Mind the Gap: Demystifying Mid-Level Donor Retention
by Jade Lien
February 15, 2017
Somewhere in the space between the general pool of low to moderately consistent donors and major gifts, a group of valuable individuals classified as mid-level donors exists within your organization’s base of support. Bridging the gap between the low and high end tiers of your donor base, mid-level donors tend to give substantially and with great regularity. While they aren’t serviced by the same semi-automated direct response program as newer or smaller donors and don’t require the highly individualized attention as major donors, mid-level donors tend to get overlooked when it comes to nurturing the relationship.

Mid-level donors are a very unique set. Their behavior demonstrates a greater affinity for your organization than the folks you can count on to send their $20 in at the end of the year. Typically they give not simply because they’re asked, but because they care; and because of this, mid-level donors can thrive under a more deeply personalized strategy. But many nonprofits are driven by what works in the short term and the pressure for quick returns, so mid-level donors get lost in the shuffle. The engagement necessary to retain and grow this group requires a special blend of the methodologies being applied to the two opposing sides of your organization’s donor spectrum.

Our objective here is to lay foundation for how to best nurture a strong bond and relationship with this group.

Be more substantive.

As previously mentioned, mid-level gifts indicate a greater interest in your organization. Because of this, communications directed toward this group need to push beyond generalities and take a more substantive approach. Storytelling is especially valuable here, with the donor being framed as the hero as opposed to being focused on the organization and its work or impact. Why? New or low-level donors still need to be emotionally driven to give and compelled by your work as you’re both still getting to know one another. Once a low-level donor transitions to the middle ground, they already know about you and it’s time to put them at the center of the impact.

Keep the narrative consistent across all channels.

A good mid-level donor strategy employs the use of storytelling, and so as you communicate with these individuals throughout the year it’s important to keep the narrative of the story consistent across all the channels you’re using. Though you shouldn’t jump from one story to the next, this isn’t a license to regurgitate the same thing either. Utilizing multiple channels, take this opportunity to touch mid-level donors multiple times with a story that unfolds and evolves over time. A narrative that begins in a letter can continue in email or video and be told from a different person’s perspective. Emails can drive mid-level donors to landing pages that encourage them to “see what happened next” or get them excited to remain on this journey. If the objective is to nurture a relationship, then it’s important to guide them through experiences that help keep your donors feeling integral to the organization and the organization top of mind.

Be generous with “insider” information.

Keeping communications centered on your donor and their heroism is important. Stories are great to keep people emotionally engaged, but it’s important to provide statistics that demonstrate impact. More importantly, the demonstration of impact can help contextualize for the donor their value to the organization. You’re essentially stating what they’ve helped you accomplish, and thus what you’ve accomplished together. In the communications that fall between your asks, offer up this kind of information while framing it as “insider information” they’re receiving because of their active relationship with your organization at this level. Push yourself to go beyond generalized statistics that you might use in an infographic or update email that goes to everyone in your general pool of donors. Remember, you need to blend low-level donor retention strategies with major gift strategies. A personalized note from a specific point of contact that remains conversational in tone but offers up impact information is a great example of how to combine tactics from both ends of the spectrum.

The Wrap Up

What you can expect from a stronger and more engaging mid-level donor program is greater retention among this group, more consistent revenues, and a stable core of loyal donors with whom you’ll maintain a strong relationship for years to come.

You Might Also Enjoy:
Storytelling Lessons for the New Year: Part Two
The Great Fundraising Balancing Act
Nonprofits That Aren’t Incorporating Video Are Missing Out

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