Wed, March 26 2014

New Study: Are You Leaving Money in the Middle?

Caryn Stein's avatar

VP, Communications and Content, Network for Good

Filed under:   Fundraising essentials •

Mind the gap.

That’s the advice in a new report on mid-level donor programs. The folks at Sea Change Strategies caution that nonprofits are missing out on a ton of money simply because they’re overlooking a committed and productive audience: middle donors —the donors who give more than low-dollar direct marketing donations, but less than major gift targets.

The Missing Middle whitepaperTHE MISSING MIDDLE: Neglecting Middle Donors Is Costing You Millions, by Sea Change Strategies’ Alia McKee and Mark Rovner, does double duty as a wake-up call and roadmap for creating effective mid-level donor programs. The study is based on interviews and data from 27 organizations and experts, including heavy hitters like Roger Craver and nonprofits such as The Nature Conservancy and the Human Rights Campaign. The free whitepaper includes:

  • 8 habits of highly-effective mid-level donor programs
  • A sample framework for a 30-day action plan
  • In-depth profiles of two highly effective mid-level programs

Fresh from the AFP conference in San Antonio, Alia McKee shares some more insight about The Missing Middle:

How do you distinguish mid-level giving from a major donor program? Is it simply the dollar amount or are there other things going on here?
Alia: It’s really about the dollar amount. Of course the definition of middle donor varies from organization to organization, but it tends to hover anywhere between $250-$9,000 cumulative in a year.

In the report, you touch on possible challenges on getting executive buy-in.  Can you give us some ideas on how to make the case for investing in a mid-level donor program?
Alia:1. Among the groups participating in the Wired Wealthy Study, donors at the $1,000 to $10,000 levels (annual giving via all channels) represented roughly one percent of the donor population, but were giving more than a third of the dollars. That’s a HUGE amount of revenue.
2. Middle donors are actually an organization’s most committed donors. They will be retained and upgraded far more than smaller donors and far more than major donors. They represent a very significant block of money, commitment and loyalty.
3. A functional and philosophical gap exists between direct marketing programs and major gifts programs. Hence, middle donors often receive lackluster treatment that is driven by attribution wars and resentment across the organizational divide. But their capacity to give is huge—so minor tweaks to their treatment can yield big results in revenue.

What was the biggest surprise for you in this research?
Alia:  Despite the fact that every fundraiser and expert we talked to universally agreed that mid-level donors are exceptionally valuable, they also agreed that most organizations haven’t made the kinds of investments necessary to make the most of this immense opportunity.

Can small shops pursue a mid-level donor program?
Alia:  Absolutely. Small changes in stewardship of middle donors can yield results regardless of an organization’s size. Of course, capacity is an issue. But many nonprofits we spoke to approached this creatively including:

  • Staff pizza parties to stuff personalized mailers to middle donors
  • Volunteer phone calls to middle donors thanking them for their support
  • More substantive content to middle donors culled from other organizational communications


Can your online efforts help your mid-level strategy?
Alia:  Digital outreach is not the silver bullet when it comes to middle donors. You must communicate with those donors across channels (e.g. be channel agnostic) and give them substantive communications in person, via phone, by notecard or by email. Ideally, you’d reach them through their self-selected preferred channels.

Just for fun:  Monie in the Middle or Malcolm in the Middle?
Alia:  Malcolm in the Middle, but only because of Bryan Cranston!

Get in touch with your Missing Middle. Join our free webinar with Sea Change Strategies’ Alia McKee and Mark Rovner on Tuesday, May 6 at 1pm EDT.  Register now for your chance to hear from these two fundraising gurus and get your mid-level donor questions answered. (Can’t attend the live session? Register anyway to get a copy of the recording sent directly to you via email.)

 

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