The journey to a successful midlevel program – part three

publication date: Mar 28, 2016
author/source: Laura Champion and Jason Novelli

Laura ChampionJason NovelliThis is the third and final article in a series about midlevel programs. If you are just catching up, you can read part one here and part two here.

So we mailed the letters, made the follow up calls and emails and started to receive some responses. While it is still early days we are proud to report that at the six month mark we accomplished:

  • 51% response rate
  • Of that 20% were upgrades
  • Dozens of great conversations with donors across the province
  • Identified donors for major gift and planned giving pipelines

Based on our capacity we found that we can manage about 150-200 midlevel donors in our region. In our first quarterly program review we moved 20 donors back into the standard annual giving program. There was no magic formula for removing them - they were not upgrading, unresponsive to meeting requests or flat out told us they were not interested in increasing their support.

It’s an on-going process to remove some donors, add some prospects, rinse and repeat. A steady and methodical approach will continue to feed the program with quality prospects while giving donors a more personalized experience with the organization.

Our mid level program is still very much a work in progress and results are still coming in, so we aren’t finished yet. To aid you in your work we want to share a few key tips to keep in mind if you have been tasked with building your own midlevel program from the ground up.

You already have the tools to create a midlevel program. If you have a database and can write about your organization, you already have the tools to get started on a mid-level program. You don’t need professional analytics to show you which donors are likely to give at a higher level. They can certainly be helpful in the right situation, but start small with your own data. 

Talk your donors! We initially made the mistake of trying to run a national mid-level program from our office without local support. Our mid-level donors wanted to connect with someone from their area. Handwritten thank you notes from the local staff were a start. In most cases a phone call was sufficient for a follow up but some donors were ready and interested in face to face visits.

Every organization is different Listen to your donors and pay attention to the appeals they are responding to. For our appeal letter we found that an emotional patient story with infographics explaining scientific aspects of the organization worked in combination to create our 4 page midlevel “mini-proposal”.

Don’t be afraid to fail. It took us 2 years to feel like we’ve been successful. The important thing to remember is that if you are learning from each failure, it’s not really a failure.

In the year to come this program will continue to evolve. We believe more face to face solicitation and stewardship will become part of the fold but if that is not what the donors are interested in, we will listen!

We’d love to share with you more about our successful program and pay forward some of the knowledge and kindness shared with us from other fundraisers – so please reach out. Sometimes a little additional encouragement is all you need to get a program like this off the ground.


Laura Champion (@charitablelaura) is the Leadership Gifts Officer at Crohn’s and Colitis Canada.  She thirsts for fundraising knowledge and connections. Currently she is helping to launch a mentorship program for Humber Fundraising Graduates to ease the transition into the workplace. Reach out anytime to chat.

Jason Novelli has been working in the non-profit sector for over 10 years. His expertise is managing multi-channel direct response fundraising campaigns. Currently he is the Direct Marketing Manager for Crohn’s and Colitis Canada. Connect with him on LinkedIn or twitter (@NovelliJason)

Like this article?  Join our mailing list for more great information!

Copyright, Hilborn Stanois Inc., © 2011-Current. All rights reserved.

Free Fundraising Newsletter
Join Our Mailing List