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Build a Strong Foundation for a Mid-level Donor Program

Samantha Hunter
Published:  06/02/2021

green plant in clear glass vase filled with coinsPhoto by Micheile Henderson on Unsplash

For years in healthcare philanthropy, we've mainly focused on the donor experience for two categories of donors, annual fund donors and major gift donors. But more and more people are starting to turn their attention to what’s commonly referred to as “the gap”, or a mid-level donor. These are donors that fall in between annual donors and major donors. 

Mid-level donors tend to give multiple gifts to an organization that more often than not, continue to increase over time. You should engage with mid-level donors in the same thoughtful and personalized way you engage with annual or major donors. Here are a few best practices to consider when establishing a mid-level program.

Involve leadership early 

The first place to start when building the foundation for a mid-level donor program, is with your teams and your organizational culture. More often than not, that comes from the top down. If leadership agrees early on that this is an area the organization needs to focus on, it will have a major impact down the line when you start to think about investing in new resources. 

Depending on your organization, leadership engagement can play out in a number of different ways. One example is through clearly defined metrics for success and key performance indicators (KPIs) to evaluate your mid-level program against. Having leadership buy-in to help inform what those metrics should look like is really important early on.  

Another reason leadership buy-in is important, is to help ensure there are long term measures put in place to help sustain the mid-level program. This could be through staffing investments to specifically support a mid-level donor program or through success metrics included in performance evaluations. 

Finally, leadership can play a very important role in facilitating cross team collaboration. You’ll probably want to design a mid-level experience that leverages elements of your major gift program and your annual donor activities. Many mid-level donors come from the annual fund program, so it’s important to keep the experience they’re used to in mind. Being able to bring team members together across the giving pyramid will provide a holistic experience for donors. 

Define the right mid-level for your organization

After getting leadership buy-in, you’ll need to clearly define the mid-level donor category. This will be unique and specific to your organization. It can be tempting to try and find another organization similar to yours and simply match what they’re doing. Taking that approach probably won’t yield the results you want. You really want your giving levels to be reflective of your constituents. 

To determine your unique mid-level donor, you’ll want to start by looking at historical giving data. Look for how people are giving now. Where those giving levels align. Where there is a gap between annual fund and major gift officer portfolio assignments. 

Then you’ll want to overlay that information with your specific organizational goals. You should think about what’s attainable, but also include aspirational goals. Where you want to aim to grow certain giving levels. Using those two data points should help you inform that right mid-level donor for your organization. 

Identify potential and existing mid-level donors

Now that you’ve gotten leadership buy-in and defined who your mid-level donor is, it’s time to see if any donors you already work with fit that criteria. You’ll want to think beyond just looking for wealth indicators. First, you should find existing mid-level donors that fall into the new grouping. This can easily be done by looking at existing giving information. 

Then you’ll want to identify potential mid-level candidates, which will be a little trickier. To do this, you can look at household income, networth available, and discretionary spending. By determining a list of mid-level candidates, you can then think about trying a higher touch experience to become their philanthropic priority. 

Another reason it’s important to determine your mid-level donor base is because by knowing the size of your opportunity you can decide what resources need to be invested to support the program in an ongoing way. If you determine there is a large opportunity, you’ll have a pretty good case to invest in greater resources. That could be through additional staff, resources, technology, or whatever you determine to be a good organizational fit. 

Now that you’ve learned what the first steps are to establishing a mid-level donor program, watch this webinar to learn best practices for engaging with them.

NEWS  /11/07/18
Donors who fall in between annual and major giving represent a prime opportunity — if health care institutions develop a cohesive strategy for stewarding them.
NEWS  /02/03/21
When a patron called the Montage Health CEO to say she'd be making a transformational gift, the Foundation had to get to work to come back with an idea she'd love.
NEWS  /09/15/20
Alice Ayres shares what makes new Covid donors tick and how to connect with them.

Meet The Author

Sam Hunter headshot
Samantha Hunter
Association for Healthcare Philanthropy

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