Pursuant’s mid-level development efforts span a full decade of first-hand experience in overcoming the obstacles to creating an immensely effective mid-level program. We have discovered five areas that must be targeted and implemented together to reap incredible results from that part of the donor pyramid.
First, your mid-level strategy and approach must be effective. Mid-level gifts require face-to-face interaction. It is absolutely necessary. Trust will be insufficient to warrant a mid-level commitment if conversations do not take place in person. In addition, personal meetings accomplish in minutes what would otherwise take months, if not years of direct response work to develop.
Another factor in effectiveness concerns building a case for support. How will the conversation be framed in a way that quickly engages the prospective donor? We have found videos and stories are absolutely vital to the process of engagement. People need a vicarious experience of the impact your nonprofit is having. Compelling stories and videos provide that experience and are necessary to effective communication.
Second, your mid-level efforts must be efficient. The lower level response from this stage of development makes wasted effort is a potential showstopper. It is important to prioritize prospective visits. We have found three factors should be considered to determine low-level donors and even nondonors who are worth visiting:
• Giving History: When did they last give? How much have they given? How long have they been supportive? What have they supported? Giving history must be factored into the equation.
• Wealth Data: A wealth overlays on your donor file enables you to identify prospective donors based on publicly available demographic data. This data groups people on your file based on age, location, and other factors. Taken together, wealth indicators can be a strong indication of a person’s capacity to give.
• Behavioral Interest: Who, among all the donors and nondonors on your file, has sufficient interest in your organization to warrant a potential mid-level giving commitment? Behavioral interest data provides an extremely strong indicator of cultivation success, yet is commonly overlooked. Pursuant has used PURLs, surveys, and encoded videos and microsites to identify behavioral interest. A nondonor by definition may have never given to your nonprofit. But if they take the time to watch a video, review a special microsite, and complete a survey concerning facets of your organization, chances go way up that they have sufficient interest in what you are doing to make not just a first time gift, but a multi-year, mid-level giving commitment.
Pursuant has used these three factors to weigh, score, and stack rank all non-, low- and mid-level donors on a database, thus prioritizing who is most likely to respond to a face-to-face meeting and ask. (This information can also be used to create prospective major donor and planned giving portfolios, but that’s another story!) This information also serves as a basis for determining the size of commitment the individual could make.
The third factor critical to mid-level success concerns productivity. Major gift officers may be able to get by on 100 visits per year. Mid-level officers must operate differently. Our experience over 10 years and 18,000 mid-level meetings has shown that upwards of 250 face-to-face meetings and asks can be accomplished every year when an officer’s time is effectively managed.
This level of productivity requires that multiple visits be scheduled in geographic areas. It requires rigorous time management, elimination of all but a bare minimum of internal staff meetings, technology support for calling and scheduling meetings, and staff with the energy, drive and mindset to be successful. There cannot be any wasted time or effort. Time with mid-level prospects must be maximized.
Fourth, follow through is imperative. When a giving commitment is made, information concerning the commitment is immediately secured—contact information, address, credit card, and amount are all obtained. If additional information is requested by the prospect, that information is either already in hand or is quickly retrieved and provided in a subsequent meeting. Any lapse in follow-through directly impacts results.
When gifts or commitments are secured, a letter is immediately sent following the meeting, confirming the details and expressing appreciation for the donors involvement.
Fifth and finally, the face-to-face visit is only the beginning of the conversation. The relationship needs to be stewarded. Ongoing interaction is vital to keeping the mid-level donor engaged, especially if their support is in the form of a multi-year, monthly giving commitment. Pursuant has used videos, newsletters, regular letters and phone calls to stay in touch with donors and express gratitude over time. A solid stewardship program has resulted in pledge fulfillments in excess of 90%.