A Pipeline for the Future: Building a Strong Middle Donor Program
Adapted from a 2018 AHP Webinar Series event presented by Campbell & Company Senior Consultant Dermont Smith, MultiCare Health System Director of Fundraising Operations Matthew Jones, MultiCare Health System Annual Giving Manager Tonya Winski and MultiCare Health System Annual Giving Development Officer Kelly Fleischmann
Mid-level donors are essential to fundraising efforts, but there is often confusion within organizations about which donors fit into this group. These donors range from the highest annual fund donors to the smallest major donors and are donors who give at levels that are meaningful to them. This is an important distinction to make, considering that the term “middle donor” can sometimes be off-putting and misunderstood.
Although organizations define mid-level donors differently, their importance is constant across all fundraising organizations. Mid-level donors are critical to the success of development programs as they help health care institutions establish a pipeline to major gift donors, provide a source of consistent revenue, inspire donors to give at higher levels and can be an opportunity to transform fundraising efforts.
It is critical that organizations are wary of upgrading these donors to higher levels too quickly. To avoid this error, organizations need to understand who mid-level donors are and approach them at their preferred giving level. This is facilitated by mid-level programming that offers an invitation for a conversation with the donor to help better understand who the donor is and how they seek to be involved with your organization.
Specific pillars of a strong mid-level program include:
- Context: Focuses on determining an organization’s readiness to develop or refine its mid-level giving services
- Leadership: It’s always important to have leadership buy-in and commitment
- Staffing and systems: Organizations should have gift officers who are focused on mid-level supporters
- Donor engagement: Understand who these donors are and how they are reacting to the impact of their giving
- Case for support: Change messaging appropriately to speak to this unique audience
So, how do we engage mid-level donors? First, it is important to realize that different levels of donors require different levels of engagement. A fundraising continuum to identify the different levels of donors ranges from annual fund, mid-level and major donors. For each of these levels of donors, different programs exist to ensure effective fundraising strategies are implemented. The annual fund program generally includes asking for many small gifts with mission-oriented general messages with the goal of receiving short-term, immediate gifts. For the mid-level program, fundraisers ask a moderate number of donors for moderate gifts with customized messages seeking sustained and high-impact giving. Major donor programs typically involve asking a small number of donors for large gifts utilizing personalized messages, customized strategies and one-to-one delivery. This program's focus is on long-term gifts from multi-year pledges.
Beyond engaging mid-level donors, it is critical for organizations to have strong mid-level prospect development. This involves indicating when a donor has moved into the top-quality upgrades zone where organizations should start to consider them for mid-level treatment. As mid-level donors’ giving starts to increase, organizations should be aware that it might be time to turn them into major donor prospects. To ensure a smooth transition, organizations should make sure their mid-level giving program works collaboratively with their major giving program.
Organizations need to go deep with mid-level donors and have a clear understanding of who they are and how to work with them. The mid-level strategy steps include:
- Identify and qualify who the best candidates are for sustained treatment in the mid-level portfolio and those who would benefit from major treatment as well.
- Cultivate and solicit those relationships and create a retention strategy for those donors.
- Invite donors to support programs that are most important to them.
- Steward those relationships.
It is important to not only define and identify mid-level donors, but to also develop a strong mid-level donor program in order to ensure maximum efficiency and benefits from these key donors.
To learn more about building a strong mid-level giving program and to examine a MultiCare case study that demonstrates a successful mid-level giving program, watch the full webinar.