Mid-level Donor Cultivation

“donors at the $1,000 to $10,000 levels represented roughly one percent of the donor population, but were giving more than a third of the dollars”

“new donor acquisition has fallen every year since 2005”

So what should you know about mid-level donors?

  1. Mission is important: Mid-level donors seem to care more about the issues in the community that your organization addresses and less about your financial situation. Spend less time explaining why you need donations and include more information about how your programs directly impact the community.
  2. Consistency: When an organization is taking a different approach when asking for donations depending on the method like calling on the telephone, sending an email, or mailing a letter, donors notice that there is an inconsistent message. Make sure that there is a “single, comprehensive view” in every method of reaching out to donors.
  3. Information in the news: Cathy Finney of The Wilderness Society included a New York Times article in their scheduled mailings that discussed the issues the organization cares about without mentioning the organization. Donors responded in a big way because it was focused on why that organization’s work is important.
  4. Name giving levels: Successful funding programs give their mid-level donors a special name like calling that group a “club” so people are more likely to donate. The Nature Conservancy calls theirs “The Last Great Places Society”.
  5. How to contact: Without listing any staff members in an appeal to donors, people feel like the organization is too big or is not relatable. Include at least one staff member’s name as well as a way to contact that person so donors feel more connected and know there is someone willing to answer questions who cares about their individual donation.
  6. Ask less: Mid-level donors were most likely to give when they received fewer asks from an organization. Don’t annoy potential donors with an abundance of calls, emails, or letters. Instead spend more time on asking a few times a year.
  7. Feedback: Donor want to be able to contribute to an organization in ways that often feel more meaningful than simply giving money. Ask mid-level donors what they want to see in the organization or what would make things better for them. Consider sending out a survey or call to do a short interview.


Beth Raps. “The Middle Way”. Grassroots Fundraising Journal.

You Review: Steve Linsenmayer reviews “How To Find And Cultivate Donors” on DVD

Is it possible for one set of DVDs to hold all of the answers to your fundraising questions?

Probably not, but “How To Find And Cultivate Donors” from Movie Mondays Fundraising Film Festival, (deep breath,) comes close. Easy to listen to and engaging. These are sit-down, conversational, bite-sized interview segments with a variety of fundraising professionals offering conversational advice on a whole bunch of topics.

Define ‘bunch’? How about:

  • Building trust with donors
  • Meeting etiquette
  • Approaching the donor
  • Why donors give
  • Finding trusted advisors

…and about 51 other topics, on this set alone. Buy it today. Oh, wait. Check it out instead, at least to give it a once over.

This is motivational stuff. Donor relations are not brain surgery, but they are worth some thoughtful attention throughout the process. This set is useful for staff and board training and general inspiration, whether you are experienced in the donor-cultivation world or are just entering it, (as I am).

Steve LinsenmayerSteve Linsenmayer is Development Director with the Embassy Theatre

You Review is our newest post format. Have you read (or watched) something that would be of interest to your local nonprofit colleagues? Contact us here or at (260) 421-1238 / nrc@acpl.info.