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What Is Donor Acquisition? An Introduction for Nonprofits

Donor acquisition is one of the most important stages in the donor journey. Who you engage as potential donors and how and when you approach them will set the stage for your relationship. Let’s look at what donor acquisition is, why it matters, and how your nonprofit can develop an effective program.

What is donor acquisition?

Donor acquisition is the multi-stage process of finding and converting prospective donors to support a given cause. A successful acquisition strategy involves a combination of data management and analysis, networking and relationship building, and marketing and promotional campaigns.

How much does it cost to acquire a new donor?

Costs to acquire new donors vary depending on the teams involved, the modes and frequency of communication, and the type of fundraising campaign a nonprofit is running. When calculating your own donor acquisition costs, consider both the direct and indirect expenses that go into your acquisition process.

4 essential steps to donor acquisition

Planning a donor acquisition strategy is similar to planning any other campaign. Start by reviewing your previous efforts and results. What worked? What didn’t? Your fundraising and communication data stored in your database is a great place to start to set your new donor acquisition goals.

Step 1: Review your current data.

Use your fundraising software to track information on your current donors, such as what campaigns attracted their attention and inspired them to give. Then, adapt that messaging to reach people unfamiliar with your organization.

Look at both your quantitative and qualitative donor data. What trends and patterns do you see? Where did your current donors come from? What motivates them to give? Seek out similar people to grow your donor base.

Step 2: Make a plan based on your findings.

Once you’ve reviewed your data, develop a strategy that integrates your development and communications departments. Use these three essential questions to plan your approach:

  • How will you research prospects?
  • What’s the best way to approach them?
  • How will you track progress and measure success?

An integrated communications strategy involves direct mail, email blasts, social media, and even advertising. That way, prospects will recognize your organization’s brand across multiple channels.

Step 3: Perform targeted outreach.

Now it’s time to get the word out. People can’t give to your organization if they don’t know you exist. An awareness campaign is the first touch in donor prospecting. 

Amplify awareness by harnessing the power of search engine optimization (SEO) to improve your positioning in online search results. Google AdWords and social media ad campaigns are great ways to capture active donors and amplify awareness online for a small fee. Promote an individual Tweet or boost a Facebook post to increase followers or website traffic.

Step 4: Keep it simple.

Once you’ve captured the attention of potential donors, make it as easy as possible for them to donate. Incorporate these key strategies into your online donation process:

  • Feature a donation button prominently on your website.
  • Design your donation page to be visually appealing and easy to find.
  • Clearly identify various donor levels and their respective benefits.
  • Highlight a suggested giving level on your donation page.
  • Make sure your donation page is secure and mobile-friendly.
  • Include your Charity Navigator or GuideStar rating for additional credibility.

Ultimately, by streamlining the donation process and eliminating unnecessary hurdles, donors will become more likely to complete their first donation and continue to donate to your organization in the future.

Next steps: Retain your donors

As you acquire new donors, you should also consider how you can keep those donors around for the long term. Often, donors will increase their donations the more they get to know your organization and believe in your purpose. Moreover, retaining and cultivating an existing donor generally costs nonprofits less money than acquiring a new one.

To develop a meaningful connection with your newly acquired donors, start by:

  • Engaging donors immediately following their donation with a thank you message on your online donation confirmation page.
  • Inviting donors to publically share their support on social media and join your email list.
  • Offering additional opportunities for donors to get involved with your organization.

For a deeper dive into these processes, download our eGuide, New Donors: Getting the Ungettable Get.

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