Donor Acquisition Is Key to Long-term Nonprofit Well-being
By Robin Cabral
Nonprofits in general have been improving donor retention rates, but appear to be lagging behind in acquiring new ones or bringing lapsed ones back into the fold. However, if nonprofits don't focus on donor acquisition, their development program will wither and eventually disappear due to natural attrition among donors.
According to recent findings in the 2018 Fundraising Effectiveness Project, "The warning signs are there decreasing numbers of new donors and decreasing reactivation rates of lapsed donors."
Most importantly, the research found organizations that focused on gift upgrades, retention, and lapsed donor prevention fare much better than those who didn't. The bottom line is if you want to be ahead of the curve, you need to keep your development program focused on these objectives.
The good news is nonprofits can take immediate, low-cost steps to correct the situation:
1) It is imperative to begin by building donor acquisition programs into your development program.
Develop an actual plan with goals attached. How many new donors will you recruit? How will you recruit them? How much will it cost to recruit them?
These are the type of people you want to find more of. Learn who they are. Survey them. Determine their demographics, their likes, their interest areas, etc.
The goal is to fully better understand them and to determine what drives their motivation to be part of your cause.
This type of effort focuses your effort on asking current donors to recommend a friend to the organization.
Ask, "Who else should we be speaking to who MAY have an interest in our organization?"
They are people have given to you in the past but who haven't given in the last 18 to 24 months. We all have a file of lapsed donors. Attempt to recruit them back using highly personalized messaging. If they are top donors, then meet with them personally to determine how and why they lapsed. If they are lower level donors, then send them more personalized messaging.
Pull them out and see if you can get some board members, volunteers, or staff to rate each person on interest and capacity. If there is no interest, you can segment these folks out. For those who have interest, determine their capacity. Top-level prospects will require more in-person qualification and cultivation. Lower level donors will receive more direct mail communications based on their known interest areas.
Specifically, learn who contribute to organizations focused on areas similar to yours. Consider list exchanges with the organizations those people support.
Add a pop-up on your website to capture email addresses, but give something of value. Social media advertising is another avenue. Once you acquire these donors, use the same channels from which they originated to continue to cultivate the relationship by providing material of value. Don't ask right away, but cultivate just as you would in-person.
A good place to start is with as list brokers. Today, sophisticated matching can be done based on your donor profile and demographics to make this method a bit more cost-effective than it has been traditionally.