Nonprofit Donor Types and Ways to Communicate With Them

Nonprofit Donor Types and Ways to Communicate with them
Nonprofit Donor Types and Ways to Communicate with Your Donors | Wisely

In the coming series of blogs on #WiserWithWisely we’ll discuss nonprofit donor types and communications strategies for each. Today’s post will define some of the most common nonprofit donor types and provide the basics of communicating with each group. As we go through the series there will be more information, useful tips every week, on how to communicate and build relationships with your donors. 

In the last post, we discussed the ideal size of your fundraising portfolio, and one of the factors we went over was the donor types that you have in your fundraising plan. Nonprofit donor types require different communications strategies to maximize revenue and manage staff time!

Annual Donors

Annual donors, or as they are sometimes called mass donors, are your average donors who give one or two smaller gifts a year that can range from $5 to $250 – depending on where your organization starts mid-level giving. Monthly donors are often included in the annual donor pool as well. 

Annual donors are an important group! They typically make up about 80% of a nonprofit’s donor base. These donors can give through a variety of channels including by mail, over the phone, and online. 

How to Communicate with Annual Donors

Annual donors are communicated with through mass marketing strategies like direct mail, telefundraising, and digital channels. These communications are often focused on solicitation or stewardship and impact messaging related to their giving. 

While the communications approach with annual donors is not very hands-on, given the audience size, that doesn’t mean that communication is not personal! Annual donor solicitations should have basic personalization like addressing the donor by name. 

When you communicate with your monthly donors, make sure you remind them how important their monthly support is, the impact they are making, and how much your nonprofit values their support. You can still solicit monthly donors strategically at key times for additional gifts and upgrades to their monthly gifts throughout the year. It’s also important to continually communicate to your monthly donors to keep them engaged.

Mid-Level Donors

Mid-level donors are the group between annual donors and major donors. They aren’t quite giving at the major donor level, but they are giving more than the average annual donor. The gift range for your mid-level donors depends on your organization size and total revenue.

Mid-level giving is a bridge between major donors and annual donors. It’s a way to bring annual donors with higher capacity up the donor pyramid and to keep engaging major donors that are not yet ready to commit or are no longer giving at that higher level.

How to Communicate with Mid-Level Donors

Mid-level donors are communicated with through a mix of mass communications like direct mail and a more personal approach which includes a relationship manager. Think of it like a blend of annual level and major gift level treatment. 

Personal touches should be integrated into the mass market communications to make your mid-level donors feel special, like a special title and logo for your mid-level program. For example, it’s a nice touch to add a handwritten note in the margins of a mass direct mail letter for mid-level donors. 

For key campaigns you may even want to solicit mid-level donors personally with a phone call and relationship managers should be setting aside time to phone mid-level donors just to say thank you!

Major Donors

Major donors are individuals with the capacity and inclination to make large gifts to your organization, are in a portfolio of a relationship manager, and often have a personal connection with your nonprofit. The gift range for major donors depends on your nonprofit and total revenue, it could start anywhere from $5,000 or $25,000.

In a typical nonprofit, major gift donors make up less than 20% of total donors, but they are typically giving more than 80% of the nonprofit’s total revenue. 

How to Communicate with Major Donors

Communications and solicitation for major donors should be very personalized. These donors should only receive select and topical mass fundraising communications unless they want them of course. There are some major donors who are most moved by your mission, who like to receive all updates, mass and personalized, to stay up-to-date. It should be up to the portfolio owner if that donor should be on the next mass communication.

Major giving is based on relationships and major donors are assigned a relationship manager at the organization who is a fundraiser that focuses on major donors. The fundraiser will often bring board members and other VIPs who may know the major gift prospect to quickly establish a relationship. Asks are often made through personalized proposals that are based on research and what is known about the donor so the support level, the dollar amount, aligns with a donor’s capacity and the designation aligns with their philanthropic interests. 

Planning Giving or Legacy Donors

Planned gifts are set up to be given at a future date, usually by donors who have made bequests in their will or another legacy gift type like life insurance to be donated after they have passed. 

Planned gifts can include:

  • Gifts in Wills (bequests)
  • Gifts of stocks (securities)
  • Insurance
  • Charitable annuities
  • Property

The most common form of planned gifts are bequests and gifts of securities. Planned giving donors making legacy gifts want to continue their charitable impact even after their deaths and create a legacy. 

How to Communicate with Planned Giving Donors

Soliciting planned gifts, especially bequests, is very personal and similar in style to soliciting major gifts. It’s important to build a strong relationship with a planned giving prospect and tailor your communications to their interests and philanthropic goals. After all, in many cases, you are talking about their legacy after they have passed. 

Keep in touch and don’t ignore your legacy donors! These donors are making a future major gift. They need and deserve your attention. Although many planned gift donors are at the stage of life where their income is fixed doesn’t mean they don’t want to keep giving smaller gifts during their lives and receiving updates from your nonprofit. In fact, they’re probably more interested than most donors in your nonprofit’s activities. Legacy donors can be included in mass communications and solicitations and treated similarly to mid-level donors with personal touches added.

Now that you’re familiar with some of the different types of donors you have at your nonprofit, you’re probably wondering how you can execute an effective communications plan. In the upcoming posts, we’ll cover donor communications best practices and some useful tips to get to know your donors! 


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