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Growing Your Donor Pyramid: Don’t Ignore the Middle

It is easy to focus only on reaching donors who make up the very top of the donor pyramid. We know that many campaigns often raise the most dollars from top donors, but we also know that we must encourage and engage donors with smaller or mid-sized gifts to build successful efforts in the future. Millennials and Gen Xers, who are lower on the gift pyramid now, are likely to increase their charitable giving, and they will replace the Boomers who have steadily supported the nation’s charitable giving base. Therefore, your organization must implement targeted approaches to engage donors from younger generations and smaller donors now, who will one day be your top donors.

Nonprofits are seeing fewer donations from small donors. Statistics from The Giving Environment by the IUPUI Lilly Family School of Philanthropy reveal less than half of American households donate to charity. Also, donor contributions of $101 to $500 decreased by 7%, and contributions of $100 or less decreased by more than 14%, according to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project. As the number of small donors decreases, what can organizations do now to engage and grow more donors?

Determine what dollar range best encapsulates the middle of your donor pyramid – it will vary for each organization – and then adopt these practices to cultivate your supporters to become major gift donors in the future.

Create Matching Fund Opportunities
Incorporate matching fund opportunities in your next campaign or gift initiative; your low- and middle-range donors can contribute a smaller amount that will double and elevate them into a larger gift category.

Diversify Funding Methods
Start the conversation about planned giving with your middle-aged donors. Planned giving allows donors to make arrangements now to support your organization at a higher level in the future. Also, offer quick and easy ways for donors to give smaller amounts instantly through mobile cash apps like Venmo, should that be right for your organization.

Promote Crowdfunding Opportunities
In addition to “day of giving” approaches, consider offering smaller gift donation opportunities through crowdfunding. More donors from the lower levels of the donor pyramid will feel comfortable making small, yet important, contributions to your organization’s projects or campaigns.

Identify Emerging Leaders
Create a list of your top 20-30 Millennial donors. These are your organization’s emerging leaders. They may not be able to make a major gift now, but they will be able to make gifts in the future. Your organization should prioritize developing meaningful relationships with this group which will benefit your organization later.

Focus on Affinity Groups
Natural groups occur within organizations; some include student athletes, veterans, emeritus board members, or volunteers specific to your organization. Lean into opportunities for the natural leaders of affinity groups surfacing in your organization to help engage others to donate at any level through peer-to-peer fundraising. Organize giving circles within your institution and invite younger donors, affinity groups, or all potential donors to dedicate their dollars to a specific project related to your organization that resonates with the group.

Promote Women’s Giving
Research shows women drive most charitable giving, and they frequently give less money at a time to multiple charities. Therefore, consider screening your data for donor loyalty to identify women who have given smaller amounts consistently instead of screening to find who has given a large sum once; your organization might identify a new group of loyal female donors who are willing to donate larger amounts if they are encouraged.

Prioritize Discovery Visits by Major Gift Officers
Track and monitor your discovery visits to prospective donors to know how your organization is reaching younger donors, emerging leaders, and those who have not received the needed attention to move up to the middle of the giving pyramid yet. Encourage your major gift officers or other team members to make these new connections.

Screen Your Database to Focus Efforts and Uncover Your Best Prospects
Collect donor data and utilize wealth screening information to make focused, data-informed decisions for your organization. Partnering with DonorSearch, JGA created Acuity®, a data analysis designed to identify your donors and streamline prospect management. Use your donor data to distinguish potential prospects and discover current, lower-level donors with whom your organization needs to intentionally work with to foster strong relationships to further develop the middle of the donor pyramid.

By taking deliberate steps and dedicating the necessary time to develop the middle of your donor pyramid, your organization will benefit when those donors develop alongside your organization and become larger supporters in the future.