Hold your donors close.
First things first: before you begin to think about finding new donors, be sure you have plans in place to keep your current ones. If your retention rate is low, looking for new donors is a waste of time and money. Fix that first.
Also: before looking for new donors, try to regain those who have stopped giving. Your chances of re-engaging lapsed donors is higher than acquiring new ones.
Begin at home.
Think of your acquisition efforts as ripples in a pond when a stone is tossed. You will be more successful when you start from the center and work out. So answer these questions:
1. Who is already giving?
Study your current donors – are there similarities among them? Can you create a persona from the information you have on file?
If you understand who your donors are, you’ll understand who you’re looking for. Not everyone will support your organization. The more specific you can be about who you’re looking for, the more successful you’ll be.
2. Who is passionate about you?
Then dig deeper into your donor file – who are your most loyal, most generous donors?
These might not only be those giving the largest gifts. Remember, what’s a large gift for one is a token for another – and vice versa.
How about social media – are there engaged followers there? Who are they? What attracts them?
3. Plan for welcoming people.
Is your website doing a good job making your case clear? Is your online donation process great? Are you collecting email addresses well?
Do you have a welcome series in place once they do subscribe? If not, fix those things now.
Now you’re ready.
Remember the stone and the ripples? Work out from your inner circles.
1. Begin with your board and staff.
Would they introduce your organization to their friends? I’m not suggesting they pull out their contact list and dial for dollars. I’m suggesting they share their own passion and ask if anyone they know is interested in learning more.
Hold a small event -maybe in board member’s homes. Bring along someone who can speak about your work. But don’t make it a hard sell. You’re not there to collect checks. This isn’t a proposal – it’s a first date!
2. Ask current donors to recommend you.
In the same way, you can ask your most engaged donors to share with their friends. People who give are already sold on your cause. Give them an introductory piece they can pass along. Provide language they can use — you want to make this as easy as possible.
You might know I support [organization]. I do because [insert personal reason here]. And since I know you also care about [cause], I thought you might be interested in learning a little more about what [organization] is doing. Let me know what you think.”
Will most people do this? No. But a few will and that matters.
You can also consider peer-to-peer fundraising. Through peer-to-peer fundraising, your strongest supporters set up individual campaign pages and directly fundraise on your behalf.
The benefit is two-fold. First, your nonprofit reaches a new audience through the networks of your supporters. Second, it gives your loyal donors are new opportunity and method to engage with your nonprofit, further deepening their ties to your cause. More on peer-to-peer here.
3. Run a crowdfunding campaign
Has your organization considered crowdfunding? Crowdfunding is a popular choice both in the nonprofit space and outside of it. Where nonprofits have the advantage however, is that they’re already seasoned fundraisers. They can take their expertise from the traditional world of nonprofit fundraising and apply it to their crowdfunding campaigns.
Why is crowdfunding the right choice for finding new donors? One word: shareability. A crowdfunding campaign driven by a good team and a careful strategy is poised to reach new audiences.
Just like peer-to-peer fundraising helps expose your organization to new prospects, so too does crowdfunding.
As you dive into crowdfunding, just make sure you’re carefully selecting a crowdfunding platform that complements your nonprofit’s goals and needs, both from a technical and budgetary standpoint.
You can learn more about crowdfunding here.
4. Hold public events.
Holding a public event can bring interested people out where a cold mailing won’t. Consider a talk on your issue, a performance, or any chance to see your work up close.
But be sure you have a way to capture information! Staff the event well. Have sign-up sheets available to join your mailing list. Make doing so intriguing – not just “get our newsletter to learn more”.
5. Use social media.
Chances are you won’t build a base of donors via social media. Though some organizations have done just that. Read about Soi Dog Foundation. Even if you can’t repeat their success, what can you imitate?
Focus on moving people from social media to your own email list. Then be sure you’re ready to court them with care.
6. Build on corporate connections.
Have you built partnerships with corporations in your area?
Consider how you can use a partnership for your mutual benefit. Corporations are narrowing their giving focus. So chances are your cause already aligns with their interest.
Create a volunteer day. Ask them to distribute information to employees about your cause. (Not a fundraising ask!) Offer ways for their affinity groups to be involved. Corporations are often looking for group activities.
More from Joe Waters on cause marketing.
7. Buy or rent a list.
Yes, this is always an option – though it could be a more expensive one. But the work you’ve done targeting your prospective donor can help. And if you can also create a terrific, compelling direct mail package, it may be worth the expense.
You could even do this on your own. I spent lots of time once collecting home addresses from tax files. I targeted zip codes that matched our donor base. And it didn’t do badly – 1% return. The question is whether the time was worth it. You’ll have to judge that for your own organization.
You do need new donors.
However well you treat your current donors, attrition happens. People move or pass on. So you do need a plan in place to attract new donors.
But it’s important to know none of what I’ve suggested is a quick fix.
All of it can be built into your overall plan each year.
If your hope is many donors, right away, you’re likely to be disappointed. If you focus on keeping the door open at all times, you’ll develop a much stronger program overall.
What about you? Do you have a story about a successful acquisition campaign? I’d love to share it here!