future support, but I tried to start my meetings and phone calls with the message of not being sure they’ve ever been really thanked and wanting to make sure they are. I make a point of saying thank you and pausing to let it sink in for them. Mid-level donors aren’t jaded; I can tell they really feel that gratitude.

If you’re building a mid-level donor program, play on that element of surprise.

Here are five ways you can surprise your mid-level donors today:

  1. Contact someone who’s been giving less than $500 for 10 consecutive years and set up an in-person meeting. Make sure they know that they’re a philanthropist!
  2. Slightly tweak your planned direct mailing for mid-level donors. It won’t take a lot of work and you’re sending it out anyway! Add a variable paragraph that acknowledges their past support in a different way. Personalize it by noting the area that they last supported. It doesn’t have to be big, but it has to be special.
  3. Hand-address all envelopes for your mid-level donors, and see if you can get their mailings in something other than a #10 envelope. Make your letter stand out in their pile of bills.
  4. Find meaningful, restricted giving opportunities at the mid-level; sometimes giving opportunities are either unrestricted or major and there isn’t much in between. Spend some time identifying ways someone can really make an impact at the $1,000 level so that mid-level donors can feel more invested in their giving. It’ll pay off even more so in the future.
  5. Call the mid-level donor that gave most recently and say thank you!

“First-time donors who get a personal thank you within 48 hours are 4x more likely to give a second gift.” – Tom Ahern

The best part of the element of surprise is that you’ll have fun doing it! Good luck!

What do you do to surprise your mid-level donors???

~~

Wanna learn more about Mid-Level Donors? Click here to subscribe to my email newsletter and get a FREE E-BOOK on Mid-Level Donors!

A version of this was originally published on 101 Fundraising.

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:
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!

1

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!

~~

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:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

Guest Post: 10 Things Fundraisers Should Know About Upgrading Donors

10 Things Fundraisers Should Know About

Upgrading donors is an essential part of your nonprofit’s fundraising program. Or at least it should be.

But the upgrade process isn’t just about asking all your donors for more money. Check out these tips to more strategically upgrade your donors:

  1. Upgrading begins at the point of acquisition. But not all donors can be persuaded to upgrade. The lower their initial gift (i.e. $15-$18 range), the more difficult it can be to upgrade a donor. For this reason, make sure you test your acquisition ask string (the gift amounts you’re asking people to give) at least once a year. You want to bring donors on at the highest average gift without negatively impacting your response rates. If you can acquire a high volume of donors at a better than $20 average gift, you’ll have a very good chance at upgrading them in the future.
  2. Build a rock solid thank you process. Want donors to give more generously?  Show them they matter by: a) promptly and genuinely thanking them for their past gift(s), b) sharing compelling stories about what their gifts have accomplished, and c) proving you’ve done what you said you’d do with their gifts. Getting this right will inspire donor loyalty and increase the likelihood that donors will upgrade when you present them with the next compelling opportunity.
  3. Have a big vision. Getting donors to increase their giving isn’t easy. You can’t expect a donor who gives $25 to provide hot meals at a shelter to give $2,500 just to provide more meals. Donors substantially increase giving because you inspire them to think and act big. That’s why middle and major donor programs often take advantage of offer bundles (where you combine a number of tangible program needs into one larger fundraising offer), special project campaigns and capital campaigns. These initiatives are tied to a larger vision than simply solving today’s problem. And they make upgrading donors so much easier.
  4. Remember that upgrading can come in small packages. It sounds counterintuitive, but hear me out on this. It’s great to get a $50 donor to upgrade to making $150 gifts. But don’t overlook that donor who gave $25 last year but gave you five $25 gifts this year. That’s an upgrade too. However, chances are your current segmentation and reporting systems aren’t set up to identify that type of upgrade. Check your reports and segmentation to make sure you’re identifying these people as well. If cultivated correctly, they can add a lot of income to your organization, both now and in the future (hint: they make GREAT planned gift prospects).
  5. Increase the relationship and they’ll upgrade. Donors are human beings. They give for many reasons, but they continue giving and increase their giving because you make them feel validated and appreciated for their contributions. This is a given for major donors. But you’d be amazed at how big of an impact this can have on your middle donors and even the upper end of your regular donor file. Write them special handwritten notes, call them, invite them to your shop for a tour or out for coffee. These steps will deepen their relationship with your organization, and provide them with more positive experiences.  And the next time you make an ask – even a stretch – they’ll be more likely to respond with a yes.
  6. Invest in a quality high dollar direct mail program. You might be tempted to just mail your standard package to every donor and vary only the ask amounts. That’s a mistake. Effective high dollar direct mail is much different; it’s less tactical, more relational. This is where you’ll see longer letters, live stamps, true handwriting, and even FedEx and UPS overnight packages, which work very well to upgrade donors.
  7. Say thank you more frequently. Engage your board to make thank you calls and write handwritten thank you notes to donors on a regular basis.  You can even make it a standard part of each board meeting. Do this several times throughout the year, prior to when you’ll be making your most important asks.
  8. Embrace telemarketing. You might personally hate telemarketing, but it is a great tool for upgrading donors. Telemarketing allows you to build personal relationships through conversation, allows donors to feel like you’ve heard them (both the positive and negative), and gives you time to tell more of your story in a highly personalized way than direct mail or e-mail.  You’ll also be able to reach more people on your file who aren’t necessarily responsive to other channels like mail.
  9. Host strategic cultivation events. If you’re trying to upgrade $20 donors to the $50 level, you probably don’t need to host cultivation events. But if you have a good group of $500 donors that you’re trying to upgrade to the $1,500 – $5,000 level, events are a great tool. The best events tend to have the feeling of exclusivity and access, of these donors being “insiders”, and having the opportunity to be the first to know/invest in something special. These cultivation events will deepen engagement around your donors’ passions and show them how very important they are to your cause.
  10. Upgrade through integration. Some of the most successful middle donor upgrade campaigns I’ve ever worked on have utilized an integrated direct mail, telemarketing, e-mail, video and face-to-face strategy. Integration helps you increase the frequency of your touch points, communicate the same message in different and increasingly compelling ways, and to leverage each channel to increase overall response.

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Want to learn more? I’m hosting a webinar that Andrew’s presenting called – Maximizing the Middle: Strategies and Tactics for Increasing Middle Donor Income.

In this session Andrew Olsen, CFRE, will share the demographic and psychographic differences that make middle donors unique. You’ll learn the best (and worst) ways to engage these donors to deepen their commitment (and giving!) to your organization, AND we’ll look at three case studies to see the specific tactics other nonprofits have used to increase middle donor giving by as much as 400%.

This webinar is now sold out! Click here to buy a copy of the recording! You’re not going to want to miss out on this knowledge!

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This blog was originally posted on Andrew Olsen’s Blog Fundraising Fundamentals.

Andrew Olsen
Andrew Olsen, CFRE, is Vice President, Client Services at Russ Reid – an Omnicom ad agency serving the nonprofit sector. Click here to read Andrew’s full bio.

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