3 steps to combat mid-level donor inertia

Expert Insight

3 steps to combat mid-level donor inertia

Loyal annual giving donors are the lifeblood of not only a supply of unrestricted giving, but also the pipeline of major gift donors for the future. Yet, the status quo approach to renew this donor segment without placing an emphasis on upgrading their giving puts their long-term revenue potential at risk.

Mid-level donors exhibit three characteristics that make them strong candidates for focused upgrade and cultivation efforts:

Willingness to invest

By the virtue of simply making a gift from anywhere between $1 to just shy of $10,000 in any given year, they show us that they are interested in supporting their alma mater.


Data from Target Analytics published in an article on the Annual Giving Network shows that as loyal annual donors’ giving increases, they are retained at increasingly higher percentage rates.

Overall Donor Retention Rate by Giving Level
Target Analytics, 2014

Overall Donor Retention Rate by Giving Level

Untapped excess capacity

Even with wealth screening, we know that a number of our donors have hidden wealth, and without a systematic approach to donor upgrades, that capacity remains untapped. Data from Pursuant Ketchum exemplifies that mid-level donors who fly under our radar give only a fraction of what they are capable of giving.

Cumulative Giving of Mid-Level Donors
With and Without Consistent Upgrades

Cumulative Giving of Mid-Level Donors

Three Steps to Upgrade Annual Leadership Giving Donors

1. Ask the right donors…

Use segmentation strategies that target donors whose capacity and giving history positions them for upgrades. Look specifically at how you can use your existing giving society giving levels to send targeted appeals to ask alumni to move to the next society giving level.

2. …at the right time…

Don’t limit your effort to a one-time renewal effort. Consider sending upgrade proposals to current-year donors who are primed to increase their giving to the next level of your giving society.

3. …with the right appeal

Mimic the major-donor experience within your mid-level upgrade appeals. Include explicit price tags, up-front impact, clear stewardship, and clear potential to move beyond even this first upgrade.

Want more on this topic?

Order additional copies of our newest publication, Optimizing the Campaign Pipeline, filled with proven strategies to assist you with these three steps.

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