The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

A Crash Course in Donor Prospecting

Nonprofits need donors to be sustainable. For small organizations with limited staff and resources, finding individual donors can be a challenge. What can you do to jumpstart your growth? Whether you’re starting a new organization or you’ve been at this for a while, there are always new ways to build and strengthen relationships with donors and prospects. Consider this post your “Donor Prospecting 101” crash course:

Make It Easy for Donors to Find You

Before you look for donors, you have to make sure that donors can find you. Spreading the word about your nonprofit won’t do any good if would-be supporters can’t find you and can’t figure out what they can do to support you.

Take a look at your website from your donor’s perspective. Your website needs to be clear, concise, and user-friendly. Within 30 seconds of looking at your homepage, a donor should know your organization’s name, your mission, and how to support you. Speaking of support, where’s your online donation button? It should be easy to find. Make sure your online donation button is “above the fold,” (the top half of your website). If potential donors land on your website and they can’t figure out how to donate, you’ve missed out on acquiring a new donor.

Once people land on your donation page, they have to be able to use it. How do you make your donation page donor-friendly? Here are a few tips:

  • Make sure the look and feel of the page matches your brand. If people, feel like they’ve left your site, they can get confused or worse, lose interest.
  • Provide suggested gift amounts along with impact labels. Many new and first-time donors wonder how much they should give, or if their gift will even make a difference. Impact labels answer their questions, calm their concerns, and encourage them to give generously.
  • Have an option to make their gift a recurring one. This is the easiest thing you can do to start getting more recurring donors: give them the option up front.

Think your donation page could use some improvement? Check out this option.

Where Can You Find Potential Donors?

The first place to find donors is through your in-house network. Your board, staff, volunteers, and clients all have friends, family, and contacts that would love to support you. But first, they need to be asked.

How do you reach these people? Start by giving your in-house team the tools to be brand evangelists. Don’t just tell them to spread the word. Show them how to do it. A lot of people (your board members, for example) know that they have friends who would help, but they may feel awkward approaching them because they don’t know what to say.

One of the best ways to overcome this challenge is launching a peer-to-peer campaign. Each of your board members, employees, and volunteers can create a personal fundraising page and share it with their networks. It’s a little less confrontational for them, and it’s an easy way for potential new donors to learn about your organization. Not only that, but new donor prospects are much more likely to give when asked by their friends: three times more likely, in fact. People want to support their friends!

Social media is a fantastic vehicle for finding new donors and prospects. Post content that speaks to your mission, and always use pictures. Images always perform better than text-only posts. Develop eye-catching graphics with the help of some free tools like Canva and PicMonkey.

In addition to organic posts, don’t shy away from purchasing ads on Facebook. Facebook lets you choose a targeted audience for your ads based on demographic information and interests. Taking this approach can help you reach the people most likely to be interested in your nonprofit.

Building a following on social media takes some time and dedication, but it’s totally worth it. No one knows this better than Project Healing Waters. This small nonprofit raised more than $15,000 on #GivingTuesday in 2015 through Facebook with the help of compelling images and strategically purchased ads. You can read more about their strategy here.

Fundraising events are another great way to grow your community and engage prospects. When events are free and related to your mission, you can get lots of new people to attend.  And don’t think free admission means you won’t raise any money. Auctions, raffles, and an on-site membership kiosk are just some of the ways you can raise money during your events. Spread the word through email and social media, and ask people to bring a friend. After your event, be sure to follow up with attendees to start building relationships and turning event attendees into donors.

How to Turn Prospects into Donors

Finding potential supporters is step one. Step two is turning these prospects into actual donors. How can do you this? Establish relationships with them.

Building a relationship with a potential donor is a lot like making a new friend. After meeting a potential donor, find out more about him or her and discover common interests. In a follow-up conversation (which can be an email), you should:

  • Find out why he or she chose to engage with you (e.g. why they attended your event, signed up for your emails).
  • Share more information about your mission.
  • Invite him or her to interact again (e.g. attend another event, subscribe to the newsletter, visit your facility, etc.).

When you follow up, the one thing you shouldn’t include right away is an ask. Let me repeat: do not ask for a donation on the initial follow-up with your prospects. The purpose of this particular communication is to start a relationship, find out more about them, and keep them interested. You wouldn’t ask someone you just met to spot you $5 for a coffee, and you shouldn’t ask a prospect who just met your organization to give money right away. There will be time for that in future campaigns (not to mention there’s a donate button on your website should they feel compelled right away).

Keep the Conversation Going

Managing communications with prospects can get complicated if you don’t have the right tools. A good donor management system makes it easy to keep everything organized. And for fundraising staff who frequently meet with donors in-person, Network for Good’s donor management system makes it easy to see (and update) all of your donor notes and activities right from your phone.

As time goes by, standard donor communications best practices apply. Be sure to check in with your donors periodically, and not always with a direct ask. If you keep the conversations going and treat them with respect, these prospects will become your nonprofit’s champions and loyal donors.

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About This Blog

Connie Poulos
Senior Associate, Copywriter

We’re here to help you win hearts and minds—and donations.

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