Case Study: Mid-Level Giving

See how our mid-level giving model helped Heifer International reach its donor goal and make a large impact.

For Heifer International, we started by looking at the data and all past results to determine precisely what the goal was: they’d always said “more,” but was it an increase of 5%, 10%? Dollars or donors? Working together with Heifer staff, we determined that a 13% increase in the number of donors making gifts of at least $1,000 within the year would be considered success. We set up a report to monitor progress, and set a schedule to review the reports together each month. With only a year to make a dramatic increase, we had to move quickly.

First, we revamped the campaign inviting lower-dollar donors to give $1,000+. We tied the invitation to one of Heifer’s successful matching gift campaigns and targeted a select group of donors. That language and other special high-touch elements paid off. We nearly doubled the response to the upgrade offer.

But we knew we couldn’t hit our goal with just new $1,000+ donors. We knew that the place we could make the biggest impact was in retention. Many people were making one gift at $1,000 or more — our goal was to get people to do so annually.

Our creative efforts focused in three areas: getting people who had given $1,000 or more in the past to do so again (reinstatement); making sure that people who gave $1,000 or more recently did so again (renewal); and sending prompt, engaging acknowledgements and thank you calls to those who did give $1,000 (stewardship).

For reinstatement efforts we developed a high dollar invitation version of several regularly scheduled appeal mailings. These highly personalized packages were sent in larger envelopes with messages that asked people to renew with $1,000+ gifts.

But we didn’t just use telemarketing for fundraising. We used it to acknowledge their exceptional support! We set up rolling calls where donors with a $1,000+ gift would get a personal acknowledgement phone call. No fundraising ask — just a sincere, prompt “thank you.”

It may seem counter-productive to invest money in changing how to thank people, but doing so improved the retention and value of these donors. And we didn’t stop there. A highly-personalized acknowledgement was created that included a donor survey and a chance to become a monthly donor at the higher level.

This approach has yielded positive results and the number of $1,000+ donors has been steadily increasing.