Growing Donor Lists Organically

Susan E Mangels Senior Vice President Consulting Services at AC Fitzgerald Author

Susan E. Mangels, Ph.D, Senior Vice President of Consulting Services

It goes without saying – we need donors. Donors are vital to our organizations’ missions and success.

But according to HubSpot, donor lists shrink an average of 25% annually. Further, the average cost of acquiring a new donor is $25 (yikes!).

Typically, this involves a direct mail program, which is often a sizeable investment. What if, however, this typical game-plan for growing a donor list isn’t for you, or isn’t for you at this time? Or what if you could be doing more, at very little additional cost?

Here are some ideas for growing your donor base in a more organic manner. These ideas may be the right method for your organization at this time, or they may be a good supplement to a well-crafted direct mail effort.

  • First, know why your existing donors give and identify new prospects most like these best donors. For instance, if your donors rave about your top-notch program cutting government regulations and fostering business growth, connect with prospects engaged in work that benefits from regulatory reforms. It’s always a good idea to look at other, similar organizations’ annual reports and event programs too.
  • Find speaking engagements, local events, social media tags, etc. most likely to reach like-minded individuals. Rotary, local business groups, and issue-focused community organizations are often looking for speakers and you can provide an engaging and informative presentation!
  • Leverage your LinkedIn presence. Consider purchasing a premium membership that allows you to view a wider network. Be sure to connect with your top donors and board members and study their connections. See if they would be willing to introduce you to key prospects.
  • Ask your board members for contacts. Use prompts to help trustees explore their networks for people they know who would resonate with your mission (ex: their work colleagues, church, gym, etc.), and help them feel inspired and empowered to share your message within their network.
  • Ask current donors and volunteers for referrals. They already know and love you! Ask them to mail a postcard to a friend that might be interested in your organization. Ask your most committed to host a small friend-dinner so you can introduce your work. Salsa Labs notes that 43% of millennials give through peer-to-peer connections.
  • Work with your own network too. Ask colleagues, family members, and friends to think of people they know who would like your work.
  • Do a ‘share mail’ outreach campaign. There is a formal program at the USPS, but you can also arrange one yourself. If you do, be sure you establish a way to track who shares the postcard with whom.
  • Maximize your website. Use simple pop-up windows for web visitors to sign up, making sure it’s easy and compelling for visitors to share contact info. Then communicate with them!
  • Re-engaged lapsed donors. They may not even realize they’re lapsed! These folks are already familiar with you and may donate again, if asked.

Play around with these ideas and see if any of them fit well within your fundraising strategy or are worth developing. You can also refresh your Donor Relationship memory with our Nonprofit Partner blog post on Building Stronger Relationships with Donors.

Keep tending that garden.

Susan E. Mangels, Ph.D. serves as Senior Vice President of Consulting Services at AC Fitzgerald. She uses her expertise in fundraising, management, and leadership development to oversee our consulting efforts and deliver exceptional service to clients.

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