Should You Create a Minor Donor Fundraising Program?

Good fundraisers know that fundraising is all about building relationships. The more we cultivate our prospects and steward our donors, the higher lifetime value they will have for our organization.

For most non-profits, strong cultivation programs revolve around major donors. We use donor clubs and giving societies, hold cultivation events, and make personal phone calls to keep our major donors feeling like part of our team. Smaller donors are an afterthought, relegated to getting our annual appeal letter, an invitation to purchase tickets to our spring gala, and if they are lucky, a newsletter or two throughout the year.

But – and it’s a big but – for many non-profits, smaller donors make up 10-50% of their individual giving revenue. What if I told you there was a better way to build stronger, deeper relationships with your low-level donors? It’s called a “Minor Donor Program.”

What is a Minor Donor Program?

A minor donor program is just like a major donor program, only it is focused on small-dollar donors. It involves setting up a cultivation system for low level donors that help them feel like a true part of your non-profit’s team.

Like major donor programs, minor donor programs have several primary goals. First and foremost, your program will help you retain donors so that they continue giving to your organization. Second, your program should encourage minor donors to regularly upgrade their gifts, thus providing an ever-growing revenue stream for your non-profit. Finally, your minor donor program should encourage small donors to provide referrals to their friends and family who might also want to make a gift.

The Need for Systemization

Of course, when you’re talking about a donor who regularly makes six-figure gifts to your organization, it is easy to imagine a cultivation program that includes lots of handholding and personal attention, including lunch meetings and birthday phone calls. But can your organization really provide that level of service and care to donors making four $25 gifts per year to your non-profit? Of course not… that’s why minor donor programs rely on systemization.

The goal for a non-profit minor donor program is to provide lots of communication and relationship-building with your donors without taking lots of time or money for the organizations to run. Thus, minor donor program perks include things like e-mail newsletters, invitations to an annual non-ask “Thank You” event, free bumper stickers, etc.

Your organization should set up a minor donor funnel that indicates which non-ask communications your program members will receive each year, along with detailing when each low-dollar giver will be asked for additional gifts and upgrades.

High Dollar Perks for Low Level Givers

One of the best ways to make your minor donors feel special is to dress your minor donor program in the trappings of major donor societies. This means setting and naming giving levels, offering various benefits for each level, and perhaps even naming chairs and co-chairs of these clubs.

For example, one organization I know offers named giving clubs at the $25, $100, $250 and $500 levels, with donors being asked to contribute the total amount over the course of one year (thus, a member of the $250 level may give $21 per month).

Offering giving levels with varying benefit levels encourages minor donors to upgrade, and also to invite friends and colleagues to be part of the program. Many organizations successfully tie minor donor programs in with monthly-giving programs, and minor donor program members can also be a surprisingly rich source of planned gifts to your non-profit.

Don’t discount the impact of minor donors for your organization. Take a moment and run a report in your donor database to see what percentage of your revenue over the past 3 years has come from minor donors (however that category is defined by your non-profit). Now, imagine what would happen if these donors suddenly disappeared (or, what would happen if you could increase this group’s donations by 10% every year). Perhaps this year is the right time for your non-profit to launch a minor donor program!

Photo Credit: jijis