The philosophical question, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?” always makes me think about fundraising — which then makes me think that I need to get a life. But that’s another blog post.

We’ll get back to the tree, but first…

As part of a recent client assessment, we surveyed a tier of their midlevel donors. Over 50% of them didn’t realize they were in a special group at all.

Which brings me back to the tree… If an organization creates a special group of donors and donors don’t know they are part of it, does it make an impact? Why go to the effort of creating the special group if donors don’t know about it?

Some Challenges to Donor Tier Awareness

Part of this client’s challenge is that they are competing for donor attention with other divisions within the same organization — divisions that don’t include the donor’s special status in their outreach. If only one in five communications emphasize the donor tier, lack of consistency is likely contributing to lack of awareness.

Another challenge organizations face is that digital teams are often siloed from mail teams. So a donor could be receiving midlevel-branded communications consistently offline, but their digital outreach doesn’t address them as being part of a special tier. Or vice versa. This can be confusing for donors.

Another challenge organizations face is establishing clear business rules to determine what qualifies a donor as being part of the special tier. We’ve seen major donor teams flag active midlevel donors as major donor prospects and demand that the prospect be removed from the midlevel tier of communications entirely. Again, confusing for donors.

What To Do?

  1. First you should find out if you have an awareness problem. Survey your special tier and ask them, “To which, if any, of the following special donor groups do you belong?” Include your tiers plus some red herring answer options for quality control.
  2. If you have a brand awareness problem (more than 50% of respondents don’t know they are part of the tier), identify gaps in communications. Where can you shore up brand awareness across channels and donor touch points? Maybe develop a multi-channel midlevel branded welcome series? Maybe create a midlevel branded email header for every email communication a midlevel donor receives?

To mix my metaphors, if the tree is falling, do your best to make sure your donors are there to hear it!


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