Seattle Children's Hospital Case Study: LEVERAGING THE INVALUABLE MIDDLE DONOR

Janice R. Moro
July 22, 2014

       Case Study:








In 2007, Seattle Children’s Hospital (SCH) wanted to access untapped planned giving prospects in their donor base.  SCH recognized that significant value existed in the hospital’s loyal middle donor segment but the hospital needed an “access point” to leverage the opportunity.  This resulted in SCH identifying the need to find a strategic partner that would design and implement a multi-year Planned Giving Campaign that invited long-standing donors (the middle donor segment) to consider SCH in their gift planning activities.  Enter Artsmarketing Services Inc. (AMS)–a strategic, data-driven, high-touch and relationally-focused telefunding agency with industry-leading middle donor experience.  SCH approached AMS to conduct a multi-year telephone based Planned Giving Campaign of which there have now been three campaigns:  2007, 2010 and 2014.


SCH, like many planned giving teams, had limited ongoing staff resources.  Many organizations try to pinpoint the supporters they believe are most likely to join the planned giving society, and this often occurs through events, personal visits and other relationship building–before the “ask” is ever executed.  This methodology is labor-intensive and limits the number of planned giving prospects that planned giving officers can approach in any single year to move to the top of the pyramid.  SCH wanted something to “kick start” their planned giving prospect pool and achieve wider reach across their donor base.



Strategy focuses on a well-crafted plan that produces results.  In partnership, AMS has achieved with SCH a strategic planned giving program based on five key tenets: data analytics; middle donor expertise; relationship deepening with high-touch telephone contact; planned giving bequest identification; and planned giving bequest gift confirmation.  The strategy delights senior decision-makers with its Return On Investment (ROI); its ability to year-over-year (YOY) surpass lead target goals; its capacity to leverage SCH planned giving and development team human resource talent; its capabilities of connecting and aligning SCH planned giving donors and prospects more closely to the mission and vision of the hospital and its discipline in achieving Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).



Data analytics is a practice in which raw data is examined, ordered and organized so that useful data can be extracted and informed conclusions can be drawn.  A key element of effective data analysis is the ability to understand what the data does and does not contain and what information in the data is and is not relevant and/or important to the key business decisions at hand.  In any context, including a fundraising one, a potential risk with data management is the temptation to push a particular agenda and to drive the data to support that agenda.  Certain assumptions are made prior to analyzing the data and this can lead to a data analytics process that forces the data to “obey” the hypothesis.  AMS does not “bend” in this manner.  We employ a highly disciplined approach to the data:  this is a corporate strength that has been culled with more than thirty years of industry expertise in direct marketing.  Data mining is achieved through our sophisticated, proprietary software:  ALCHEMY.  With ALCHEMY’s leading-edge data mining capabilities and by employing industry-leading data analytic processes, AMS pays attention to planned giving data.  We allow the data to “speak” for itself.  This enables AMS to partner with clients–like SCH–and plan smart strategy.  Data is approached with critical thinking and this provides a data-driven platform to reach effective and strategic decisions and conclusions.



Lawrence Henze, Managing Director of Target Analytics (a Blackbaud Company), knows the metrics of fundraising research.  Research, according to Henze, overwhelmingly reveals “planned giving is about lifestyles and loyalty, not wealth.”When it comes to loyalty, the oft-neglected middle donor deserves attention.  Richard Perry and Jeff Schreifels of the UK-based Veritus Group encourage development staff to review the retention rates of mid-level donors because mid-level donors (usually giving anywhere from $100 to $10,000 depending on the definition of an agency’s mid-level target gift) will reliably have some of the highest donor retention rates of all donor segments.2   Furthermore, Canadian branding agency Barefoot Creative states, “The most likely candidates for bequest and legacy gifts are actually the mid-level segment.  While they may never have significant major cash gifts in their lifetime, they are able to leave a legacy gift when they are able to disperse their life assets.”3


Maryland-based Sea Change Strategies provocatively titled its middle-donor research study, “The Missing Middle: Neglecting Middle Donors Is Costing You Millions” and within the Introduction,  after emphasizing how vital the middle donor segment is to fundraising success, states “like middle children, middle donors are often prone to neglect.”4


AMS champions the middle donor.  Over the years we have developed a sophisticated approach that allows organizations to cast a much wider net than is possible with traditional planned giving programs. By overlaying proven annual giving telefunding methods with highly trained callers who are well versed in planned giving strategies and techniques, AMS is able to reach your invaluable middle donor segment and accelerate your planned giving program.  We unlock the hidden potential of your middle donors and elevate your planned giving program to new heights.



In Repositioning fundraising in the 21st century, fundraising author Judith E. Nichols recommends “middle-fundraising” as a key new millennium fundraising strategy.5  Nichols further encourages agencies to develop communications strategies that are tailored to the mid-level donor.6


Devin Mathias, a consultant with New York City firm Marts & Lundy, in a May 2014 Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) article recommends that direct marketing–including a telephone program–remains a part of your ongoing fundraising strategy.7  Interestingly, the telephone has been identified as an important communication tool for middle donor strategies.  Many middle donors prefer “phone strategies to personal engagement.”8 Incorporating telephone training of internal staff or volunteers is one option for communicating with middle donors, while engaging the skill and expertise of a proven and trusted external telefunding agency is another.9


Foundational to an effective planned giving program is leveraging the mid-level donor while at the same time communicating to this segment in a donor-centric manner.  In 2007, UK-based direct marketing agency Bluefrog published what was then the first-ever comprehensive research study on mid-value donors.  Their research makes it very clear that appropriateness in communication is vital to retaining the mid-level segment.10 Unsophisticated telemarketing or “cold calling” techniques are unwanted by loyal middle donors but respectful telephone interaction, where choice is provided, is very acceptable.11


AMS utilizes preview dialing technology.  We believe in connecting with donors and focusing the telephone experience on quality not quantity.  We do not leave donors with dropped calls, dead airtime and technical calling difficulties–especially when the conversation is about the private and often sensitive topic of legacy gift planning.  We create telephone calls that delight.  The engaging discussions between our highly trained telephone staff and your planned giving donor audience, which deepen the relationship with your middle donors, are facilitated with ALCHEMY–our state of the art reporting and lead management system.



A phase of the campaign in which Telefunding and Direct Mail are utilized in order to identify prospects that have already identified your organization in their bequest gift planning.  This phase also clarifies those prospects that have not yet identified your organization in the bequest gift planning but would be interested in continuing a conversation about a bequest.



This telefunding phase in the campaign is focused on reconfirming all planned gifts that were identified in the bequest identification phase.  This phase creates a guideline and timeline for donor follow-up and sets the stage for the ongoing stewarding of your planned giving prospects.  AMS reports provide information to you as to the timeframe when you can expect the legacy gift confirmation to be finalized by your donor.  Stewardship plans can be established accordingly, allowing your office to deliver ongoing stewardship and cultivation of the planned giving donor prospects that AMS has identified for you.  AMS opens the door for you to steward your planned giving prospects because we believe that you know your donors best and can best steward them.



CAMPAIGN 1 - 2007:

The initial campaign of 2007 resulted in conversion rates exceeding expectations in every lead segment. The threshold bequest amount began at $50,000.  By the end of the Bequest Gift Confirmation phase, AMS had identified 126 confirmed bequest intentions totaling over $6.3 million AND an additional 157 donors that were in the process of considering some sort of bequest or planned gift with an estimated expectancy of almost $8 million.


CAMPAIGN 2 - 2010:

The 2010 campaign cast an even wider net and set the minimum bequest threshold at $25,000. The Campaign achieved stellar results:  133 confirmed bequest intentions for an expected $3.3 million and an additional 806 donors in the process of considering some sort of bequest with an estimated expectancy of $20.15 million.




With each campaign, SCH provided larger pools of donor data allowing AMS to reach more deeply into SCH’s data and uncover widening circles of opportunity.  The process reveals donor affinity:  as predicted, donors closest to the center of the circle show, on the surface, the highest predictors of planned giving opportunity.  Yet the middle donor segment often surprises:  donor loyalty–leading to bequest confirmations or considerations–can remain “hidden” within many donor databases.  Disciplined data analysis can yield unforeseen yet invaluable donor prospects that have previously been considered “outlying”.  This has born itself out in the AMS partnership strategy.


CAMPAIGN 3 - 2014:

Data mining for the 2014 campaign continued to leverage an ever-widening middle donor segment with the minimum bequest threshold at $50,000.  This followed the long-term campaign strategy of revisiting–after a period of seven (7) years–the $50,000 bequest level.  The outcomes of the 2014 campaign are compelling: 137 gift confirmations yield $5.1 million in bequest expectancies and 543 gift considerations yield $28.9 million in bequest expectancies for a total of $34 million.  












With cumulative results of over $71 million to-date, SCH is not stopping its planned giving track record of success. SCH is planning Campaign Number 4 which will commence with AMS in the near future.  Meanwhile, SCH will pursue ongoing stewardship of the many middle donor bequest confirmations and intentions that the AMS telefunding campaigns have uncovered.  The partnership with SCH and AMS continues to be an example of smart and well-executed strategy to a target segment–the invaluable middle donor–that deserves significant attention and will yield formidable results.



Consistently ranked as one of the best children's hospitals in the country by U.S. News & World Report, the Seattle Children's Hospital serves as the pediatric and adolescent academic medical referral center for the largest landmass of any children's hospital in the United States–Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho. For more than 100 years, SCH has been delivering superior patient care and advancing new treatments through pediatric research. SCH serves as the primary teaching, clinical and research site for the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine. The hospital works in partnership with Seattle Children's Research Institute and Seattle Children's Hospital Foundation. Together they are Seattle Children's, known for setting new standards in superior patient care for more than 100 years. For more information visit  



Offering individually designed telefundraising services to the North American non-profit community since 1982. Our specialties include annual fund (monthly conversion/upgrades, renewals, lapsed reactivation, new acquisition), capital, endowment and planned giving campaigns.  Utilizing state-of-the-art custom analytics, tailored scripting and mission-oriented professionals, AMS has raised nearly $1 billion in Annual Fund donations, Memberships and Subscriptions from more than 3 million new supporters over the last three decades.  AMS planned giving campaigns have resulted in over 25,000 bequests conservatively estimated at more than $700 million. Visit to see how we do it or contact us for a consultation today.



Mark Douglas Trask

Vice President, Marketing and Sales

Artsmarketing Services Inc.

416-941-1041 ext. 225

James Ramsay

Director of Marketing and Sales

Artsmarketing Services Inc.

416-941-1041 ext. 248


1 Henze, Lawrence, J.D. (2004). Making Planned Giving Work for You:  Planned giving strategy tips for every organization.  Blackbaud Analytics White Paper.

2 Perry, Richard & Schreifels, Jeff (2013).  Why you NEED to Invest in a Mid-Level Donor Program.  From

3 Barefoot Creative (2014). The Middle Donor.  In partnership with Canadian Mennonite University, the Barefoot Conference and Mike Tenant.

4 Sea Change Strategies (2014).  The Missing Middle:  Neglecting Middle Donors Is Costing You Millions.  Alia McKee and Mark Rovner, March 2014.

5 Nichols, Judith E. (2004). Repositioning fundraising in the 21st century.  In International Journal of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Marketing.  Vol. 9, No. 2, May 2004 (pp. 163-170).

6 Nichols, Judith E.  Ibid.

7 Mathias, Devin (2014).  Four Current Annual Giving Trends and How to Incorporate Them into a Fundraising Plan from

8 Barefoot Creative (2014). Ibid.

9 (2012). Middle and Major Donor Programmes.

10Bluefrog (2007). The Fundraiser’s Guide to Mid-Value Donors. Research undertaken by Amber Nathan.  Edited by Mark Phillips.

11Bluefrog (2007).  Ibid.


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