Small to Middle Donors and Obama

I received some great comments and encouragement from, Major Gifts or Middle Giving, a couple months ago. I’m searching for answers to what this program might look like. What needs to happen is a technique where you can cultivate a fan-base in a way that is personal to them. Or, we need to find a way to cultivate middle giving donors in a low-cost, time-efficient way.

In Viral Loop by Adam Penenberg (you can read an earlier interview with him), they talk about a technique employed during Obama’s presidential campaign showing a new kind of value in asking for small gifts.

“If Obama had asked for $100 million in the weeks leading up to the election, he probably wouldn’t have gotten it. Instead he told people to donate whatever they could – a few bucks even – and then he was able to return to them over and over. In other words small is the new big.”

This started my mind thinking about all of the opportunities that social media can provide for us. Often nonprofits send off regular annual mailings that sometimes fund a direct need and other times fund an ongoing annual need. These letters often ask the donor to stretch their giving beyond what they have done in the past to upgrade their giving. I believe we do this because it can cost a lot of money to send a mail-out multiple times a year. But social media is free. What if we sent an email out to our donor-base regarding specific needs? Instead of asking for $100 from one donor, we would ask him to be a part of a group of people raising $100,000. We could also provide an opt-out box and let him know we will connect with him in a week’s time if we do not reach our goal. We could also encourage donors to fund specific needs as they develop. If they are funding in smaller specific amounts, maybe they would make more small gifts adding up to a higher overall total.

I don’t see this as a comprehensive donor strategy as I really believe in the power of monthly giving. I’m just throwing out one idea that popped into my head as I was considering this. What other ideas do you have, has this sparked any thinking for you?


3 Responses to Small to Middle Donors and Obama

  1. As many here probably know, one example of an NP that has adopted a thorough highly successful e-strategy platform is charity:water. My sense is that studying their approach to new generations of donors and what makes that approach tick is time very well spent.

  2. Sara Grey says:

    I like your idea about the opt-out box. I believe there is research that shows people will tend to give a little more than expected if the amount of their donation is completely voluntary, rather than a specific amount requested.

    And “small is the new big” in fundraising. I may have to use that one.

    Great blog.

  3. Rob Wu says:

    These are some great thoughts that we’ve been vouching for non-profits to adopt. Smaller asks are great, but it is also communicating a clear need and enabling supporters to make an impact .

    Charity Water and the Barak Obama campaign are great examples of this concept. They used supporter-driven campaigns that empowered anyone to make a difference. In addition to using social media, they use technology platforms (fundraising pages, video, etc) to get the small donors.

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