10 Ways Your Nonprofit Can Supercharge Donor Acquisition
Donors keep the engines of nonprofit organizations running. Without them, nonprofits cannot properly fund the projects and support the causes that they care deeply about.
Whether your nonprofit is just starting out or you've been around for some time, acquiring new donors can be a tricky task. Not only is it time consuming, but it can be costly as well.
However, donor acquisition is necessary for all organizations and should be approached as a long and organic process. If you want quick fixes and easy solutions, you won't find them here.
Your nonprofit should be prepared to work long and hard to acquire new donors. They're what keep your organization going, and they won't flock to you overnight.
Here are the top ten ways your nonprofit can acquire new donors.
Don't use just one or two of these in isolation. Find a good mix that works for your nonprofit and adjust it as necessary.
1. Start in your inner circle
Board members, key stakeholders, employees, and volunteers each have their own unique network of potential donors. Instead of reaching out to random people on day one, go through your existing connections to find new donors.
If your board members have family members or friends that are interested in your nonprofit's mission, ask those board members to reach out to them personally. Having a face-to-face conversation can go over a lot better than an email or phone call.
When potential donors are able to converse directly with the closest members of your organization, they are more likely to feel connected to your cause from the beginning. This relationship can not only mean new donors, but it can also help ensure that donors stick around down the line.
As a side note, make sure you thank your board members and employees when they help you bring in more donors by using their personal connections. People like to feel appreciated, and it's important to let your inner circle know that their outreach means something.
2. Ask potential donors to be volunteers
It can sometimes be awkward to ask donors that you don't know very well to open their wallets and fork over their money.
However, if a potential donor can be involved as a volunteer with your organization, the donor acquisition process can go a lot more smoothly.
While you don't have to make every single one of your donors a long-term volunteer, encouraging individuals to donate their time to small events or projects can be a great way to show them the work your organization is doing.
If these potential donors end up being full-time volunteers, then great! The important thing to remember is that short-term volunteerism can be a segue into long-term giving.
3. Mix up the ways you talk to potential donors
Are you sending out direct mail to everyone in your contacts list? Are you cold calling all of your potential donors? If so, you may want to shake things up a bit.
People respond to different forms of communication. Some potential donors may prefer chatting on the phone while others like emails and social media updates. Although you won't immediately know which donors like which method, you can get closer to finding out by communicating in different ways.
Some of the different ways you can use to reach out to donors include:
- Digital. Use both mobile and social media to appeal to younger generations.
- TV and radio. If you want to broadcast your organization's mission to a wide audience, consider television and radio advertisement.
- Direct mail. Many older donors who aren't familiar with social or digital media prefer receiving tangible information in the mail. Send out information about your organization and provide recipients with easy ways to give.
- Phone. Calling individuals is still a great way to turn potential donors into actual givers. The benefit of talking to people on the phone is that you can answer any questions that they have about your nonprofit.
Don't rely on any one of these methods in isolation. Change up the ways you talk to different groups of potential donors.
4. Utilize corporate partnerships
If your organization has existing relationships with companies and businesses, use them to your advantage! While corporations who partner with nonprofits are seen as philanthropic and socially responsible, nonprofits can benefit as well.
Nonprofits can reach out to their corporate partners and ask them to encourage employees to donate to the organization. Most companies are seeking to increase their cultures of philanthropy and corporate social responsibility anyway. Nonprofits can help companies with this effort and find potential new donors at the same time.
5. Create ways to interact with potential donors
While public events can be fun and entertaining, they can also be a great way to meet new donors and form new relationships. Or start special events like charity auctions to engage current and new donors alike.
These types of events should focus on building relationships with existing donors and prospects. Your entire team should be present and engaged in meaningful conversations with attendees. These conversations should not begin with, "Hi! Would you like to become a regular donor to my organization?" You don't want to come across as pushy.
Give individuals a rundown of what your organization does and what it plans on doing. Allow them to ask questions and find out more detailed information. Donors will feel more connected to your organization (and be more likely to give!) if you treat them like people instead of ATMs.
Remember that events should be about forming meaningful links to potential donors and informing them about your nonprofit's mission and goals. Keep the focus on them!
6. Capture potential donor information
When you meet and interact with potential donors at hosted events, ask them to sign up for email newsletters or direct mail during the course of the day.
Of course, asking for emails and mailing addresses shouldn't be the very first thing you say to potential donors. Get to know them and give them more information about your organization. Once people know more about your nonprofit and the work you're doing, they'll be more willing to hand out their information.
Depending on how your team is interacting with donors at public events, you can capture their information in different ways:
- You can host a raffle that requires individuals to submit their name and email address. One lucky person will receive a prize and your nonprofit will have a way to get in touch with potential donors.
- Include a space for donors to write in their email or mailing address on surveys after your event is over. Not only will you receive valuable feedback on how your event went, but you will also receive potential donor information.
- Set up a specific area or table for individuals to give their information. Some people will automatically want to be put on mailing lists and email newsletters. Give these potential donors a chance to let you know how to best get in touch with them by setting up a designated area at your event that captures donor information.
Getting donor data doesn't have to be complicated. It can be as easy as having an interesting conversation that leaves potential donors wanting to know more about your organization and its mission.
7. Trade mailing lists with similar organizations and look at their annual reports
Most individuals who make charitable contributions give to more than just one organization. Your nonprofit can benefit by looking into other organizations' annual reports and asking to trade mailing lists.
While asking for mailing lists doesn't usually steal donors' sympathies away from the first nonprofit, it might be a good idea to trade with an organization that has similar, but not identical, goals. For instance, if your nonprofit focuses on clean water in underserved communities, trade mailing lists with another organization focused on sustainability. Both organizations profit from gaining new donor information, and donors are given the opportunity to support two great causes.
Nonprofit organizations' annual reports typically contain information about the past year's accomplishments, the breakdown of expenses and revenue, and a list of donors. By looking through similar nonprofits' annual reports, you can better determine which of their donors would consider contributing to your organization.
8. Keep potential donors educated
No one in their right mind is just going to simply throw money at an organization without knowing at least a little bit about the work they do. Keep your donors informed and educated about your mission, projects, and events so that they know exactly what their money is going towards.
There are several ways to keep donors in the loop:
- Email newsletters. Don't flood your potential donors' inboxes with spam, but send them enough information to keep them interested in the work your nonprofit is doing.
- Social media. With many young people already on sites like Twitter and Facebook and older generations steadily following suit, it's vital that your organization has a strong social media presence to communicate with potential and existing donors. Post updates regularly and interact with followers by responding to and liking their comments.
- Direct mail. For donors who prefer things the old-fashioned way, send out direct mail flyers and pamphlets with updates and news. While direct mail can be more costly than the aforementioned methods, it can add a great personal touch.
- Update your website regularly. Donors who want to know more information about your organization will likely visit your website or blog. If your website still looks like it's from the early 2000s and you haven't posted updates in months, donors will assume that your nonprofit isn't doing much. While your organization might actually be doing a lot of work, you must utilize your website to thoroughly educate donors. Online donations are on the rise. Your organization can only benefit by updating your website and making it easy for donors to make donations.
Tell good stories and give updates using a wide variety of mediums. The more informed people are about your organization, the more likely they will be to give to your cause.
9. Make use of peak giving times
While donor contributions are made throughout the year, there are specific times when individuals feel particularly charitable.
The end of the calendar year marks a very busy time for nonprofits. Many donors wait until November or December to assess their finances and determine how much they can reasonably give to charity. Additionally, the holiday season tends to put everyone in a giving mood, no matter which observance they celebrate.
Your nonprofit can take advantage of these peak giving times to reach out to new donors. Many people are simply more receptive to requests for donations than they would be during, say, tax season. Appealing to their generosity when it's at its highest can help ensure that your nonprofit acquires more donors. People enjoy giving to charities for many reasons and at different times. Use these times to your advantage and acquire more donors when they're in the right kinds of moods.
10. Leverage your existing donors' connections
Your existing donors have connections to family members, friends, and colleagues who all have the ability to become contributors to your organization. Use these connections to your advantage. Encourage your existing donors to reach out to the people they know and ask their connections to support your organization.
Peer-to-peer fundraising can be a great way for your existing donors to have a more prominent hand in the donation process, but it can also help your nonprofit acquire new donors through your existing donors' relationships. While you should simultaneously focus on retaining the donors you already have, you can also utilize them to help you raise more money and acquire more contributors.
Donor acquisition isn't the easiest task in the world. It takes time, persistence, and patience. However, if your nonprofit can successfully acquire donors, you're on track to running your organization's engine more smoothly.