5 Ways to Recognize Your Nonprofit’s Mid-Level Donors

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By Derrick Spitler

It can be easy for nonprofits to overlook their mid-level donors. There is so much emphasis put on donor acquisition and major donors that “middle child” syndrome can take over, leaving mid-level donors on the back burner.

Mid-level donors usually make up only 5% to 10% of a nonprofit’s donor base, yet they can contribute as much as 40% to 50% of your organization’s annual revenue. Thus, they contribute significantly to the stability of your nonprofit’s funding and your enduring success at meeting your fundraising goals.

Depending on your nonprofit, “mid-level” will describe different levels of contribution. A solid rule of thumb is that your mid-level donors occupy the space between your largest average gift and your smallest major gift. Regardless of the exact donation range they occupy, mid-level donors are invested in your cause and poised to become loyal, longtime supporters — and even major donors — as long as they are properly stewarded.

Effective stewardship of your mid-level donors involves meaningfully recognizing them for their contributions, so they are encouraged to further engage with your organization. Personalized, thoughtful donor recognition is the key to donor retention and the long-term health of your fundraising programs. Particularly for mid-level donors, we recommend that you:

  1. Use a multichannel thank-you strategy.
  2. Establish a mid-level donor society.
  3. Grant exclusive access.
  4. Recognize milestones.
  5. Implement a donor recognition wall or plaque.

With these techniques, you’re sure to nurture your mid-level donors into increased engagement and longtime loyalty. Let’s get started!

1. Use a Multichannel Thank-You Strategy

Your mid-level donors should enjoy all of the thank-you communications of an average donor, in addition to a personal phone call if that’s possible for your organization. Contacting your donors through multiple channels reinforces your gratitude and makes sure they don’t miss the communication.

But before a phone call, your mid-level donors should receive an automated email receipt with information about their donation, including the amount and the specific campaign or project they contributed to. This is not only useful for tax purposes but also indicates that their donation was received and is headed to the right place. A brief thank-you message should appear in this receipt. These emails should be configured to send automatically in order to express your gratitude quickly.

With the proper configuration in your donor database, an automated, longer thank-you email should also go out in the couple of days following a mid-level donation, detailing the impact of the donation and reiterating your nonprofit’s gratitude. Alternatively or in combination with this, establish an alert in your donor database that notifies one of your development officers when a mid-level donation is made. Consider having this staff member (or staff members) follow up with a personal phone call thanking the mid-level donor for their contribution.

While some nonprofits may feel overwhelmed by the time investment associated with having to call mid-level donors (especially on top of major donor recognition), this form of contact goes a long way to establish relationships. Talking to a specific person at your organization builds a strong connection between the donor and your mission and makes the donor feel more seen and appreciated. This article details the importance of personalizing your thank-you communications with donors, and short of a face-to-face meeting, phone calls are the next most personal option.

If you really want to cover all of your bases, in addition to the recognition options listed above, you could send out a hard-copy thank-you letter via direct mail in the week or so after the donation is made. Physical letters are more memorable than electronic ones and could have a greater impact on your mid-level donors.

2. Establish a Mid-Level Donor Society

Donor societies or clubs are groups that nonprofit organizations can establish among their donors to clearly distinguish certain donors from others. Some organizations prioritize sustaining donors, so they establish sustainer societies to encourage average donors to make sustained gifts and to increase sustainer retention.

To recognize your mid-level donors, establish a mid-level donor society for your organization. Call the club something catchy and develop a brand for the society to reinforce its separation from your average donor base. For example, charity: water calls its society for monthly givers “The Spring” and invites its website’s visitors to “Join The Spring, [their] community of monthly givers, to bring clean and safe water to families around the world every single month.”

Donor societies make members feel important and valued for their contributions. They carry an air of exclusivity, as not everyone is granted admission. Plus, with a giving society established, mid-level donors can build relationships with others who are passionate about your cause, increasing the likelihood of your organization becoming a lasting part of their lives.

Mid-level donor society members can be targeted specifically for increased outreach. You may want to give extra effort to communicating the impact of these donors’ contributions, detailing the activities of your organization, and encouraging members to increase their donations. One way you could keep mid-level donors informed with relevant information about impact and activities is through a branded society newsletter for their membership group. This can go a long way to keep them informed and provide more in-depth information than the average donor might receive.

You may not see results from your membership society overnight, but the effort to recognize your mid-level donors in this way is worth it. As detailed in Qgiv’s guide to donor stewardship, the stewardship process is long and involved, but when done correctly, can lead to donors ascending the donor pyramid and becoming major givers. Plus, a mid-level society will be invaluable for easily rolling out other recognition efforts and perks, like the ones detailed in the tips below.

3. Grant Exclusive Access

Members of your mid-level giving society have demonstrated an interest in your cause that goes beyond the regular giver. Thus, they likely want to be treated differently than the regular giver. In addition to admission to a society, there are certain things your nonprofit can do to treat your mid-level donors more like VIPs and insiders. Granting them exclusive access to special benefits is an effective way to make them feel valued. Depending on your organization, these efforts may involve the following:

  • Conversations with board members or directors. Nothing makes donors feel special like direct access to people in charge. A face-to-face, one-on-one or group discussion with important members of your organization gives your mid-level donors an opportunity to express their thoughts directly to influential members of your organization. Plus, these significant stakeholders can personally and directly express their gratitude for mid-level gifts, which may carry more meaning than a thank-you from one of your development officers.
  • Special events. Events specifically for your mid-level donors can increase the impression of exclusivity and build strong relationships with mid-level donors. Events for your mid-level giving society may include behind-the-scenes tours, recognition luncheons or campaign kickoff parties. Plus, smaller, more intimate events can easily be held via Zoom for maximum convenience. Be sure to brand your event invitations to your mid-level giving society, so your donors know they’re being invited to an exclusive event.
  • Perks at general events. Even at events that welcome all of your supporters, there are ways to recognize your mid-level donors that will make them feel important and appreciated. For example, you could have designated seating areas, free parking or public recognition for mid-level givers. (Before you publicly recognize a donor, make sure they are open to being recognized in this way.)

Granting your mid-level donors exclusive access to your organization serves to solidify their loyalty and can even incentivize them to increase their engagement and donation levels to have an even bigger impact on your nonprofit.

4. Recognize Milestones

Mid-level donors are often long-term or recurring givers who provide your organization with valuable, stable support. As part of your nonprofit’s effort to build relationships with each

individual donor, recognize your mid-level donors’ milestones with your organization, just as you recognize milestones in other important relationships.

Donor management software can track each donor’s engagement history, making it easy to recognize your donors’ milestones via email, direct mail, phone or other channels. You may even send your mid-level donors a thoughtful branded gift on certain dates. Some of the milestones you can recognize are:

  • Certain giving thresholds. When a mid-level donor reaches a certain cumulative donation amount that your nonprofit values (i.e. $5,000) make sure to send a communication that recognizes that they crossed this threshold. Doing so will encourage future giving and make sure they understand the impact of their gifts.
  • Giving anniversaries. Show that you really care about your mid-level donors by recognizing the date of their first donation to your organization every year. Consider sending a card that mimics a classic anniversary card and a thoughtful thank-you message or branded gift.
  • Birthdays. Make sure you have your mid-level donors’ birthdays stored in your donor database to facilitate an annual birthday communication. You may send a happy birthday card and a gift to reinforce the importance of the donor to your organization and show that you care about them.

Recognizing your donors’ important milestones with your nonprofit can go a long way to boost long-term engagement with your organization by showing that you pay attention to the details of their contributions and really value their participation.

5. Implement a Donor Recognition Wall or Plaque

A donor recognition wall or plaque is one way to meaningfully recognize your mid-level donors at a given location, like your headquarters or a building they contributed to. This resource showcases the wide range of customization options for recognition walls — for your mid-level donors, you may want to use a digital recognition wall, so you can fit enough names on the wall and easily modify the list to add or change the names based on a given campaign or year.

Plaques may also be within the realm of possibility for recognizing your mid-level donors. Solidifying their contributions in the form of a permanent area dedicated to them can go a long way to keep their participation levels up.

While you should absolutely use meaningful recognition methods for your mid-level donors, be sure to leave room to recognize your major donors in an even more significant way. Maintaining an additional level of recognition for your major donors serves as incentive for your mid-level donors to increase their giving levels, meaning more funds raised for your organization. For example, you may reserve a more prominent, elaborate donor recognition wall for significant contributors to a capital campaign or other major givers.

An effective mid-level donor program should be a major priority for organizations of all sizes. Mid-level donors have demonstrated a significant interest in your cause, so you should work hard to maintain and strengthen your relationships with these donors to ensure their future support. Recognizing them in these five ways can make them feel valued, seen, and appreciated, making it more likely that they’ll stay engaged and even work their way up the donor pyramid to major giving status. Best of luck!

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