U.S. charitable giving surpassed the $400 billion mark in 2017, but there’s strong evidence that the number of individuals giving to nonprofits is in decline. From 2000 to 2014, the share of Americans making charitable contributions decreased by nearly 11 percent.
This trend is troubling for a number of reasons, but a major concern for development shops should be their donor pipeline. If less Americans are giving to charity, how will this affect future fundraising revenue?
It’s never been more important to build a strong mid-level giving program to combat this trend and maximize the support of your constituents. So many organizations divide their donor base into two buckets—annual fund and major donors—without customized treatment for the middle. Mid-level givers are either left in the direct-response program or added too quickly to a major gift officer’s portfolio.
Neither situation is ideal.
A mid-level giving program can bridge the gap, ensuring that you identify the best prospects, build long-term, individual relationships with them, and develop a robust pipeline of major donors for the future. But creating a comprehensive strategy from scratch or rehabbing a fledgling one is no small task.
Start by asking yourself and your colleagues these key questions:
- What would be our ROI if we build a sustainable mid-level giving program?
- Are organizational leaders willing to invest in a mid-level giving program?
- What additional staffing will we need to support this program?
- How can we use analytics and our donor database to define the mid-level giving program?
- What kind of recognition and stewardship is appropriate for these donors?
- How can we refine messaging and segment our communications for this donor group?
These questions will likely serve as conversation starters rather than lead to definitive answers, and that’s okay. As you launch those conversations, consider the various components of a mid-level giving strategy. At Campbell & Company, we break our strategy into five key areas:
Context focuses on determining an organization’s readiness to develop or refine its mid-level giving services.
- Mature, adequately staffed fundraising program
- Strong donor database
Leadership focuses on creating a clearly defined plan for a mid-level giving program and ensuring appropriate dedication of resources.
- Strategic organizational priority
- Renewed investment each year
- Dedicated resources and annual planning
- Commitment to donor research—why they give at this level and their treatment preferences
Staffing & Systems define mid-level giving roles and support the program through the effective use of the database.
- Dedicated, skilled frontline officers and operations support
- Defined mid-level portfolios, leveraging analytics
- Databased used to support outreach
- Donor segmentation based on program attributes
- Results monitored and improvements implemented year-over-year
- Established donor metrics around retention, growth, and donor upgrades
Donor Engagement provides planning and training for the implementation of engagement strategies.
- Outbound phone strategy integrated with communications that address the donors’ needs, interests, and expectations
- Customized recognition strategy
- Mix of automated communication and personal touches
- Timely and relevant reporting
- Use of mini-campaigns and matching gifts
- Use of donor surveys
Case for Support focuses on tailoring communications and engagement efforts specifically towards this class of donor.
- Segmented messaging
- Communications tailored to donor interests
- Collateral materials customized for donors at this level
Building an effective mid-level giving program takes time, planning, and significant investments—but the payoff is well worth the effort.
Are you ready to get started? Campbell & Company partners with organizations across the nonprofit sector to build and grow their mid-level giving programs. Contact me to learn more about how we can work together to enhance your strategy and strengthen your pipeline.