There are a lot of things to love about the middle.
The best part of an Oreo is the middle. Some of the most beautiful rolling hills are in the middle of the country. And mid-level donors — those generous folks in the middle of your direct mail donors and your major donors — are often among the most faithful givers. Three reasons to love the middle!
The Power of the Middle
It's easy to focus on acquiring direct mail donors or major gift prospects. There are a lot of direct mail donors to love. And who doesn’t like doing the money dance when careful cultivation of a major donor leads to a six-figure gift? But it’s the mid-level donors, those who don’t fall into either of these two categories, who are the bread-and-butter of your donor base.
By neglecting mid-level giving, there could be missed opportunities to build long-term relationships with already committed donors. If mid-level donors are carefully nurtured, they can become the pipeline for future major gifts. In some cases, these donors are contributing a third of the total fundraising revenue each year. So, don't underestimate the power of the middle!
What Is Mid-Level Giving and Where Do You Start?
What exactly is a mid-level giving club? It is an opportunity for a donor to give a specific amount in monthly or quarterly increments. Donors also receive mission benefits and tend to build stronger connections with an organization.
Before you launch your mid-level effort, you need to create a plan for the program. Where do you begin? With your case for support, of course! Look at your case document and determine if there is a program or opportunity you can wrap around the mid-level giving club. A few examples: components of religious retirement, vocations and formation, or a specific ministry. Or you may have a capital need or project to fund each year.
You’ll need a super cool and catchy name, brand, and logo for the club that makes sense for your organization. Involve a graphic designer to help and get the creative juices following. Trust me, it is money well spent.
Giving Levels and Mission Benefits
Next, don’t forget to create 3-5 giving levels that donors can choose for their giving. Align each level with meaningful names — no generic silver, gold, or platinum names here. A quick example: The Franciscan Friars are building their Companions of St. Francis program to include elements from the Peace Prayer of St. Francis. Their levels are Love, Light, Peace, Joy, and Hope. How cool is that? It speaks directly to their mission and core values, and each giving level funds their ministries to the poor — all things Franciscan.
Also, make sure the levels “feel” real. Instead of $1,200, use the true amount it costs to fund the program. Maybe that’s $1,336 to fund one missioner’s teaching materials for one year, which equates to $111 per month. Pretty doable for most mid-level givers.
Most non-profits focus on a small group of donors — around 100 to 250 — to begin the mid-level program. Doesn’t sound like much of a donor segment, does it? But wait…if a $100 annual donor begins to give $50 per month, they’ve jumped to a $600 annual gift. Now imagine there are 100 mid-level donors giving an average gift of $50 a month. Suddenly you’re looking at $60,000 in revenue a year, and your revenue projections could be much, much higher depending on your base of mid-level donors.
Lastly, define the mission benefits that a donor will receive. This could be an invitation to a special mass or breakfast with the Provincial or a direct link to a missioner. Catholic donors love the opportunity to tour Motherhouses, or feed the homeless with a religious member, or be invited to view a relic as it travels through town. Whatever you do, make it fun and unique to your organization. Donors are invited to a lot of things. Make sure yours is the one they look forward to attending.
Stewardship Is Key!
What is the real key to mid-level giving club success? Stewardship! That means staying in touch every month through phone calls, personal notes, invitations, videos, photos, and many more creative avenues. There are so many ways to show your genuine appreciation for the gifts that sustain your programs.
Always welcome new donors to the mid-level club. Start each new relationship off on the right foot by sending a welcome letter highlighting the importance of ongoing gifts. Be as specific as possible. For example, “You are funding Joe this year as he teaches 30 children in Belize. We couldn’t do God’s work without you.” When you receive a great story from Joe the missioner, go and tell your donors and spread the impact he is having thanks to their support. You’ll feel great, and the donor will be happy to see that their gifts are making a true difference.
If done right, you’ll find that mid-level donors fall more in love with your mission and they keep giving bigger gifts year after year. Engaging them through a mid-level giving club can oftentimes lead to major gift prospects.
After a while, donors will be excited to tell others that they belong to your giving club and invite others to join them. Ah ha! Before you know it, your club is growing and funding your mission each month.
So, grab an Oreo and meet your donors in the middle!