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Three Things to Consider in Mid-Level Donor Communications

Three Things to Consider in Mid-Level Donor CommunicationsImagine giving $1,000 or more to an organization you faithfully support, but you stop hearing from them one month after you give. Worse yet, what if you never heard from them at all? This scarce communication provides no incentive for you to give again, yet many organizations are neglecting mid-level donors in this exact way. Stuck in donor purgatory between the communication strategies for small and major donors, mid-level givers like you fall into a communications black hole.

A new study from fundraising research lab NextAfter explored the communications gap mid-level donors fall into. When donors give anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000, an organization pulls them out of its standard communication strategies because they are considered too valuable to receive the typical treatment. Major donors gain direct access to a personal representative from the organization, but organizations often don’t consider a donor a “major donor” until he or she has given anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000. This leaves mid-level donors with no specified communication strategy.

A key takeway from the NextAfter study is that every organization can benefit from more personalized, empathetic communications. Using their findings, here are some tips you can follow to ensure no donor, large or small, falls into a communications black hole.

1. Personalize it

"People give to people—not organizations, fundraising programs or email machines," said Tim Kachuriak, NextAfter’s founder and author of “The Mid-Level Donor Crisis.”

Whoever sends your communications, be it a person, people, or entity, has a great effect on the success of your fundraising. People want to be communicated with, not marketed to.

NextAfter made mid-level donations to 37 organizations and monitored the emails, direct mail, and phone calls they received from these organizations for 90 days. Only 31 percent of the communications came from a real person.

The study found two simple techniques that can greatly increase the personalization of your communications.

  1. Send communications from a person, instead of the organization. There was an 18 percent increase in e-mail open rate when NextAfter removed the name of the organization and used the name of an individual instead. Something as simple as seeing that an e-mail is from a person and not an organization can immediately humanize your fundraising.
  2. Call your donors by name. The study found that one-third of organizations do not call their mid-level donors by name. If a donor just gave between $1,000 and $5,000 to your cause, you should be letting him or her know that your organization appreciates his/her gift. One of the best ways to personalize communication with a donor is to include a personal greeting that calls the recipient by name. NextAfter found that this simple change resulted in a 270.1 percent increase in click-through rates for e-mail communications.

2. Pick up the phone and call

Of the 37 organizations NextAfter studied, only 8 percent called to thank them for their donations. However, according to Penelope Burk’s Donor Centered Fundraising, a donor’s second gift may be up to 40 percent more if he/she receives a thank-you phone call. 

Of the 224 messages NextAfter received through the study, only 1 percent came over the phone. If you want to stand out from other organizations and let donors know you are grateful for their gifts, incorporate phone calls into your communications strategy for mid-level donors.

3. Say “Thank you, thank you, thank you”

Kachuriak said most organizations don’t say thank you nearly enough. He suggests that organizations implement the “thank you, thank you, thank you” rule.

“Thank your donor at least three times for every gift. Give them a call, send them an email, and send them a letter. We have found that any organization, no matter its size, should be able to do this effectively," Kachuriak said.

Let your donors know that you are grateful for their gifts, and your appreciation may help you secure a more generous second gift.

These tips can be applied to any fundraising strategy targeting any donor, but acknowledging the communications gap mid-level donors fall into can help your organization ensure no donor is forgotten. This humanized communication will not only let donors know that your organization is grateful and appreciative but can also prime mid-level donors to give again.

Three Things to Consider in Mid-Level Donor CommunicationsThe preceding post is by Abbie Wade, a communications coordinator for GuideStar. She is currently a junior at The George Washington University, studying Journalism & Mass Communication and Political Science.

Topics: Communications Donor Relations Donors