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On this episode of Bloomerang TV, Jeff Schreifels, Senior Partner at Veritus Group, joins us to discuss ways to unclog your mid-level and major gift level giving pipeline.

Full Transcript:

Steven: Hey there. Welcome to this week’s episode of Bloomerang TV. Thanks so much for tuning in. I’m Steven, I’m the VP of marketing over here at Bloomerang and I’ll be hosting as always. And maybe you’re a fundraiser who has felt this. I know I have and I’ve definitely heard other people say it, that you feel like your pipeline is getting a little clogged. You’ve got some donors come in the front door and they either stay at their giving level or they actually downgrade, and you just can’t move them up to the next level.

So I’ve got somebody here who can help you with that. He is Jeff Schreifels. He is the Senior Partner over at Veritus Group. Hey Jeff, how’s it going?

Jeff: Good. How are you doing, Steven?

Steven: Good, very good. Thanks for being here. Thanks for taking the time. Before we jump into it maybe you could tell people a little bit about what you do and what the Veritus Group is all about.

Jeff: Okay, well let’s see. Quickly, I’ve been in fundraising for a little over 27 years now. So I’ve worked on the direct response all the way up to the major gift side. So I worked, so I know the whole file and I know this whole unclog part because we’ve been working with this for a while. But Veritus Group really was started about six years ago to work with clients on major gifts. And over time we’ve also then included this mid-level group because our clients have kind of been clamoring for what do we do, how do we get more major donors?

So we have this mid-level group and they’re not really doing much, can you help us? So we also then starting working on the mid-level, much like on major gifts, but a little differently. So that’s kind of what we’re all about.

Steven: So you’ve written about this and I know you’ve talked about this as well. Kind of moving people maybe from that low level to mid-level and moving the mid-level people up to major gifts. Why do you think people struggle with this? How do you think people get that pipeline to be clogged to begin with and are not able to really move people up that donor pyramid, as a lot of people call that.

Jeff: Yeah, that’s a good question. I think a few things. One is, they treat those donors, and those mid-level donors, let’s just say for smaller organizations maybe a mid-level donor is 100 to 999. For a larger organization it could be 1,000 to 9,999. So it’s different on how big you are. But there’s this group of donors that have high value and we’re treating them like $15 donors.

Steven: Right.

Jeff: So that’s one thing. So we’re communicating to them, who have high value, the same as we would a new donor or someone who is very low value. So another thing is I don’t think we are communicating perhaps with those donors in a way that they want to. We’re assuming because they’re part of that big pile that they’re going to get direct mail or email, and maybe they don’t want that. Maybe they want something different. We’re not reaching out to them specifically to ask them how do they want to be communicated. And I think at that level, this mid-level, these donors are wanting to start to connect on a more personal level, and we’re not doing that. So that’s another reason.

We’re not also telling these donors in a very compelling way how their gifts are really making a difference and that is huge. Donors want to know impact, and if they’re in that middle group and we want to move them up they need to know how are their gifts actually making a difference.

And then I think finally is we’re not challenging those donors enough. In other words you might be treating them as a $15 donor and we might be changing dollar handles on the fund appeals or emails, but that’s about it. We’re not really sitting down and asking them for a larger gift or to consider something maybe they never did before.

So I think those are some of the reasons why we’ve got a bunch of donors in the middle that are just sitting there and either they’re attritioning off or they’re downgrading their giving over time. And we’re seeing this when we look at the data.

Steven: Yeah, I’m glad that you said that we don’t ask them, because it sounds so easy and simple but it’s true. Maybe a lot of these people were not moving up the pyramid because we’re not asking them to move up. I mean is it really as simple as asking them and showing them impact. I mean these seem like pretty simple things but they don’t get done for whatever reason.

Jeff: I know, it is. It’s pretty simple and we see this in major gifts as well. People are looking at their major gift programs saying why aren’t these donors giving more? And then when we get into it and look at their strategies, we find out well you’re not really challenging them to do anything different or putting things in front of them that’ll give them a bigger vision. It’s the same way with these mid-level groups. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Steven: So what should people do to get started? Maybe they recognize that “Hey, we’ve got people who are stuck.” What should people do? Should they start by segmenting, should they start by augmenting their communications? What are some practical ways, because I feel like this is kind of daunting if you’re feeling like this is a problem. Where should people start?

Jeff: Well first thing they have to do something. They can’t just let it unclog itself.

Steven: Right.

Jeff: All right, so I would say first of all you need to have the will and desire to spend more time and energy and resources on this group. And you’ve got to get leadership and everyone on your team agreeing that this needs to happen, otherwise you’re not going to be able to make it happen. So then really what you need to do is really come up with a mid-level strategy and to do that you first start with the data. Look at these donors by cume levels. So what we like to do is take the whole donor file and do a donor pyramid and figure out by cume levels what the revenue per donor is.

If we can do that then we know that we have our base. And then we can decide if we can move the needle by let’s say a 5% increase or a 10% increase in revenue per donor, how much could we spend to make that happen? Then we can determine do we want a 1 to 1 ROI, 1.5, 2, 3 ROI on this program. We have to decide that then that really tells us what we have to spend on each one of those segments.

And then what I would figure out, what we want to do is we want to assign a mid-level rep, someone who is in charge of what we would say probably a case load of 600 donors, 600 donors who we would tier A through D level with the whole intent on more personalization for the A level or B level than the C or D. So like a major gift program who has a major gift officer for 150 donors, we’ve got one mid-level rep who’s working 600 donors. So that starts the process of getting to know these donors, finding out what their passion and interests are, reporting back, starting to give them that personal touch.

Also listening to the donor, maybe they have more capacity inclination than we thought and if so maybe we can move them into major gift case loads. But that’s how we start. We look at the data just to see what you’re cume levels are, how much money you have to spend, that you can spend on it. Then work it with an actual person.

Steven: Makes sense. What about an organization that is maybe a new, or a start-up, or a young non-profit who hasn’t experienced this issue yet. Or even a mature organization who hasn’t run into this yet. What can they do to sort of future proof themselves against this kind of issue. Now we’ve talked about what you can do if you are experiencing this issue, but what about folks who it’s not an issue yet but it definitely could be and they kind of want to protect themselves.

Jeff: Yes. Well I would actually use the same strategy because it’s not an issue yet but it will be if you don’t pay particular attention to those mid-level donors. In other words, as they’re moving up that pipeline and giving more, you’re wanting to spend more attention on them. You’re wanting to get to know them, you’re wanting to run wealth indicator information over them to see all the information you can about those donors. You might not be able to do that at the lower end because it’s just not cost effective, but you can because at the higher and mid-level, because you have more money to spend on them. They’re giving you more revenue.

Ultimately what we want to do is create a pipeline into major gifts of qualified donors. A major gifts officer’s best thing is if they can be handed to them a number of qualified donors. So these folks have been vetted, the mid-level reps talked with them, they know what’s happening and now here they’re ready for a visit or they’re ready for a proposal. That would be the greatest thing for a major gift officer. So if you’re new you’re always taking that in in a course that I’ve got to have a low dollar strategy, a mid and then a major gift strategy so that this pipeline can remain open.

The reason why this pipeline is clogged in many of these organizations is that they haven’t thought of that middle and for many years they didn’t think about the high end. They got the low end down, so now they’re starting to look at a full spectrum of what’s going on. You can have a low end and a high end but it’s going to be clogged unless you do something with that middle.

Steven: Yeah, no one goes from low to major gifts. At least not-

Jeff: Yeah, very rarely. In fact I know organizations that try to do that.

Steven: Right.

Jeff: They may have the capacity, but they have yet to have the inclination or the propensity to want to give.

Steven: Yeah, That takes time.

Jeff: And that’s where the mid-level program can really spend some extra time on them and develop that.

Steven: Well great Jeff, this is awesome advice. I want to give you the last word because I know you have a lot of great resources, the Veritus Group blog is really fantastic. Where can people get more information and learn more from you guys?

Jeff: Yeah, well thank you. They can go to and click on our blog and sign up to get a feed from our blog. We write three times a week so you can get that. We have about 15 white papers from mid-level to major gifts, everything you can think about major gifts.

And finally we have a new book out, “It’s Not Just About the Money.” And that’s on and that’s all around major gifts. So if you want to build a major gift program and you want to know how to do it, we have every step-by-step in that book. You can do it there. So a lot of good stuff, a lot of resources out there for you that you can download, sign up for the blog. I think it’s fun. We’re getting a lot of good positive feedback.

Steven: Yeah, it’s really good stuff. I definitely recommend it, so check those things out. We’ll link to all that good stuff for sure. Jeff, this is awesome, thanks for being here my friend.

Jeff: Thanks so much Steven. It’s been great.

Steven: We’ll catch you guys next time. Tune in next week and we’ll have another great chat with another fundraising expert and we’ll catch you all then. Have a good day.

Major gift fundraising

Kristen Hay

Kristen Hay

Marketing Manager at Bloomerang
Kristen Hay is the Marketing Manager at Bloomerang. From 2018 - 2020, she served as the Director of Communications for the Public Relations Society of America's local Hoosier chapter. Prior to that she served on several different committees and in committee chair roles.