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Allison Gauss

An Introduction to Discovering New Donors

Much of fundraising begins and ends with appealing to your known base of donors. Keep them motivated, keep them updated, keep them engaged. And this makes sense, because it is far less expensive to retain donors than it is to acquire new ones. Most nonprofits will have one to four donor personas that sum up the different groups that make up your audience. However, there may be groups of donors out there you haven’t considered yet who would be happy to give if you just found them and asked.

It can be extremely worthwhile to create a campaign targeting potential supporters who don’t fit into your most common personas. In this post, we will describe a brief process that can get you started with identifying an untapped group of donors and how you can create an appeal just for them.

First, Research

If you were looking for a romantic relationship, where would you begin?

One option would be to walk out your front door and yell to the world “I AM LOOKING FOR LOVE!” But if you’re not quite that adventurous, you would probably turn to your friends. In fact 32% of couples are introduced by friends. And you can use the same strategy to meet new donors.

So how can you use your existing community of donors to find a new audience? Let them know you’re looking.

Start by asking more active supporters to leverage their networks and spread the word to people that might make up a new group for you. Alongside your “Donate” and “Fundraise” calls-to-action, add a “Tell Your Friends” button, which allows people to post your cause to social media or e-mail a link to family, colleagues and friends. Nonprofits, like for-profits, can reap huge benefits from referrals, so don’t be afraid to ask for them. Track the demographics of leads generated from these CTAs, which you can do by crafting landing pages with a form, and try building a new persona (or personas) out of that data.

An example:

A group of active supporters who are parents might be moved to share the story of a child with parent meet up groups, their PTO or their kids’ soccer coaches – this could open up a whole new cohort of donors!

Next, Connect to the Cause

Returning to our dating analogy, another way to meet potential partners is through a shared activity or interest. This approach guarantees that you and your potential partner have at least one thing in common. To adapt this to our mission of finding new donors, we can think about what groups might be invested in your cause.

Let’s say your organization supports after-school programs for kids. Some audiences are obviously impacted: kids need recreational activities and parents need safe, structured environments available after school. Finding your new audience is all about thinking beyond the obvious. How does your organization benefit everyone else?

What about local businesses and property-owners? Research has shown that after-school programs reduce juvenile crime like vandalism, graffiti, and shoplifting. Your after-school program could make their neighborhood and personal property safer. By shifting the conversation to reducing crime, you can demonstrate the importance of after-school programs to the whole community.

If these potential donors aren’t already supporting you, it may be because they don’t see how your cause affects them. People tend to donate and advocate for causes with which they have a personal connection, so find that connection for your new audience and make it a central element of your communication to them.

Tip: If you’re unsure of where to start making these connections and uncovering these new stakeholders, try cross promoting with groups that share members of your target audience or using online petitions (which require signators to provide an e-mail) to build prospect lists.

Crafting The Campaign

Once you identify a group of potential supporters that you would like to appeal to, you now need to design a campaign or ask that speaks to them. Here are a few questions to guide you:

  • What draws this audience to our cause?
  • How are they different from our primary personas? (Question your basic assumptions)
  • How do they communicate? (E-mail, phone, social media etc.)
  • How can they contribute? (Donations, fundraising, volunteering)

The chance someone will donate or help greatly increases when they are simply asked to do so. While it makes sense to appeal to your strongest donor base, don’t miss out on support because you didn’t take the time to ask other sources.

Success by Example: 10 Digestible Case Studies

examples of successful nonprofit fundraising campaigns

Image Credit: ELISE Communications

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