In November 2017, I was invited to join Blackbaud’s npNext to share what we’ve been learning about mid-level donors and mid-level communication with chief development and marketing officers from some of the largest nonprofits in the US.
The whole recording of the talk is below, but I wanted to share some of the biggest takeaways.
The Mid-Level Donor Crisis
At the start of 2017, we published a study called The Mid-Level Donor Crisis. This study outlined everything we learned from making mid-level donations to 37 organizations, and monitoring their communication with us for 90 days.
The overarching theme that we took away from the study is this: Most mid-level donors are falling into a communication blackhole, and are being forgotten about by the organizations they support.
There’s a lot of data we looked at to draw that conclusion, so let’s look at 5 of the most important takeaways from the study…
1. Cross-channel communication is still a major opportunity for growth.
Every organization we donated to received our email address and mailing address. And we gave our phone number to every organization that asked for it.
Despite having all of this information, we only received 2 phone calls. 40% of organizations did not send us mail of any kind. And 22% did not send us an email of any kind.
2. Phone calls are the least utilized channel for communicating with and thanking mid-level donors.
Since only 2 organizations gave us a phone call, we went back and looked at how many organizations actually asked us for our phone number. And as it turns out, 70% of organizations had asked for it, and we gave it to each one of them.
Now, of that 70%, about half of them had the phone number required on their donation form. As optimizers, this led us to a new question…is there a good reason to not include a phone number field, or to make it un-required?
So we ran a few experiments….
In experiment #2112, we took a donation form that did not ask for a phone number, and added a required phone number field to it. As a result, we saw a 42.6% decrease in donations.
But in a second test, experiment #6086, we tested an optional phone number field vs no phone number field at all. And as a result, we saw no significant difference in donations.
This is really good news because it means you can ask for a phone number without affecting the performance of your donation page. And with more phone numbers, we can start calling more donors to thank them and cultivate them.
3. There’s a lack of consensus about when to ask mid-level donors to give again.
One really interesting data point from this study was the amount of organizations that asked for a second gift within the first 90 days. It was fairly evenly split – about half of organizations asked for a gift, and the other half did not.
Now, I’m not here to say which method is right. There could be a very intentional strategy in not asking for a second gift in that 90-day period. But what I do know is that we’re not going to get more donations if we don’t actually make the ask.
This is definitely an area to focus some more testing on to discover what is truly the best method.
4. More communication means sharing more cultivating content.
This may be somewhat of an obvious point, but it’s worth noting. The organizations that sent us more communication were sending us more cultivating content.
Growing the amount of communication with your mid-level donors doesn’t just mean sending more thank you cards and donation appeals. Instead, as we try to fix the communication gaps, our communication can and should focus more on sharing cultivating content that our donors will be interested in, benefit from, and that will allow them to experience the value of our organizations.
5. You can differentiate your organization by “out-thanking” the competition.
Finally, we can probably do a better job across the board of saying thank-you. The average organization in our study said thank you twice. This could be two emails, or an email and a note in the mail, or a note and a phone call.
But one organization stood out, saying thank you 9 times within the 90 day window. You might say that’s overkill, but it’s really interesting how they did it. You can watch the video below to see more of the details, but they used every channel available to them, they spaced out the communication, and they made it personal and relevant.
Check out the full talk below to see more of the data and research. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it and how you might apply it to your own fundraising. Feel free to drop a comment below with your thoughts.