What to do With “Tweeners”—20 Cool Ideas That Will Rock the Donor’s World!

Okay, now that you have your regular donor strategy on the white board and your major gift strategy in front of you, it’s time to start putting some rubber to the road on this mid-level gift program.

As a reminder, here are the four guiding principles I want you to use as you create or enhance your program:

  1. Get to know these particular donors better.  Remember, people want to feel known.  This is huge.
  2. Challenge them to consider investing more in your programs. You’re going to have to go beyond just increasing gift asks.  Remember, you want to create MORE revenue with this program.
  3. Give them more attention and make them feel important.  Again, donors want to feel they are making an impact and that they are needed.
  4. Provide amazing customer (donor) service and tell them how their gifts are directly making an impact in ways they have not yet experienced with you.

As I said in the previous post, a solid mid-level program uses your regular donor program as its base and adds in some great strategies from your major gift program.  So here are some ideas to consider:

Getting to Know Your Donors 

  1. Send a “How do you like to be Communicated With” card that asks the donor for feedback on communication. This communication. This step is exactly what we recommend you do when you are qualifying major donors – you want to know the donor’s communication preferences.
  2. Send a Special Donor Survey, both on-line and in the mail, that asks the donor to tell you what he is most passionate about in the way of  giving in general and your organization in particular.
  3. Courtesy Call—Call your donors to thank them and ask them if they have any questions about the work your organization does.  In that call try to find out as much as you can about why they give to your organization.
  4. Send invites to special “get to know each other” events that your organization has already organized.  You can reserve a special room and or time that is specifically geared to donors for a reception to meet program staff and leadership.

Challenge Donors to Invest More Dollars 

  1. Enhance current donor strategy creative by “upgrading” the creative look and feel of the mail appeals with color, reply cards, stamped returned envelopes, closed-faced outer-envelopes, etc.  If you are working with an outside direct-response agency they should have expertise in this area.
  2. Twice a year create “mini-proposals” that are personalized to the donor that highlight 4-5 areas needing funding and their dollar amounts.  They are mailed in large envelopes, full-page reply device and stamped reply envelopes.
  3. Invite mid-level donors to sponsor tables at dinners, or to underwrite the cost of small events that are tied into their passion.  For example, you have a donor who gave $1,000 toward the heart program at a hospital and you know he’s a big time golfer.  You know there is a golf tournament the hospital sponsors where the proceeds go to the heart center.  You invite this donor to a $2,500 sponsor level. 

Give Donors More Attention and Make Them Feel Important 

  1. Call Donors to thank them when they give a gift of a certain amount.
  2. Send a personal note to these donors when they give a gift of $500 or more.
  3. Send “insider” e-mail updates, news, and urgent information.
  4. Invite donors to hear an “expert” in your organization or one that promotes the mission of your organization and have a VIP reception beforehand.
  5. Send a letter to the children of your donors telling them what a special parent(s) they have and how they have helped your organization.  Remember that parents want to pass down their philanthropy to their children.  This is a great way to help them do that and honor them at the same time.
  6. Have the CEO or President call the donor to thank them.
  7. Ask a donor to help in your vision or strategic planning process and get their input. 

Provide Amazing Customer (Donor) Service and Tell Them How They Made a Difference 

  1. In January send them a letter with all the dates of their gifts that year so it’s easy for them to do their taxes.
  2. Send regular “You Made a Difference” updates highlighting how their gifts are making an impact.
  3. Have a program person call or e-mail the donors to let them know how much they appreciate them and give them an update on their work first-hand.
  4. Create a video “thank you” and send it over e-mail, Twitter or Facebook to your donors.
  5. Send the donor a real photo with a note thanking them.
  6. KNOW something personal about a donor and create a couple of touch-points throughout the year.  For example, you know a donor loves gardening.  Send an article with a handwritten note: “Was thinking about you today and thought you would appreciate this.”

All right, that’s 20 ideas you can begin with to create your mid-level (Tweener) program.  Be smart about this.  If you’re mailing 20 appeals a year, perhaps take out 6 -8 that aren’t as profitable and inject some of these new strategies.  If you’re only mailing 4 times a year, perhaps they should be touched 8-10 times per year.

The idea is to enhance what you’re doing.  Don’t make the mistake of putting these donors into your major gift program where they can get lost and ultimately lose revenue.

Blow them away with some of these tactics, endear them to your organization, find the right place for them and get to KNOW them.  You’ll find your “Tweener” program is a great incubator for your major gift program and your MGO’s will love you for it!



About Jeff Schreifels and Richard Perry

Jeff Schreifels and Richard Perry have over 55 years of experience fundraising for non-profits. Richard Perry was co-owner of Domain Group until 2005. Jeff Schreifels was a Senior Strategist for Domain Group for 12 years. They came together a few years ago to start Veritus Group, a full-service major gift fundraising agency. Veritus Group has a unique, data-driven approach unlike any agency focused on major gifts. Jeff and Richard are passionate about their work, passionate about life and hopes this blog will provide you with insights and tangible benefits for you and your work. Thank you for reading!
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8 Responses to What to do With “Tweeners”—20 Cool Ideas That Will Rock the Donor’s World!

  1. Leigh Ann Cardenas says:

    Jeff: These are great ideas, and my organization is already implementing many of them albeit in a less coordinated manner. Our donors are spread across the country, and we don’t really hold events and can’t really afford to do lots of one-on-one visits. Do you have any other thoughts for face to face communication or sponsorship that don’t need to be tied to an event? We haven’t hit the digital video age with our donors yet — most are in an older age bracket so we’re just cracking the email avenue. Thoughts? Thanks.

  2. Candace Gillespie says:

    Love all of your ideas except the sending children of donors a note. This could spark a hailstorm if you have children that don’t appreciate philanthropy (i.e. want their parents money) and could violate the privacy of the donor if they don’t want their children to know their “business.”

  3. John Healy says:

    I have just started reading your blog and really enjoyed the insights you offered in the 7 Pillars of a Major Gift Program, and I am also enjoying these thoughts on the “Tweeners”… these ideas are hitting home with where my organization is!

    Thank you and keep up the good work!

    John Healy
    Director of Major Gifts
    Semester at Sea

  4. Angie says:

    I know you’ve mentioned before how many donors an MGO should be working with but is there a number or range of how many donors a mid-level donor officer should have? Also, I’d love to hear more about the possible parameters of a mid-level program. Would you look at several criteria like the number of gifts, lifetime giving and/or previous year giving, other involvement such as volunteering, etc? Do people drop out of the mid-level program and go up to the major donor program? How often so you update who falls in the mid-level area?
    Maybe you could just write another post or two about this… 🙂

    • Angie, thanks for writing. The answer to how many donors should make up a mid-level program…is that it depends. Every organization is different. For some it could mean $100-$999.99, of others it could mean $1,000-$9,999.99. You are also correct about other criteria, i.e. how many gifts has the donor given in one year, how long have they been a donor, how else are they involved in your organization. I think the bigger point is that creating a mid-level program can be helpful to incubate donors who are not quite ready to have a one to one relationship with your organization, yet has shown more interest and passion than a typical $25 donor. I’m working with one group that has one person working with 1,000 mid-level donors. We’re using a combination of the best in direct-response, personal touches such as thank you calls, handwritten notes and more “you made a difference” communication. We’re watching very closely donors who make a significant upgrade in their giving and calling to find out IF they want to have a more personal connection with the organization by having a personal representative. The goal of the program is to upgrade their giving and personal involvement and to move them into a major gift caseload. We’re also watching very closely to make sure they don’t downgrade their giving from when they were in the regular direct-response mail stream. This is important. Sometimes donors are just happy to stay in that program and we have to respect that. You’re right, we’ll have to do more posts on Mid-level programs. Thanks again for bringing this up. It’s important.


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