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Make your mid-level donors feel like superheroes

In the last decade, we’ve seen a surge of superheroes soaring onto the silver screen and streaming into our homes. Marvel Studios has been at the forefront of these blockbusters with 23 superhero flicks since 2008.

Treat Mid Level Donors like superheroes

And these heroes have raked in some serious dollars. Marvel movies make up five of the 11 highest-grossing films of all time, including 2019’s “Avengers: Endgame” in the top spot with $2.8 billion in worldwide revenue.

These comic book characters have been around for decades, so why the sudden surge in popularity? The storytelling, actors and computer graphics play a role, but the answer is simple.

In today’s world, people want to feel special. They want to escape on an adventure from their everyday lives. They want to feel like a hero.

The same can be said for your mid-level donors.

Mid-level donors want to feel special, too. They want to be the star of the show who swoops in to save the day with their donation. They want to feel like a hero.

And that’s exactly how you should treat them.

When someone gives $5,000, they know that’s an exceptional gift. And they expect an exceptional experience in response.

How can nonprofit organizations engage with mid-level donors? How do you make them feel special? How can your mid-level donor program deliver an exceptional, superhero experience?

1. Be their sidekick.

Every hero needs a good sidekick—and they come in various forms. There are obvious ones like Batman and Robin, or Captain America and Falcon. But sometimes a sidekick is just a close friend or family member, someone the hero can talk to and trust.

The main point here is that you need to be there for your mid-level donors—be human and provide a personal touch. You can’t make mid-level donors feel special through a direct mail campaign alone.

The best way to accomplish this is right from the start. After you receive a mid-level gift, provide the donor with a meaningful thank you. Write a personalized letter and call them to truly thank them for their gift—don’t simply acknowledge it.

From there, continue to check in with them periodically and keep them involved in your story.

2. Give them a villain to fight.

What would a superhero be without a great villain? Magneto, Joker, Thanos, Lex Luthor—the list goes on and on. The toughest villains bring out the best in heroes and help them rise to the occasion.

For nonprofits, the villain is whatever problem your organization is working to overcome. Continue to remind these donors about your mission and the issues you face.

Mid-level donors want to help vanquish the evil villain Hunger or Animal Cruelty or Cancer. Keep your cause front and center, and you’ll have a strong ally in your battle.

3. Make them feel powerful.

Superheroes wouldn’t be “super” without their special abilities. Whether it’s Flash’s speed or Hulk’s strength, superpowers often define heroes and help them defeat their enemies.

Mid-level donors may not be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but they do provide a big impact in the fight against your organization’s “bad guy.” This is the story you need to tell them.

Empower them by explaining how they (not your organization) help defeat that villain—and be sure to thank them for doing so. They want to feel like the crowds are cheering and chanting their name. They don’t want to experience a formulaic email that thanks them for their generous donation while providing a tax receipt.

Nonprofit organizations too often overlook mid-level donors, or they’re simply not sure how to approach them. But while mid-level donors typically make up only 1% of the total number of donors for a nonprofit organization, they account for roughly 34% of the revenue.

Based on that impact, you need to make your mid-level donors feel special—like the superheroes they truly are.


Additional Resources

Need some help on exactly how to treat mid-level donors like superheroes? Check out these additional resources:

Karla Baldelli

Karla is an elite nonprofit fundraising executive with a 25-year career in mid-level and distinguished donor fundraising, engagement and stewardship for major nonprofits. Her experience includes transformational roles with JDRF, Coast Guard Foundation, American Heart Association, Arthritis Foundation, The Salvation Army and Susan G. Komen for the Cure. While at the American Heart Association, Karla built the first-ever mega-donor event, Honored Guest Day.  She designed the campaign architecture for the $100 million Mission Lifeline Campaign and conceived the AHA’s National Giving Society, Cor Vitae.

Karla brings strong leadership and strategic counsel for thoughtful, year-round donor experience strategies integrated throughout campaigns and giving channels. Her expertise is changing the culture of major donor programs, including educating staff with her proprietary training, the Power of the Donor Experience.  Since coming to RKD, she has implemented a holistic program - leading with data insights and centered on the donor experience and organizational execution - that results in more inspired giving and increased revenue.   

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