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Here’s something every nonprofit should know: We make a big mistake when we treat all general fund donors only as lower tier prospects.

We can’t simply send donors who have the potential to make significant contributions to our cause a quarterly mailing and expect them to give sacrificially. These donors need personal attention because they may not be aware of their own impact.

Organizations must take an active stance to drive general fund donors to the middle of their donor pyramid—and engage them with the right message.

3 Ways to Effectively Engage and Upgrade Your High-Potential Donors

1. High-Potential Donors need to be actively pursued. Most donor prospects in your general fund who could be upgraded won’t come knocking on your door on their own because they haven’t been shown that they are of great importance to the organization. You can choose to continue communicating with them like you would your lower tier prospects—with minor nods to personalization—but you’re losing your chance to upgrade them today and begin filling your future major donor pipeline.

2. Conversations with these donors need to be targeted. It seems like it would be easy to deploy gift officers to upgrade these donors, but it’s important to know that the mid-level giving conversation needs to be targeted to the nuances of these prospects. That is much different than the conversations gift officers should have with their major donor prospects.

3. Gift officers need specific training. If conversations with potential mid-level donors need to be targeted, then gift officers need to be trained on how to effectively engage them. A development officer can be great at getting face-to-face meetings with prospects, but if they can’t conduct the right conversation that leads to a gift, you’ve lost another valuable opportunity. It is vital that the conversation drives and opens the door for the donor to be responsive. It takes intensive training and ongoing support for officers to successfully engage a prospect, especially a non-donor, and compel them to make a gift.

Woody Allen once said that 85 percent of success is in showing up, but you need more than that when trying to upgrade donors in the middle of you pyramid. Face-to-face engagement is key, but how you pursue donors, the things that you say, and the way that you solicit a donation are vitally important.

Do you have a mid-level prospect success story? Have you seen low-level donors become mid-level donors?

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Tony Smercina

Tony Smercina

Executive Vice President of Fundraising Services at Pursuant
Tony Smercina serves as executive vice president of Pursuant’s Fundraising Services division that provides gift officer services, including the signature Charitable Partners (TM) Program — a turnkey solution for upgrading annual/general fund donors to mid-level giving and beyond.