Research conducted by the Sea Change Strategies published in March 2014 indicates a huge potential in mid-level donors.  According to their survey and interviews with some 30 organizations pioneering mid-level donor programs of all kinds, donors at the $1,000 to $10,000 levels represent just 1% of donors, but give up to one-third of all revenues.

Who are these mid-level donors?  Those people in your database of donors and prospects who can give $1,000 or more on an annual basis, who care about your mission, and have a propensity to give.  While cultivating this group of donors is a year-round process, our intent is to give a boost to your year-end results by having you send a very personalized and highly targeted appeal to your top prospects.  Check out the eight tips below to craft a very personalized appeal:

  1. Design a package that is significantly different from your typical appeal.  Assuming your annual appeal normally arrives in a #10 (4.125" x 9.5“) envelope, select a 7 ½” x 10 ½”, a 9″ x 12″ or a 9″ x 6″ envelope. Make sure your envelope is closed faced (not a “window” envelop), and high quality.  Send it with a first class stamp – consider a holiday theme where appropriate. The design of the outer envelop should be simple, with the most important aspect being a hand-written address to the recipient.  Your return address with logo should of course be included.
  2. Create a letter and marketing concept that is appropriate for the target group.  Your regular appeal should tell a compelling story and express genuine gratitude and appreciation. But your high-end appeal must provide a reason why these donors should send you $1,000 contributions.  A $1,000 giving club, such as the President's Circle, the Sustainer’s Society, or the 1874 Club is an excellent choice, because it lends itself to repeatability.  Another option is to refer to a specific mini-goal within the larger goal (“We need 25 donors to give $1,000 each to meet our goal and time is running out”).
  3. Edit your letter to address the recipient by name within the body of the letter.  Reference their last gift, if any, and express appreciation as well as telling them how it was used.  Be conversational – write the letter as if it is directed solely to that recipient.  Once it is printed (on quality stock) go through it a second time, and write a note in the margin, or cross out a word and replace it with a more intimate one. Make reference to any personal information you can, such as the college their child is attending (“Go Blue Devils!”) or last summer’s concert in the park (“So fun to have seen you at the Jazz Fest”).  Then hand sign every letter.  You might want to provide your personal line or cell # and invite them to contact you anytime.
  4. Leverage relationships within your organization.  If there is someone on your staff who knows these donors better than you do, circulate the letters and encourage the staff member who knows them best to write a personal note on the letter.
  5. Ask for a large amount and don’t give lower options.  If you are asking for $1,000 to become a member of the President’s Circle, ask for $1,000, $2,500 or _____.  If you don’t have a giving club, you might consider asking for $250, $500, $1,000 or ____.  If you do have a giving club, remember to specify the benefits. For example, an invitation to the annual gala, gift shop discounts, behind the scenes tour, breakfast with the CEO, etc.  In some cases, back-end premiums, such as a framed photograph, autographed book, or note card package may provide added incentive for donors to give at the requested amount.
  6. Personalize your reply form/response device.  As important as personalizing your letter, your response devices should also be as personalized as possible.  Be sure to print the name and address of the recipient on the form, and even consider a personalized heading such as “Special Reply Form for Mrs. Jane Doe.”  Make sure their name and address is printed on it somewhere.  Use the same gift array you used in the letter, and keep it simple.  Barcoding can be used for your broad appeal, but these donors should get a personal response device.
  7. Personalize the reply envelope as well.  Don’t use a Business Reply Envelop (BRE), but instead select a #9 or #10 closed face envelope and handwrite your address on it.  Include a first-class postage stamp as well.
  8. A personalized insert can be included where appropriate. If there is a photograph that conveys your story or complements it, by all means reproduce it in 5 x7 or 8 x 10, and include it with your package. Nowhere is the truth of the adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” more accurate as in fundraising. If your mission is not conducive to photographs, consider a quality brochure or testimonial. You can write on the back or in the margin why you are including it: “I thought of you when I saw this photograph,” or “Your support has meant so much, I wanted you to hear what our service recipients are saying.”


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