What you need to know about midlevel donors

Midlevel donors — those who give more than “typical” donors, but not enough to warrant one-to-one relationship based fundraising — have been called the “missing middle” because they often fall between the cracks of general donor and major donor fundraising — and end up getting little or no enhanced communication, and sometimes little or no communication.

It’s an expensive oversight. There’s a lot of revenue waiting to be raised from this special group of donors. A small but very valuable portion of them have the capacity to become true major donors. They are also especially valuable as prospects for bequest giving.

But not if we don’t think about them and do our best to connect with them.

Here’s some help: a new study on these donors from Sea Change Strategies called The Missing Middle: A Cross-Vertical Study of Midlevel Donors (PDF, registration required).

Here are the top-level findings of the study:

  • At a time of … uncertainty in fundraising, midlevel donors appear to be foundationally strong. Multi-year retention rates average a respectable 65%.
  • Few midlevel donors look like hot major giving prospects.Only 13% of those studied said they have made a gift of $10,000 or more. Most (70%) say they are likely to give the same as in the past.
  • Midlevel donors remain attached to old ideas about non program spending. 85% said “knowing most of my donation goes to the mission and work, versus overhead and administrative costs” is a “major factor” in deciding whether to make a large gift.
  • Midlevel donors are doing their research. Nearly 80% of midlevel donors said they research organizations before making a donation.
  • Donors said four factors are most important when deciding which organizations to give to.
    • 76%: “It is aligned with my values.”
    • 64%: “It feels relevant to me personally.”
    • 63%: “It is an organization I trust.”
    • 60%: “It’s easy to donate.”
  • When asked to share motivators for making a large gift, midlevel donors said efficiency, impact, and lasting change are among the biggest influences. 60% of respondents cite high charity watchdog ratings as a major influence on their thinking.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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About the blogger

Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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