When you continue to treat low-level donors only as lower tier prospects, you’re overlooking a pool of donors who will respond to personal attention — a pool of donors who may not be aware of their own impact. Organizations must take an active stance to drive low-level donors to the middle of the pyramid — and engage them with the right message. Mid-level prospects won’t come knocking on your door on their own because they haven’t been shown that they are of great importance to the organization. You can choose to continue communicating with them like you would your lower tier prospects — with minor nods to personalization — but you’re losing your chance to fill the mid-level giving gap and your future major gifts pipeline.
It seems like it would be easy to deploy major gift officers to make mid-level visits, but it’s important to know that the mid-level giving conversation needs to be targeted to mid-level prospects, and that is much different than the conversations major gift officers should have with their prospects. Plus, major gift officers are expensive and there’s simply too much opportunity at the top of the pyramid to make it a cost-effective effort. Woody Allen once said that 85 percent of success is in showing up, but you need more than that when fundraising for the middle of the pyramid. Face-to-face engagement is key, but what you say is just as critical as actually being there.
In our early years, we learned how important it is to hire the right people to make mid-level visits. A development officer can be great at getting face-to-face meetings with prospects, but if they can’t conduct the right conversation that leads to a gift, you’ve lost another valuable opportunity. It is vital that the conversation drives and opens the door for the donor to be responsive. It takes intensive training and ongoing support for officers to successfully engage a prospect, especially a nondonor, and compel them to make a gift.