This is the second article in a series about midlevel programs – you can read part one here. When best practice doesn’t work what do you do? In the case of our midlevel program it took a lot of hard work and a little bit of a kick in the pants to get it right.
After two sets of mediocre, at best, results from following the plan that was handed to us we decided to look at the fundamental assumptions of this plan. The most basic of which was the data that was being presented. The analytics we were provided were complex and robust, but were they telling us what we wanted to know? Just because a donor has the capacity to give (or lives in an affluent postal code) doesn’t necessarily mean that they have the desire to upgrade from a $50 a year donor to a $5,000 donor.
In the case of our donors what were the criteria that were already translating into gifts at a higher level? Were they the same as what was originally presented to us?
We decided to do some of our own digging and really look at the holistic picture of those giving at the midlevel - for us it was $250 to $2,000. We went back to basics - last gift, renewal date and frequency of giving. We prepared our own “in-house” midlevel prospect list and compared it to the original list to see if there were significant differences. If there was enough of a difference we thought we might be on to something and it might be worth trying this program again...for the third time.
We found some some overlap between the midlevel prospects but enough of a significant difference between the two lists to move forward. We worked on building the midlevel donor journey to map out the touch points these folks would be experiencing and what stewardship would be required. We wanted to make simple:
It was a plan we could both believe in – simple and time tested but tailored to what the data was telling us. This is when doubt started to creep in – were we doing the right thing by ignoring the professionally run analytics?
● Change focus from a national program to a focused test within our local area
● Send the letter to correspond with the donor’s renewal date
● Make the follow up phone call or email within 2 weeks
● Request face to face meetings
● Send tailored thank you with receipt within 2 business days of receiving the cheque
● Provide at least 3 other touch points through the year
These doubts turned into something great – they led us to reach out to many good fundraisers working in the midlevel space who had also experienced struggles in their programs’ growth, some similar and some different, but all had tailored it to their own donors. Connecting with these other experts renewed our faith in plan and our abilities and we decided to put it into action.
We also made it easy on ourselves by creating content that could be easily customized for each donor and each situation. The letter, the thank you and the touch points were all generic in nature but it was the details, such as a handwritten note on the letter, which made these pieces special. If this local regional test proved successful it would be easy to expand nationally.
We began to mail the letters and in the next, and final, installment of this series we will tell you how we did, and are continuing to do, along with some tips about how you can get a mid-level program off the ground at your organization.
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).