Maximizing Middle Donors on a Shoestring

April 29th, 2021

The data is clear. The more attention you give to mid-level donors, the better donors they become… the more revenue they produce for your mission… and the more likely they are to remain loyal and invest deeper.

Perhaps that’s actually true for donors at all giving levels, but mid-level donors have the means and commitment to make it worth your additional time and investment.

Organizations with well-resourced middle donor programs have staff dedicated to this audience, provide extra stewardship touches to surprise and delight, produce highly personalized communications and  content-rich solicitations, and aim to deliver a higher-touch experience across this group of donors. The full combination of these and many other efforts is proving extremely effective in driving mid-level donor growth and revenue.

But what do you do if you don’t have the resources for a full-fledged middle donor program? Maybe you only have a few hundred donors at this level, and more-than-likely your development team is already multi-tasking beyond their limit.

In short, what can you do to maximize your mid-level donor program without a lot of extra time or resources?

Here are some easy, low-cost tips to get you moving in the right direction:

  1. Start small and work with what you can manage. The tendency is to look at the entire mid-level group and think that if you can’t do something for all, then you shouldn’t do it for any. That’s not true. A few handwritten notes or personal communications is better than none. Start with your highest value donors first. These folks are most likely committed and will appreciate and reward your efforts, thus giving you the momentum and motivation you need to keep going.
  2. Identify the best pool of donors to target. For most organizations, donations of $1,000 or more tend to trigger higher level (middle donor) treatment, but there is nothing magical about that amount. If needed, adjust the giving criteria to include donors at lower giving levels who are signaling to you they have potential for higher giving. Perhaps they made their first gift at $100 or more, or perhaps they have recently upgraded from a lower-level gift. Also look for donors who have interacted with your organization by visiting or taking a tour, volunteering, attending an event, or getting involved in some way. If wealth ratings are available on your donors, use this to determine capacity from the group you’ve identified.
  3. Focus on the thank you. This is where you can make your best impression. If you can, do more than simply sign the letter. Write a quick extra thank you on the letter. Send a handwritten card. Make a thank you call. Send an email of thanks. Or even do all four, depending on the size of the gift. The key is to make sure your gratitude stands out as extraordinary among the many other thank yous the donor receives from other organizations they support.
  4. Organize a tele-Town Hall or Zoom call. For very little cost, you can bring your mid-level (and major) donors into an inner circle of leaders within your organization by inviting them to a briefing from the Executive Director/President/CEO or from a program leader. Let them get to know leaders within your organization and provide them with an inside look at the impact their gifts are having. Limit the call to an hour or less, and you’ll see these briefings have real impact and often drive future giving.
  5. Add a personal touch to your existing solicitations wherever you can. A quick “thank you for all you do” on the outer envelope or a similar note jotted on the solicitation letter will add a human element and help to foster a more personal connection. Extend this effort to include a hand-addressed envelope, the business card of a leader within your organization or other personalized treatments if you have the help of volunteers or some additional resources available.
  6. Share extra stories and recent wins through email and social media. Everyone loves to feel special, and reaching out to a few donors now and then with a heartwarming story or a recent victory will let the donor know you’re thinking of them, as well as remind them of how valuable their contribution is to your mission.

Get started now and commit to doing at least one new thing from the list above this year for your mid-level donors. By focusing on the small ways you can make a connection with your mid-level donors, you’ll see big gains.

Published in the March 2021 Issue of DMAW Marketing Advents

Craig DePole is President of Newport One, a leading, full-service, direct response fundraising agency serving nonprofit organizations for more than 35 years. Craig is always happy to talk about middle donors and can be reached at

Category: News