A Fundraiser’s Top Strategies for Growing Mid-Level Giving

Katrina – 26 October 2022

While most nonprofits are convinced of the importance of nurturing relationships with mid-level donors and see it as a critical part of their fundraising, too many organisations don’t put enough effort into their mid-level donor engagement and retention. Without a focussed strategy and investment, you risk mid-level giving stagnating or worse, going backwards. So building a strong base of mid-level donors could be key to increasing your annual fundraising revenue, even in an economic downturn. 

We spoke with fundraising expert Lenny Elario from the Australian Red Cross to learn how a concerted effort to reinvigorate their mid-level giving program has helped the Australian Red Cross to grow program revenue by +18% year on year and arrest a previous multi-year trend of stagnant growth.

Thank you to Lenny for sharing his expertise – we hope this article will help you in your efforts to grow a thriving mid-level giving program.


It’s an investment, but it’s worth it

Building a strong base of engaged mid-level donors takes time and effort and a deep commitment from the organisation. Oftentimes nonprofits don’t focus enough effort on their mid-level giving strategy, focusing too heavily on cash donor acquisition or major donor stewardship instead. But research out of Veritas in the US shows that charities who invest well enough in their mid-value, bequests and major gifts typically outperform other charities during economic downturns when cost of living and inflation rises. Investing in these areas can help get you through in tough times, says Lenny.

Lenny’s top tip for securing investment in your mid-level giving program? You’ll need to outline a clear business case for your board to sign off on, including a summary of initiatives, goals and expected returns. If you are just establishing or even re-building your mid-level giving program, having support from your leadership is key.


Get to know your mid-level donors better

Any sound strategy should be grounded in strong donor insights. So Lenny says before embarking on establishing your new mid-level donor program strategy it is critical you take the time to really understand your mid-level donors as well as possible. 

As part of the Australian Red Cross investment in growing their mid-level giving, the charity undertook a qualitative research study with their CX team in 2021, utilising in-depth 1:1 interviews with existing mid-level donors. 

Lenny says the objective should be to generate as many insights about this core group of mid-level donors as possible including:

  • Why do they support your cause over others
  • What things motivate their giving (how those motivations are different to cash givers)
  • What needs are and aren’t being met (in terms of communications, engagement activities and impact reporting)

It’s about uncovering as many insights as possible to understand these donors needs, values, interests, philanthropic motivations. This will help you develop a more effective strategy.”

While you also want to understand your mid-level donors intimately Lenny says it is also important to build a deeper understanding of your own organisation – so you can better connect your mid-level donors to the impacts of their support. 

“Our fundraising, marketing, leadership and program teams came together in a discovery workshop to uncover new insights about the programs our charity delivers, the work of our frontline teams and the impact the donor makes. These insights can really help to shape your mid-level case for support and bring in the voice of front-line teams to help better connect donors to the work of your organisation. It’s about helping them understand the real-world impact of their gift.”


Leverage your data to find new mid-level prospects

Australian Red Cross has an ambitious target to double its fundraising revenue by FY26-27. A mid-value growth strategy is critical to meeting this target due to mid-value donor’s strong financial capacity and motivation to give. 

So driven by a motivation to quickly scale their mid-level program and achieve growth, the charity recently partnered with Dataro to develop a reliable methodology for identifying qualified mid-value prospects within their donor database to nurture into mid-value giving levels.

The charity’s ambition is to generate $250K in new mid-value giving in Year 1 by moving 500 donors along the pipeline into mid-value. Through doing, the charity hopes to gain strategic fundraising insights that will help them better understand the triggers and behaviours in identifying mid-value donors. “It is, essentially, a data enabled donor journey with the appropriate triggers to nurture these critical relationships and foster a long term revenue growth.”


Tailor your appeals programs with a strong case for support

The Australian Red Cross previously treated mid-level donors the same as standard donors in their appeals solicitations, with mid-level donors receiving the same mail pack as standard donors. 

However, a typical mid-level donor needs more stewardship than cash donors and a higher level of communication about their gift’s impact. As such, Lenny says mid-level donors need communications that meet their donor needs, interests and philanthropic motivations. 

From their donor research, the Australian Red Cross confirmed that their mid-level donors wanted to hear more about the operations of the charity (the “nitty gritty”) so they could better understand the impact of their support. Mid-level donors want to know what is going on behind the scenes, and how they are having an impact,” says Lenny. 

Based on this insight, the charity launched tailored appeal packs for mid-level donors which included a tailored case for support. As a result the charity  grew mid-level income by +$523k in their Festive Season 2021 appeal (an increase of 116% YOY) and $490k (an increase of 37% YOY) for their Tax 2022 appeal. 

Lenny’s top tip – develop a tailored case for support for mid-level donors that is grounded in insights. “Find out what these donors want to know and give that information to them in an engaging way that best demonstrates the impact of their support.”  


Create a mid-level product

While some nonprofits have membership or rewards programs for major donors, mid-level donors are often left behind.  Lenny says designing a product or benefits specifically tailored for mid-level donors can help nonprofits communicate to their mid-level donors that their gifts are just as important as major gifts and equally valued by the organisation. And while not all mid-level donors will convert to major givers, your mid-level strategy should still help to push these donors to give at a higher level. Lenny says this is where mid-level products can help.

A key insight from the Australian Red Cross’s research revealed that some donors were looking to consolidate their giving, by giving more larger gifts to fewer charities. Their motivation was to have an even greater impact through an increased volume of gifts to the one organisation. We invited people to become founding members of this group and already have 48 donors sign on since February this year,” says Lenny.

In response the charity developed a special group for mid-level donors called “Red Cross 50” – a group of donors who pledge to make a gift of $5,000 each year for 3 years (total $15k per donor over 3 years). 

Members of this mid-level donor group receive recognition as a member, plus exclusive updates and invitations to special events and have the Mid-Level Manager (Lenny) as a direct contact if they want more information on the work of the organisation. “Not only does this product meet the donors’ need to consolidate their giving and increase their impact, it also helps us achieve our fundraising goal of building a more sustainable revenue stream.” 

The Red Cross 50 mid-level donors are not suppressed from the charity’s ongoing appeals because these are an opportunity to further engage some of their most committed donors. Instead of asking for a multiple of their $5,000 pledge the charity positions the ask as “an additional gift” on top of their commitment. A personalised with comps slip is added to the mid-level appeal mail pack for these donors to thank them for their support, remind them of the impact they are already having and inviting an additional gift (with no pressure).


Right now, talk about the impacts of inflation with your donors

Your mid-level donors want to feel closer to your cause and be part of the solution you offer. Lenny says fundraisers have an opportunity right now to share with their mid-level donors how rising inflation is impacting their  organisation and/or beneficiaries in a way that helps increase the donor’s level of giving.

Importantly he says your communications should empower donors to be part of the solution. “The act of giving a larger gift today helps your donors to maintain the impact of their support and help secure the financial stability of the organisation. In the case of the Australian Red Cross, a gift from a mid-level donor is driving down the impact of inflation on our cause.”