Don’t Let Mid-Level Donors Fall Into a Communication Black Hole

By Clint Demeritt

Mid-level donors can be the forgotten middle child of the nonprofit world.

In the quest to solicit and upgrade first-time donors while rolling out the red carpet for major donors, sometimes donors who contribute $1,000 to $5,000 get lost in the shuffle. According to the fundraising research lab NextAfter, many mid-level donors are pulled out of regular communication funnels so as not to annoy them, but then quickly fall off organizations’ radars just after two months.

At the upcoming DMA Chicago Nonprofit Conference, Aug. 28-30, 2017, marketing chiefs from the Smithsonian Institution, the Sierra Club, NextAfter and THD will be helping nonprofit professionals benchmark their current mid-level donor programs to make the most of these valuable contributors in “Mid-Level Benchmarking: How Does Your Program Stack Up?” Since this session dives into research from NextAfter, we are going to look into some key findings from the fundraising lab while researching how nonprofits communicate with mid-level donors.

NextAfter donated between $1,000 and $5,000 to 37 different organizations and monitored their communications to donors for 90 days. After analyzing the results, NextAfter found many mid-level donors aren’t valued enough to receive the same treatment as major donors, who get a hands-on, personal relationship after giving.

NextAfter distilled the key lessons of its study into a simple phrase: “People give to people.” The research firm found that many nonprofits could do more to personalize their relationships with mid-level donors to maximize gifts.

One suggestion to improve this relationship is to call donors to thank them for their gifts. Donors who receive thank-you calls are more likely to give a second gift that is up to 40 percent more valuable than the first, according to research cited by NextAfter. That could be an extra $400 or more, which is definitely worth a five-minute phone call.

Next, nonprofits should be calling their donors by name in emails, direct mail and other communications when possible. Using real names helps create that personal connection with donors. A thank you that starts off with, “Dear friend” or “Reader,” feels anonymous and dehumanizing and fails to create a connection with donors.

Also, nonprofits should be sending emails with employees’ names, leaving their organizations’ names off the sender’s line. This is a bit counterintuitive, since NextAfter hypothesized an org name would provide context for the receiver. But the org name just tipped off receivers right away that the communication was a marketing email, and could be ignored. Again, using the names of actual people creates a relationship with a donor that they can’t build with just an organization.

Lastly, NextAfter’s research found “no direct correlation between an organization’s annual revenue and how they communicated with their donors,” meaning no matter the size of a nonprofit, with modern data collection and database management, all organizations have access to the tools necessary to maximize their relationship with mid-level donors.

For more insights from NextAfter, you can download its study “The Mid-Level Donor Crisis” here. And make sure you bring your mid-level donor data to the DMA Chicago Nonprofit Conference session, “Mid-Level Benchmarking: How Does Your Program Stack Up?”

This article is brought to you by the DMA. Click here to register for the Nonprofit Federation Conference, Aug. 28-30, 2017, in Chicago.