Middle Donors are Engaged Donors

Recently there is a lot of attention for the so-called middle donors. The mysterious group of donors each and every NGO seems to forget about. The group donors who is considered to be a goldmine for NGO’s as they are assumed to have the potential to grow into major donors when nurtured correctly. Who is this donor? And are they stuck in the middle?

What is dramatically going wrong when considering this group of donors? A MIDDLE DONOR DOES NOT EXIST! First of all, there is no donor who considers him or herself as a ‘middle donor’. Secondly this group only exists with those database marketers who think they can generalize a group of donors by selecting them on basis of annual giving; generally somewhere between €250,- and €1000,- per annum. In order to develop a proper donor proposition, we need to understand better who this illusive middle donor is, where they are and how we can reach them.

Research e.g. through in depth interviews with this group of donors, demonstrates this group differs considerably from the traditional donor who tend to give on basis of reciprocity, i.e. a direct connection to the main purpose of the NGO. Someone who suffers from diabetes or has a close relative or friend suffering from diabetes tends to give to the Diabetes Foundation. This is different for the so-called middle donor. This donor has a far more philanthropical attitude towards giving and is more likely to donate on basis of the reputation of the NGO, the amount of visible effort the NGO is spending in achieving its goals and the transparency of its operation. They tend to be extremely loyal and this loyalty can only be offset by e.g. extreme wages of the management of the NGO, fraudulent activities or an overly aggressive donor approach. Their giving pattern also seems to be insensitive to economical fluctuations.

Rather than being informed about the purpose of the NGO, they want to be informed about their activities. They don’t want magazines, Christmas cards, etc. They want to know about the goals set by the NGO, how do they spend their funding and what their future objectives are. They want to be engaged and generally their propensity to support exceeds giving only. Most of them want to be actively involved in one way or another, e.g. through a panel or a think tank, or through congresses or excursions. 

As this group of donors wants to be engaged, they need to be approached in an engaging way. A simple mailing or a diner-time call won’t work. They want to be acknowledged and react positively to door-to-door acquisition or calls made by knowledgeable employees of the NGO. 

It is hard to identify this group of donors and a simple annual giving range of €250,- to €1000,- won’t do. They need to be identified on basis of individual characteristics. E.g. they tend to be socially involved, slightly wealthier than average – although we have found lower middle-class citizens to spend a large proportion of their pension to NGO’s – environmentally aware, etc. Therefor a traditional – (e)mailing driven – campaign won’t work for this group. One should adopt an acquisition strategy starting with identifying this group within an existing database and carefully nurturing this group while continuously developing their profile at each point of contact. 

One should bear in mind that that being successful in acquiring and developing this group of donors requires new skills, potentially an alternative organizational structure and almost certainly a different culture for most NGO’s. This because:


But it pays off, engaged donors are very loyal and ambassadors for your purpose. And who knows, when treated well, one day they might become major donors!

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