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Survey emphasizes need for a robust mid-level program

If you glanced at a recent headline at The Chronicle of Philanthropy, you might get a little worried. “Most Donors of $10,000 or More Don't Plan to Increase Giving” reads the review of a new survey.

That doesn’t look great. But the article buries the best part!

Yes, the newest Burk Donor Survey Report shows 56 percent of the donors they asked said they expect to give about the same in 2019 and 2020 as they did in 2018. However, 34 percent of donors who gave at least $10,000 said they planned to give more in upcoming years.

Read that last line one more time. This is a big deal in the current environment of charitable giving.

One-third of these valuable donors are willing to donate more to your cause. That is opportunity knocking in our current state of philanthropy.

Nonprofits have seen struggles in recent years when it comes to donor acquisition. Fewer families are donating across the U.S. even as the number of charities continues to grow.

More nonprofits. Fewer donors. That means lots of competition.

Despite the number of donors dropping by 20 million since 2000, the amount of money donated has increased year over year. The reason why is that we’ve seen more of a reliance on wealthy donors to fill the gap.

This is why so many organizations are investing in mid-level programs and trying to harness the power of donor-advised funds. These programs are bigger investments that require more effort, but they also provide bigger fundraising results.

But in order to reach these mid-major donors, you can’t simply provide a generic message asking for a gift. And after the gift, you can’t simply provide a formulaic thank-you letter if you want them to stick around.

These donors, who we like to call exceptional donors, want to be a bigger part of your organization.

They want to know where their dollars are going.

They want to hear the stories of the people they’re helping.

If they’re going to commit a big sum of money to your organization, they expect a commitment from you in return. You need a mid-level program in place that knows how to speak to this group every step of the way.

We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: The key is making a connection with your donors. It’s not about more marketing messages; it’s about better marketing messages.

What does that mean exactly?

Penelope Burk, president of the firm that conducted the survey, hits the nail on the head. She says nonprofits too often rely on the strength of their brand to ask for donations, rather than tying their message to a specific program or area that connects with donors.

"This sort of crazy belief that you can get donors to give, especially in this highly, highly competitive environment, without telling them why they should – it makes no sense," she tells The Chronicle.

Make the investment in better marketing communication, and you will gain the attention of these high-value donors. After all, the survey shows they’re out there waiting to find a connection that moves them to give more.

To learn how RKD Group can help you create stronger connections with exceptional donors through your mid-level program, contact Karla Baldelli, Vice President, Donor Engagement, at

Tim Kersten

Widely regarded as one of the nation’s top direct response fundraising, strategic and creative talents, Tim Kersten brings more than 40 years of experience to his role as Chairman of RKD Group. Prior to joining RKD, he served as Chief Creative Officer and Executive Creative Director at two national advertising agencies and ran his own successful direct response fundraising consultancy for nearly 25 years.

Some of the nation’s largest and most respected nonprofit organizations that have benefited from Tim’s insightful and persuasive communication strategies include the Smithsonian Institution, American Red Cross, The Salvation Army, National Park Foundation, Covenant House, and dozens of others. Tim’s work has been recognized by his receipt of four Direct Marketing Association Echo Awards (gold, leader and two silver from 1986 to 2010) and a prestigious International Caples Award (2010).

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