I Gave Your Organization $500 & All I Got Was This…

Alia McKee-Scott is a leading thinker in online fundraising and is a co-conveners for this year's Web of Change Conference.  In this blog post she outlines some of her most innovative thoughts on how fundraising is evolving to adapt to a more transparent, open Web 2 world.


"I gave your organization $500 and all I got was a…"
A. Annual report with my name buried in the back
B. Leadership circle pin
C. Special stationery
D. None of the above

How are you treating your middle and high dollar donors?

Yes – they haven’t made it into your major donor portfolio with the one-on-one attention and perks - yet.

But getting them there depends on how you are treating them now. Are you going beyond their expectations or merely giving them the status quo?

It goes without saying these are tough fundraising times. And any fundraiser worth his or her salt knows that challenging times like these necessitate innovation for survival.

Use this moment to bring about transformational change within your middle and high dollar program. Go beyond mere “tokens” of thanks to truly revolutionize this donor cultivation stream through cost-effective online communications.

What are the keys to success?

• Access

Give your mid-dollar donors a VIP pass - backstage access - to your organization’s work. Get creative. You can use videos, phone calls, webcasts, podcasts, or online discussion panels as cost-effective access tools.

• Experts

Get your experts involved. Your donors want to hear from them.

• Community

Connect your donors to one another. They want to know that other smart and dedicated people are standing with them in supporting your work.

Ok that’s all well and good, but how could it really work?

Sea Change Strategies has recently worked with Conservation International (CI) to create an online mid-dollar donor community, the CI Insight Network.

The objectives of the Network are:

  • To increase giving by providing a high-touch relationship with the organization;
  • To connect these donors to one another;
  • To obtain ready advice on messages, programs, and web campaigns; and
  • To track longer term trends in donor thinking and attitudes

A select group of donors have been invited to participate in the Insight Network.

As part of the Network, these donors:

  • Take part in bi-monthly online discussion panels with CI experts;
  • Have access to gated content including an expert blog;
  • Take targeted surveys to help inform campaigns and content;
  • Receive special videos from the field; and
  • Get a monthly report back on what we’ve learned.

Just last month, we invited Insight Network donors to participate in an online discussion panel with three of CI’s marine scientists.

Here is a sampling of the feedback we have received:

“The old leadership maxim is that ‘people support what they help create.’ It applies to just about everything CI seems to be doing. By having this forum, we have been made to feel like our opinions matter and we are helping to create something so in the end, are even more involved. Nice job!”

“Thank you so much for the opportunity to be part of this group. I truly feel like I have been able to get a glimpse into the inner workings of C.I. and I hope that my comments have helped.”

“Bring the experts back each time if you can: there is nothing like talking to the field people who do the work and it is such a privilege that they took the time to answer our gazillion questions.”

“You’ve made us even stronger supporters than we were before!”

“I feel listened to and respected.”

“Overall, I think this is a really impressive effort to communicate with supporters and provide a feeling of inclusion. It is very commendable!”

As we learned in the Sea Change Strategies, Convio, and Edge Research “Wired Wealthy” study – 32% of online dollars come from middle donors like the ones we heard from above.

Developing a high-touch relationship with these donors can create huge opportunities to increase their giving.

So where does that leave us?

The annual report acknowledgement is routine.
The pin is a nice thought.
The fancy paper and logo - ok.

But creating a deep and meaningful relationship with the supporters who make your work possible – that is something truly remarkable.

We will report back on our progress with the Insight Network throughout the coming year.


Alia McKee Scott is a 2009 Web of Change Co-Convener. She loves the challenge of creating online communities of engaged and inspired donors and activists. For the past 10 years, she’s been helping non profit clients innovate creative and successful online fundraising, advocacy and marketing campaigns. She is a principal at Sea Change Strategies, a strategic marketing and research consulting firm.