How to Set Up a Minor Donor Program

It seems that every campaign and organization is setting up a major donor program these days.  Major donor programs are one of the significant fundraising tools in most campaigns’ arsenals.  What many campaigns overlook, however, is that less-often heralded cousin of the major donor program — the minor donor program.

Minor donors are important to every campaign.  What constitutes a “minor” donor will differ from campaign to campaign – in some city council campaigns, a $250 contributor will be a major donor, while in the governor’s race the following year, that level contribution will be classified “minor.”  No matter what size race you are in, however, minor donors can and should play a significant role in your fundraising plan.

The Importance of Minor Donors

Minor Donors are important for several reasons.  First, they add additional revenue to the campaign’s coffers.  Major donations are often hard to come by – that’s where minor donors step in.  Your campaign can raise significant funds by mining for minor donors.

Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, these donors can be asked to contribute again and again.  While major donors often max out (in federal races and state races where there is a statutory contribution limit), minor donors will fall below that threshold and can be asked to give repeatedly, thus providing a steady revenue source for the campaign. 

What Type of Program?

The first choice that you face when setting up a minor donor program is deciding what type of program you want to use.  There are many different possibilities, however the two most common choices are:

1.  Single Contribution System – Under this type of program, a donor need only give one (usually medium sized) donation to join the program.  Thus, even though you may decide to re-solicit from a donor, he or she would only need to give a certain amount one time to receive the benefits of the program.  For example, you could set up a program that requires donors to contribute $300 in order to join.

2.  Pledge System – Under this type of program, a donor promises to contribute a certain amount each month in order to join the program.  This provides a steady stream of income for the campaign.  For example, you could set up a program that requires donors to contribute $50 per month in order to join.  If the campaign gets 200 people to join, the campaign can expect a steady monthly income of $10,000 in addition to any other fundraising it does that month.

Every campaign, no matter how small or large, can benefit from setting up a minor donor program.  Make sure to set up your system well in advance, promote the program in all avenues available to you, and keep in contact with your members – they are the people most likely to contribute to your campaign in the future.


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2 comments… add one
  • Katrina,

    Not sure where you live, but generally, setting up a minor donor program for a community effort requires you to be registered as a non-profit or as a political action committee, both of which do have some costs, including legal and registration costs. If you are setting up the program as part of a political campaign, you would need to pay the fees to file your campaign with the board of elections.

    In either case, you could use the help of an experienced lawyer (either non-profit or elections) in your area.

    What type of organization would you be working with: a campaign, PAC, or non-profit?


  • Katrina Netherland

    I have a question… I am trying to set up a program to help people in the community and this would help. Do you have to pay and go through the government to set one up?

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