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The Mighty Middle: How Middle Donors Can Provide a Big Return for Your Organization

What’s the difference between major donors, mid-tier donors, and annual donors? Major donors are treated like family. Organizations celebrate their birthdays and anniversaries, extend them exclusive event invites, and tailor gift requests. Annual donors, on the other hand, contribute many small gifts after being solicited by mail, newsletter, or other widespread tactic. These two groups/approaches act as bookends to successful fundraising, but what’s missing? The Mighty Middle!

The Mighty Middle are the mid-tier donors who account for only 1 percent of the donor population, but can contribute more than one third of total donated dollars. Research shows that these donors identify strongly with your organization and demonstrates their commitment through smaller but consistent gifts, as well as non-monetary involvement. They serve as steady support for your organization, and provide significant income potential. They merit some attention.

What can your organization do to make the most of The Mighty Middle?

The Potential of The Mighty Middle?

Mid-level donors are often neglected area of giving, considering its potential. To empower your mid-level donors, treat them with an exclusivity all their own. Many mid-level donors start as low-level donors. Continuing to treat them as you did when they were low-level donors may discourage them from further increasing their commitments. On the other hand, giving these donors individual attention and incentives can entice them to continue their momentum.

Why are they worth the effort? First, finding new major donors is a challenge for all organizations. Nurturing mid-level donors increases the likelihood they will make the jump to the next tier. Second, high-dollar fundraising, while rewarding, requires time, patience, and uncertainty. Focusing on the Mighty Middle proves to have lower risk of a poor result and much higher intermediate ROI than high-dollar campaign efforts. Mid-level initiatives also promise higher return and often lower investment than direct marketing campaigns to the low-level donor population. Mass marketing efforts additionally lack longevity and personal focus. Specifically for small non-profits, mid-level giving programs serve as an ideal intermediate step between a robust annual giving plan and high-dollar donation campaigns.

Find YOUR Mighty Middle

There is not a universal range for “mid-level” gifts. As rule of thumb, mid-level donors fall in the range above and below your organization’s median donation. For example, say an organization’s giving looks like the following.

  • 1 gift at $500,000
  • 5 at $30,000
  • 10 between $1,000 and $5,000
  • 100 at $500
  • Many less than $500

The median would likely fall around the $600 to $700 range. Remember that the median represents the middle gift amount, not the average donation value. If the median is $600, the range of mid-level gifts may fall anywhere from $250 to $5,000. A larger organization would expect this gift range to be higher, of course. Other factors, such as involvement level and donation frequency should also be considered.

So, now we know our Mighty Middle include donors who give a single, annual gift of $250 – $5,000.

Elements of a Mighty Middle Program

Think: stewardship first. You should devote as much time to caring for these mid-level donors as you do seeking gifts from them.

1.Create a branded group

Creating a group name gives mid-level donors a sense of community and notoriety. Belonging to this group creates affinity around giving and will encourage increased contribution to “Stay in the tribe.” Creating a specific group for mid-level donors also makes it easier for your organization to market to this group and keep track of its progress.

2. Treat mid-level donors like insiders

Empower your mid-level donors to connect with and influence your organization. Research shows that mid-level donors often engage with the organization’s mission in a volunteer capacity, as well as giving money. They stakeholders – treat them accordingly. Ask for their opinions on new initiatives, campaigns, and the like. Reaffirm their exclusive status by inviting them to special events or providing incentives for different donation amounts.

3. Provide access to staff

The one-on-one approach is most successful when soliciting large gifts. Like major donors, these mid-level donors will be more receptive if they consistently interact with the same member of your staff. This staff person should know individual donors by name and act as their point of contact for any concerns or suggestions. This person may also be in charge of handwritten letters and personalized invitations. Building this kind of rapport creates a level of comfort and trust when it comes time to solicit gifts from these specific donors.

Ultimately, mid-level donors already support the organization’s cause, consistently contribute to its success, and simply enjoy being recognized for their worth. Transform your organization’s “mid-level donors” into “The Mighty Middle!”

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