How to Get More Nonprofit Donors

Posted by David Kindervater on May 16, 2019

Nonprofit fundraising is enjoying six consecutive years of growth. In the past year alone, it's increased by more than 4%. Those are encouraging figures, but you need to have the right strategy to succeed. By considering your options and understanding the best methods for making an impact on your organization, you can find new donors, keep your current ones, and raise more money than ever.

Here's how to get more nonprofit donors to give to your charitable organization.

1. Know Your Donors

nonprofit donorsWhen you know your donors and understand what's important to them, it's easier to connect with them in a more meaningful way. That's why you should create personas to demonstrate a typical donor's characteristics.

TrueSense Marketing is a full-service direct-response fundraising agency with offices near Pittsburgh. They used scientific sampling and rigorous data cleaning to examine the insights from hundreds of donors in an effort to get to know who they are. Let's look at some of the findings they uncovered for animal welfare organization donors.

Donor Demographics

Demographics will tell you who your nonprofit donors are, like their age and gender. As you dig deeper, you'll find out their race, ethnicity, education, profession, income level, and marital status, too. How much you need to know depends on your nonprofit organization and how you're going to use the information.

In the animal welfare study, donors who were 50 years old and under were the ones to give more of their charitable dollars. This marked a change in the previous norm, where this age group was not as direct-responsive as older donors were. With that in mind, TrueSense observed an opportunity to capture the minds, hearts, and support of this younger demographic.

Donor Preferences

This is where you can really pull a lot of useful information. How do your donors like to be contacted? How many donate online? Have they donated to your cause more than once? Giving-channel preferences are a key part of a strong fundraising foundation. When you "meet donors where they are," you can learn what matters to them.

Again, in the TrueSense animal welfare study, older donors preferred targeted giving channels like direct mail. In fact, they were twice as likely as younger donors (51% vs. 24%) to respond to a direct mail appeal. Younger donors, on the other hand, preferred more personal channels like events and workplace giving campaigns.

Donor Behaviors

What's important to your donors? What are their passions? And maybe most importantly, what motivates them to give?

The TrueSense study asked donors why they support animal welfare organizations. The most popular answer revealed an emotional connection. It was simply "to help animals." The donors felt the animals were helpless and voiceless, relying on the care and compassion of humans to survive. They gave to help the animals—because the animals can't help themselves.

Keep in mind that demographics, preferences, and behaviors can change from one organization to the next, so it's important to do your own research regarding your donors. What's typical for one nonprofit is not necessarily the same for another.

2. Put Your Donors into Defined Segments

Personas are great, but you can take them a step further with donor segmentation. Put your donors into defined groups (or segments) with similar needs, behaviors, and characteristics. Then you can tailor your communications to their interests and preferences, which inspires them to get more involved. Start by grouping them according to the giving category that matters most to your organization.

Here are some basic guidelines to identify beneficial donor segmentsThese segments will help you make your marketing more personal.

  • Identifiable. Classify your donor segments and measure their corresponding characteristics and performance. For example, you could segment by how often people donate.
  • Accessible. How accessible are your segments? The more ways you can communicate with a segment of donors (think multichannel marketing), the better.
  • Substantial. You need to have enough donors in each segment to be cost-effective and measurable.
  • Differentiable. Each segment must contain donors with similar characteristics or needs, but which are different from other segments. You don't want two similar segments. 
  • Stable. To properly analyze and market a segment, it has to be consistent over a period of time. That means it can't be baed on factors that are constantly changing. 
  • Actionable. If you can't target an offer to a segment and have it make a measurable impact, it isn't worth doing.

Ideally, you would personalize your marketing efforts to each individual donor, but that's impossible. What you can do, however, is make it feel more personal with the proper segmentation strategy.

3. Build Relationships with Your Donors

donor relationshipsYour nonprofit organization needs to become donor-centric to get more nonprofit donors. That involves stewardship. Stewardship is about more than saying thank you to your donors, however. Saying thanks is a very important aspect, but it's also about connecting with them around the things they're passionate about.

Remember: happy donors attract new donors.

Start a conversation with them regarding their values and giving goals. To build relationships and acquire donors you need to ask them questions. It's not about what you want them to do. Rather, think about what they want and what they hope to get out of giving. Getting to know your supporters is important to building relationships and acquiring more nonprofit donors. There’s a distinct parallel between good stewardship programs and increased donor retention, so be sure to build relationships with your donors.

4. Create a Strategy to Attract More Donors

You can't just say you want more donors. That's the goal for every nonprofit. You have to create a strategy for acquiring them. Set some goals that will get you to your destination.

Based on your objectives, how many donors do you need to acquire and how much money do you need to raise to move closer to your mission? Here's a simple example:

You could say you want to:

  • improve acquisition conversion rates by 10%,
  • improve retention rates by 15%,
  • improve upgrade rates by 20%.

In case those aren't self-explanatory, here's a quick rundown.

  • Acquisition conversion is moving someone from a prospect to a donor.
  • Retention is when a donor gives one year—then gives again the next year.
  • Upgrading a donor is having them give more or graduate to another level of giving.
Be sure to set a timeline to accomplish these goals. Of course, you can have advanced goals, too. For instance, you could look at gaining a small number of recurring donors rather than a larger number of one-time donors. After all, long-term value is a fundraiser's most important metric. 

Measure and Evaluate Your Strategy

You set goals, and you created a strategy to reach them. Now you should measure and evaluate them. When you set a strategy in motion, create metics around them. These should be key performance indicators (KPIs) of goal achievement. 

Let's look at an example. One of the KPIs could be "month over month, year over year." In other words, how many donors did you acquire and how much money did you bring in? Look at it literally, from month to month and year to year. But because nonprofit fundraising is cyclical, your month-to-month comparisons won't necessarily tell your whole story. Capture the big picture by comparing the same time frame from year to year to measure your performance. You'll want to see a steady improvement from one year to the next.

Other important metrics to measure and evaluate include donor acquisition cost (DAC), donor retention rate, and donor lifetime value. 

5. Use Digital Marketing

digital marketingIt's safe to say just about every nonprofit has some sort of online presence, but minor changes to your digital strategy could provide substantial returns.

Online fundraising has become immensely important to nonprofit organizations. Your website, social media accounts, and email marketing efforts are all valuable digital channels. Use them to get more nonprofit donors.

Get Good @ Social Media

Donor conversion on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram is only 3% to 6%, but it's absolutely vital to your organization. Here are some of the reasons it's important. You can:

  • interact with your supporters.
  • build your brand image.
  • increase exposure.
  • increase email list signups.

Keep in mind that social media interaction has a "multiplier effect" for your nonprofit. Millennials, in particular, are a growing group of nonprofit donors. They'll use social to research their options when they're looking to donate to their favorite causes. The more they engage, the more they'll boost your signal to other potential donors via social channels.

Embrace Email Marketing

Email marketing is an effective way for your nonprofit to build brand awareness, acquire leads, convert supporters, and retain your current donors. The average open rate of 26% for nonprofit emails is well above the standard email open rate of 6%. That's because if someone becomes an email subscriber to your nonprofit's newsletter, they likely have a genuine interest in your organization. Still, 74% of your subscriber base isn't even bothering to open your message. Here are a few tips to remedy that.

  • Watch your subject lines. Asking a question is oftentimes a good way to increase opens. 
  • Be sure they recognize who it's from.
  • According to Constant Contact, the best time to send an email is Monday morning at 6 a.m. Try some different times to learn what works best for your nonprofit. 
  • Stay consistent with your mailings. If your goal is to send an e-newsletter weekly, stick with that pattern. The same would apply to monthly or quarterly mailings. 

Spruce Up Your Website's Donation Page

Online revenue recently increased by 23% and online monthly giving revenue grew by 40%. Take advantage of the trend by making sure your donation page (and website in general) is user-friendly and optimized for all devices.

Also, don't discount mobile optimization. It's a must. Donors are becoming more comfortable with monthly recurring donation options. Mobile fundraising is increasingly important, even though mobile giving hasn't caught up with donations via traditional desktop browsers. 

6. Show Your Impact

What kind of difference is your nonprofit making? Measure your impact and use the data and success stories in your marketing efforts, like in a donor newsletter. A good newsletter can go a long way in helping you get more nonprofit donors. But how do you create a good nonprofit newsletter? Here are a few tips:

  • Put the focus on your donors. How are they making an impact? Talk about how important they are and how their gifts have made a difference.
  • Tap into your readers' emotions. Stir up feelings, whatever they may be. Guilt, fear, sadness. Don't play it safe. 
  • Keep it newsworthy. Your recipients want to know what's new. Get their attention. Surprise them. Make it interesting.
  • Make your headlines pop. Remember those email subject lines we discussed earlier? Apply that same approach using strong verbs that elicit feelings of urgency and action. 
  • Use storytelling. You might be tempted to wow your readers with shocking statistics, but lean on effective storytelling. That will motivate them to give more than stats. (Keep reading for more on storytelling.)
  • Make it easy to read. Few people have the time to read every word of your newsletter. Break up the text with headers, photos, captions, pull quotes, etc.

7. Adopt a Crowdfunding Strategy

crowd fundingUse your donors' existing networks to draw in more donors. For example, adopt a peer-to-peer (P2P) fundraising event like a golf outing, a running/walking event, a pub crawl, or a bake sale, just to name a few.

By incorporating a peer-to-peer (P2P) fundraising strategy into your nonprofit marketing efforts, current donors set up a fundraising page, donation form, and/or personalized email to accept new donations for your nonprofit event. It's cost-effective and it builds upon your already existing relationships with your donors. 

P2P events have become commonplace for many nonprofit organizations. People contribute to them because it gives them a feeling of active participation. They feel like they're part of a like-minded support network for a cause they believe in.

Let's say you have individual fundraisers accepting donations (via an online donation form) for a benefit walk. In turn, your nonprofit receives the funds. So essentially, your supporters are fundraising on your behalf. You're hosting a walk to raise money for a cause. The walk itself isn't doing much to help. It's the fundraising by your supporters that takes place over a period of time leading up to the event that's accomplishing the bulk of the benefit. The P2P event itself, however, allows participants to feel like they're part of the bigger picture. It's an action they take to support the cause.

8. Don't Forget About Traditional Fundraising

While brainstorming new ways to get more nonprofit donors, don't dismiss the tried-and-true methods that have worked for many years. The more you know about your donors, the more you can decide what channels work best for your nonprofit. Here are a few to always consider in your strategy. 

Direct Mail Donations

Don't dismiss direct mail as only effective for older donors. Sure, the average donor in the U.S. is 64 years old and they prefer this method when it comes to marketing mail. But millennials are on board with it, too. Recent studies have found that direct mail campaigns have response rates over 10x higher than those of digital marketing.

Nonprofit Event Marketing

When your donors have an opportunity to personally interact with your organization and learn more about it, you increase your chances of securing gifts from them. When they can put faces to names at events, your online fundraising efforts could get a boost, too.

Fundraising Phone Solicitation

Whether you're making a few thank-you calls yourself or you've got an entire team calling as part of a larger telemarketing campaign, phone calls are an inexpensive fundraising option. Also, text messaging campaigns have proven their worth. In the wake of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Red Cross-sponsored texts raised $41 million. 

9. Use Storytelling

nonprofit storytellingThe most successful nonprofits use storytelling throughout all their communications. It captures people's attention, pulls on heartstrings, and best of all—acquires donors.

Storytelling is one of the oldest forms of communication and smart fundraisers understand its power. In a survey of 400 nonprofits across a variety of causes, over 75% reported using stories in their fundraising appeals and donor communications. Put yourself in the shoes of your donors and use messaging that interests them.

Donors will give when you touch their hearts—when you inspire and motivate them. People crave stories, not statistics.

Of course, it doesn't do much good to tell you how to write a story without offering any guidance as to how to do it. So, unless you're already an expert storyteller, here are three types of effective stories to use.

  • Impact stories. Tell your donors how their gifts are being used and what an impact they're making.
  • Donor stories. Donor-focused story content is smart fundraising. Tell your donors it's about them, not the organization.
  • First-person stories. Share testimonials from the people helped by your donors. Your donors can hear first hand how their gifts are making a difference. 

10. Thank Your Acquired Donors with a Handwritten Message

When you want to tell your donors how much you appreciate their support, few things work as well as a handwritten note of thanks. A handwritten note stands out from the typical texts and emails people receive every day. When they see your message in their mailbox, it conveys a sense of true gratitude. 

Consider when you have hundreds or even thousands of these handwritten messages to send, though. The whole idea loses its luster rather quickly when you factor in the amount of time and resources that's going to take. Simply Written has the answer. We make handwritten correspondence easier than ever with beautifully crafted business notes that look like authentic handwriting.

Create nonprofit donor connections that last a lifetime. Contact us today to learn more. 

Topics: nonprofit marketing, nonprofit donors