Donors:   Mid – Major – what’s the difference?

A key factor for any organisation is how much time to allow for developing relationships with donors.   Who will do the developing and how much time do they have available to build the relationship with each donor?  At the heart of this is stewardship of time.  Which programme has the most potential and the highest ROI?

I would say both Mid Value Programmes and Major Donor Programmes are vitally important and they sit side by side but it is important to distinguish between the two programmes and not mix them.  They each need a different set up and to be managed by different staff.

If the charity is small then it is possible for one person to manage both the Mid and Major Programmes but they need to be clear that they are operating two distinct programmes.

At what level does the Mid Value Programme meet the Major Donor Programme?  Many organisations suggest the level should be a gift of £5,000 upwards for the Major Donor Programme.   I always try to talk charities out of using this level as the ROI doesn’t sit comfortably.  A Major Donor programme should look for a minimum gift of £10,000+ from each donor.   To develop an individual’s interest sufficiently in order to secure a £10,000+ gift takes a great deal of work and a minimum of monthly contact for at least 9 months.  A Major Donor Executive can only manage 40 – 50 qualified people comfortably and therefore each of the gifts aimed for should be over £10,000.  This makes the ROI work.

Therefore it is also logical that the Mid Value Programme should be up to £9,999.  I have found this is the best place to position the Mid Value programme.  A chart below shows the significant difference between the two programmes:

Mid Value ProgrammeMajor Donor Programme
Typically gifts from £500 to £9,999 from individuals, with £9,999 being the highest potential gift size and this is a stretchTypically annual gifts  from £10,000 upwards from individuals with £10,000 being the lowest gift size with gifts of £100,000+ possible
Personal, one to one programme of thank you’s, phone calls, emails, reports from projects, beneficiary storiesPersonal, one to one programme of visits to their home and family, visits to the office, meetings with leadership, thank you’s, phone calls, emails, reports from projects, beneficiary stories
Relationship building – mainly by phone, email, post – meetings with donors in groupsRelationship building through face to face meetings, phone, email
Often one off gifts or direct debitThe Ask is focused on a multi-year £ commitment
Usually found in the £1m – £5m wealth band found by undertaking a wealth screening of the databaseUsually found in the £5m – £50m+ wealth bands, occasionally some found in the £1m – £5m category
Typical quarterly contactMonthly contact focusing on:
·         Philanthropic passion
·         Personal interests
·         Values of the donor
A full time mid value executive can manage over 200 – 250 donorsA full-time major gifts executive can manage 40 – 50 qualified donors
Income generated typically £300k – £400k from one executive(not in first year)Income generated typically £500k – £1,000,000+ from one executive(not in first year)
Use of appeal mailings and personalised packs aiming to engage the donor to give to one of a small choice of projectsAppeal mailings not sent to major donors after being qualified on to the caseload – use of individually written proposals using a face to face multi-year Ask

Do let me know your situation and what has worked best for you ….


For over 30 years Ruth has worked as a major gift fundraising consultant in the UK heading up her own Consultancy and then as Business Development Director and Board Member for the UK’s Chapter One Group/Ketchum Inc Consultancy followed by Major Gift Director for the London based Domain Group. She is currently the Principal and Founder of Ascent Philanthropy. Ruth is a writer and blogger and is passionate about helping non-profits with their major gift programmes either by enhancing the work of the philanthropy team or overseeing the introduction of a new major gift programme.

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