The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

New Donor Prospecting 101

In one of my earlier posts, I suggested that it’s best to focus fundraising efforts on strengthening relationships with an organization’s current supporters. New research shows that getting new donors:

  • is expensive. Acquisition costs can be anywhere from $.25-$1.50 to raise $1;
  • has a very low ROI of $1.00;
  • does not guarantee more than one gift. Only 23% of first-time donors ever give a second gift.

While I still believe focusing on your current donors offers the best return on investment, it’s also important not to put all of your fundraising eggs in that basket. Why? Because donors are not eternal. They move. They tighten their giving budgets. They change their philanthropic priorities. You want as many people as possible to share your successes and be inspired by opportunities for investment.  This is why it’s important to think about how to build your pipeline of future supporters.

I wish I could hand you a list of your next big donors. What I can offer you is an approach that focuses on two key elements:

  1. Who
  2. How

Let’s start with the who.

circle of donorsYour Inner Circle

The first place to look for new donors is your inner circles of volunteers and supporters. These individuals already believe in you, and they want to see you succeed. Their personal networks are an invaluable source for finding new donors.

Organize one-on-one meetings with these supporters where you can brainstorm potential donors. If individuals are hesitant to share a list of names, ask them to host a small reception or dinner where attendees can learn more about the organization. Let them drive the level of initial interaction you have with their friends and peers. Ask them how involved they want to remain in the process. This approach reinforces that you respect their willingness to open their relationships to you.

Followers and Peer-to Peer Fundraisers

From e-newsletter subscribers to Twitter followers, potential donors often “raise their hand” to show their interest in your work. Ensure that these subscribers and followers are included in your fundraising outreach.

If your organization uses peer-to-peer fundraising, look at your fundraising volunteers. You want to invite these people to stay involved in your mission, and you may be able to determine who has potential for greater giving.

Event Attendees

I don’t think I’ve encountered an organization that doesn’t have some sort of annual fundraising event.  Chances are, people that attend those events are either one-time donors or limit their annual support to that particular fundraiser. And, believe me, I understand the challenge to “convert” event attendees into sustaining donors. This is where post-event communication is critical.  Keep all event invitees and attendees on your mailing lists and don’t hesitate to ask them for a gift at some other point during the year.

Want to grow your middle to major donor pipeline? Draw up a short list of attendees and even invitees who didn’t attend your fundraiser and try to schedule meetings with them. You can find out what drives their interest in your organization and more important, what would inspire them to show more financial support.

Another model I find effective is holding one or two cultivation events to introduce your audience to your work.  These can be tailored to lapsed donors, nondonors who are in your database, or specific donors list created by your Board and other volunteers. These events can bring your work to life and highlight how the concrete ways their support can make a difference.

Like-Minded Donors

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t state the obvious source of rented lists and comparisons with donor lists of peer organizations.  These individuals are the least connected to your organization and just because they may support another organization with a similar mission doesn’t mean they’ll support you. I only suggest this option as a last resort.

Now, the how.

Donors are the lifeblood of every organization.  So, when you are looking for new donors, how do you position your case for support? The answer is showing people how their gift can make a difference in your work.

It’s also integral to find out the best medium for sharing that information. For older donors, printed materials may be best. Young donors prefer social media outreach and electronic communication. Whatever the mode, focus on using sharing information that will bring them closer to your work.

Did you know that on  average many organizations are losing almost 60% of their donors each year? Talk about depressing!

Do you remember that Seinfeld episode when Jerry made a car rental reservation which the rental company couldn’t seem to keep? When told they had run out of cars, Jerry said: “You know how to take the reservation, you just don’t know how to hold the reservation and that’s really the most important part of the reservation, the holding. Anybody can just take them.”

It’s the same things with new donors. The key to your getting new donors isn’t just getting them. It’s retaining them.  The first gift is an opportunity for celebrating, relationship building, and stewardship that can make that gift one of many.

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About This Blog

Linda Lombardi
Content Manager

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

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