five april 2023 blog hero the coffee the code and the creative

April 9, 2023


FIVE has assisted many San Diego County nonprofits with donor development and board governance challenges. One of the more frequent inquiries that arise is “what are the best ways to source new donors?” This question gets asked at minimum of twice per month. Therefore, and at the insistence of one of the studio’s nonprofit clients, it was time to put pencil to paper (or in this case fingers to keyboard) and write an article about how to source and harvest new donors, So, here we go!

Finding new donors is a practice that takes time, patience, perseverance, and a certain amount of tending. Expanding your donor base is not for the lazy.

All of that articulated, I will express that it is not a difficult task. Below are several approaches I’ve used for which I’m happy to share.

Examine The Data…TWICE, THRICE

Data, data, data!  The studio is frequent to trumpet the manifesto: Data Doesn’t Lie. A lot of information and trends can be discovered simply by looking at your financial reports for donations. Review the current, past and year prior for best results. If your organization has some type of software database to fun its financial reports and donor engagement success,  run the reports to generate:

  • Who are your donors
  • How much did they give
  • When did they give
  • Is their donation a first time, or repeat
  • If the donor is a repeat contributor, is it the same amount each time
  • Was the donation tied to a specific fund raising event or campaign
  • Is the donor an active one or who has lapsed over time

Segment your data so that you can determine which bucket the donor may reside from the list above. Don’t worry, there are bound to be overlaps.

Examine the trends! If you spotted that some donors increased when your organization held some type of annual fund raising event, then make a note to personally invite the donor to return to the annual event and ask them for a bit more of a donation this time. Perhaps they responded to some different messaging you used in your latest campaign (or transversely, donated less). Did the donors disappear or fall short in contribution during the COVID pandemic?

Survey Or Not To Survey?

Every so often, a nonprofit should run a survey campaign to determine why existing donors contribute to your organization. The feedback you receive from donors can be incredibly valuable and insightful in helping you learn what worked or needs certain evolution if you are targeting new donors or increases from existing donors.

Getting The Ducks In A Row

As you go to plan your campaign, it’s important that your entire nonprofit recognize if they’ve done a sufficient job of marketing your organization to the community. New donors will be a major challenge to overcome if they’ve never heard of the nonprofit organization. As that poet laureate Dolly Parton once opined: “Sometimes you just have to toot your own horn. Otherwise, nobody will know you’re a-comin’.”

This is one of the chores to tackle before you even decide to launch a campaign for new donors. Work with your organizations marketing and communications committee to ensure there is an active (and accurate) multi-channel strategy that gets the organization’s mission and vision directly to the audience using vehicles such as social media posts/events, email blasts, video, and paid ads. In today’s generation of short videos platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, and WhatsApp, it reaps huge rewards if you can consistently position long term and ephemeral content on a regular basis.

Prepare To Be Scrutinized

Check all your social media accounts and nonprofit registration listings to determine if anything published on those feeds is accurate and up to date. This is particularly true of your listing with Candid (née GuideStar). Some potential donors are rather savvy at investigating where they will channel their disposable income for charities, so it pays to know in advance if your public records displayed are current.

Now let’s chat a bit about an uncomfortable topic that may apply to your nonprofit organization – Unflattering history. There are many nonprofits in existence that somewhere in their timeline had a period where some unsavory incident may have occurred or there was a period of some less than responsible governance happening. Rather than avoid the issue, it’s best to tackle the situation head on and make sure that your donor committee knows how to handle the subject matter should it ever arise with potential new donors. Believe me, savvy donors will ask. If your donor development committee doesn’t feel comfortable with this potential issue, contact a public relations provider in advance and seek their guidance on how to best educate and prepare the donor committee to respond to these types of inquiries while pursuing new donors. While it may not be free guidance from the PR provider, the amount you spend learning how to “spin” the situation of the organization past will return sizeable rewards when you are able to secure new donors.

Keep in mind that whatever you are placing in social media needs three things to be effective: Brevity, Clarity, Frequency. All that matters is can they see it, can they quickly assimilate it, and is it fresh. Our society has evolved into whatever online content they read on their mobile devices more than on desktop computers. This is the world we live in, so work with your marketing and social media teams to make sure that whatever gets out there on the Internet meets these three key elements and of course, can be read with ease on a mobile device screen.

Stay Tuned

In future editions, FIVE will provide insight and recommendations for:

  • Building a Successful Campaign Strategy
  • Where To Hunt For New Donors
  • Finding Major Donors
  • Donor Retention

Fun Fact

If you are a nonprofit organization, FIVE can help you with your social media, email campaigns and other nonprofit organization board operations. Give the studio a call today!