A Guide to Donor Acquisition: How to Acquire Supporters and Donors for Your Nonprofit

A Guide to Donor Acquisition: How to Acquire Supporters and Donors for Your Nonprofit

What are you doing to attract new donors to your nonprofit organization? Without donors, you don't have the funds you need to move your mission and vision forward. Acquiring new donors for your organization is much more costly than retaining your existing donor base. 

So, it's important for nonprofits to have a donor acquisition strategy they can follow year-round, with the ability to scale it at seasonal peaks, such as Giving Tuesday and the holidays when people are feeling their most generous. 

With potential donors shifting towards mobile technology as their preferred means of communication, nonprofits must stay on top of this change to communicate and prospect effectively in their market.

New donor acquisition is the first step in the organization's fundraising strategy. It encompasses prospective donors' journey from finding your organization to finally making a donation. Maintaining the donor relationship is critical to ensure optimal lifetime donation value from each supporter. The strategy should be purpose-driven and donor-focused.

Setting your goal is the first stage of the donor acquisition strategy. Your organization should have clear and realistic targets about how many donors you want to attract each month. These targets must be measurable, and the team must understand the metrics involved in calculating every donor acquired in a campaign. 

Understanding the elements of donor acquisition campaigns can be challenging for some nonprofits to master. This guide gives you everything you need to know about attracting more donors to your organization. 


The Donor Acquisition Process

This process has three stages: Identifying and attracting, potential donor engagement, and conversion. Understanding how each stage impacts the overall results of the donor acquisition campaign is crucial to success. Let's unpack each stage in detail. 


Identify & Attract

Start by segmenting your prospective donors by creating an ideal donor profile. For instance, your ideal donor profile might be women between the ages of 28 and 35 who make a minimum of $60,000 per year and enjoy outdoor activities. 

The more you can drill down the demographics in your donor profile, the easier it is to target these individuals in your marketing efforts. Segmenting your audience with several donor personas helps you personalize your content and improve the campaign success rate in attracting new donors to your cause. 

Identify key influencers and celebrities who might be interested in collaborating with your marketing efforts. Even if they don't donate, they can act as brand ambassadors for your cause to attract new donors. Use conventional PR strategies to build awareness of your organization in the market and create credibility with your audience. 

Implement calls-to-action (CTAs) on your website and in your social media content to direct people to take action to donate to your cause or request more information. Collect prospective donor information like names, email addresses, and phone numbers through donation forms to continue the conversation.

There are tech tools you can implement, like CRM systems, to manage that data and run campaigns for specific events. Your donor acquisition strategy should utilize several conventional advertising and digital marketing tools and tactics, from social media, QR codes, and Google Ads to drip email marketing campaigns and instant automated workflows. 


Engage with Prospective Donors

After catching the prospective donors' attention, the goal is to engage them and add to their curiosity and interest in your organization and your goals. To achieve this, you'll need to push an engaging content strategy that invites them to participate in the conversation. 

There are several avenues marketers can take to make this happen. Social media offer a fantastic platform for connecting and engaging with prospective donors. Personalize your engagement and segment your content strategy to ensure they receive the right content to motivate them into donating to your cause. 


Convert Prospects into Donors

The content campaign aims to engage the prospective donor with your organization and its mission. However, you'll need to convert them from a prospect into a donor at some stage, and this will only happen if you ask for the donation. 

There are several methods to doing this. You could call them over the phone, run an email campaign with a CTA, or respond to a landing page form request for more information. The goal is to determine if the donor qualifies for your organization and what they plan on donating and follow up with them until you get the commitment. 


Digital Marketing Techniques for Donor Acquisition

Online marketing offers you better reach and affordability than conventional acquisition strategies like flyers and meetups. While a good donor acquisition strategy should include online and offline tactics, you can get more bang for your buck on the internet. 

Digital marketing tools automate many tasks of following up with donors and distributing your content strategy in automated workflows. CRMs offer tremendous advantages for organizations to track their donor activity and prospect's progress through the donor journey.

Other digital tools integrate into these tech stacks to improve team collaboration and program management. Wireless networks and devices make it possible to reach donors anywhere in the world, expanding your borders. Inspire new donors and collect more donations worldwide.


Utilizing Social Media for Donor Engagement

Social media is a powerful tool for building donor engagement. The free ads manager dashboard allows you to create custom audiences for your donor profiles, and Facebook will go out and find those people for you, pushing your ads in front of them. The results you get depend on the budget you want to allocate to the project. 

Facebook and Instagram campaigns are highly effective tools for capturing donors and engaging with them online. They come with CTA integrations, pulling donations directly from donors over the platform without them having to navigate to your site. 


Events and Networking for Donor Acquisition

Networking events and fundraisers are a great place to meet prospective donors face-to-face. The guests at these events are all prequalified; they feel their time is worth dedicated to attending your event. The nonprofit's job is to segment the audience and convert the prospects. 

Technology allows nonprofits to host fully virtual or hybrid online and physical events to attract more eyeballs and prospective donors to the activities. Webinars are effective at educating prospective donors and building awareness of your causes. Blending the right virtual and physical tactics into your campaigns is essential for success.


Donor Acquisition Campaigns: Best Practices


Target High-Value Donors

One of the best practices to remember is recurring donations require fewer resources to capture. There's a sliding scale on donor value; some make larger donations than others. You must identify the high-value acquired donors and concentrate your marketing efforts on these individuals. 

High-value donors require a personalized approach and face-to-face engagements. Low-value donors are easier to convert online, such as landing pages and donation portals. The team should assess each donor profile to understand their potential lifetime donation value and adjust their approach to handling the donor according to these results. 


Use a Feasibility Survey

Hire a fundraising consultant to conduct a feasibility study. They'll assist with mapping out the donor base and identify individuals likely to donate to future campaigns. The consultant also analyzes your current strategy to determine if your current tactics and goals are achievable and how far you are with your campaign to achieving your fundraising goals. 

Feasibility studies develop deeper relationships with your donors. Take the feedback from the research and implement the necessary changes to align with your donor expectations. The study also helps you understand your value and connection with your local community and how they view your organization. 


Implement Multi-channel Donor Communications

Management must ensure every donor acquisition campaign must combine digital and traditional communications across multiple platforms. This strategy increases reach and the amount of prospects that view your ad or campaign promotional materials. Email drip campaigns, social media awareness campaigns, and blogging all offer conduits to your donation campaign through your content strategy. 


Seek Corporate Partnerships 

Individual donors are great, but corporate sponsorships are fantastic for securing long-term donation partnerships. All companies want to improve their corporate social responsibility scores to make their organization appeal to sustainable investors. Locking in a sponsorship deal can create a lucrative long-term fundraising partnership for nonprofits.


Transparency & Results

Organizations must be completely transparent with their donors and show them how their donations bring value to their mission and goals. The key is to follow up with the donors and ensure that you send them content showing them how their contributions make a difference to your cause. Displaying good stewardship of funds builds trust and confidence in the donor, making them more likely to donate again. 


Case Study –  National Angels "Because of You" Campaign

Erika Carley is the Chief Development Officer of the National Angels fundraising and development division. She successfully successfully executed the organization's annual donor acquisition marketing campaign in mid-2022.

The campaign ran for 10 days, reflecting on the organization's achievements over a decade of excellence. They reviewed their donors' impact on the nonprofit's goals and mission over a decade of operations.

The "Because of You" campaign credited past and current donors for helping the nonprofit achieve its vision and goals. The campaign allowed supporters to sign up for a monthly giving program at any level. 

Existing donors could upgrade their subscriptions, and new and existing donors could make a one-off donation. Those who couldn't contribute with a money gift could help by spreading the word in their community. 

In exchange for their support, donors received a "Challenge Coin," celebrating ten years of the nonprofit's service to the community. They also got two raffle tickets for separate draws. 

National Angels leveraged email, social media, Google Ads, and partner cross-promotion tactics in their marketing strategy, resulting in the following results.

  • 695 total donations.
  • 321 new monthly subscription donors.
  • 90 subscription donation upgrades.
  • 284 one-off donations.

After concluding the campaign, the team shifted to their retention strategy, harvesting the newly built donor base to prime them for further giving opportunities. Retention strategies included short, medium, and long-term tactics. 


Building Relationships with New Donors

After capturing the prospect and converting them into a new donor, the nonprofit's strategy shifts towards retention and farming. Stewardship is the practice of showing the donor that the organization is effectively using the funds collected as planned. 

The nonprofit must ensure regular communication between the organization and the donor via newsletters, personalized communications, or other tactics designed to boost engagement and donor cultivation. 

The content strategy used in farming the existing donor base must be highly segmented and personalized to achieve success. The goal of the content strategy is to inspire the donor to choose one of its donation products and make another gift to the organization.

Personalization is key. For instance, if the donor cuts your organization a check for $10,000, you give them a different content strategy to one that donates $10 once a quarter. Personalizing the content prevents confusion, resentment, and loss of donor engagement. 

Building relationships with donors is vital to keep them donating to the organization. Starting with gratitude after the first donation is the best way to inspire a sense of satisfaction in the donor. How you handle the follow-up depends on the type of donor. 

For low-tier donors, sending them into an email drip campaign to think of them and keep them on top of unfolding events with your automated CRTM system is all you need to keep things on track with an online donor. However, high-ticket donors may require individualized follow-up through phone calls and face-to-face meetings, depending on the size of their donation or sponsorship to your organization. 


General Nonprofit Fundraising Metrics

Tracking metrics for your online marketing campaigns gives you data to assist with further your fundraising efforts in the future. Real-time tracking of your KPIs and metrics allows you to interpret the success of your campaign and make the necessary adjustments on the move to improve results. 

There are two types of KPIs

Lagging KPIs – Metrics measuring what happened during the campaign as a whole. They calculate past performance. These metrics include event attendance, number of gifts, and average gift size.

Leading KPIs – These metrics are percentages or rates predicting future performance during the campaign and in review for future campaign planning. Examples include average donor growth, average donation growth, and donor retention rate.

Let's look at the primary metrics every marketer must track at a bare minimum during and after the campaign. 


Cost per Dollar Raised (CPDR)

Did the campaign reach its fundraising targets? Did it make or lose money? Was it a breakeven result? 


Fundraising Return on Investment (ROI)

Similar to the CPDR metric, ROI measures the success of the fundraising event or campaign.


Conversion Rate 

This metric describes how many prospects converted into donors by donating to the campaign. It can also define any conversion where a prospect clicks on a CTA on your online email list strategy or if they attend an offline event and sign up for your mailing list. 


Pledge Fulfillment Percentage

These are funds promised by donors over a specific period. Track how many donors follow through with their giving capacity and contribution promises and follow up with those who default. 


Recurring Gift Percentage 

Tracks the total gifts received in a given period and how many were from recurring donors, either as part of a specific donation program or due to independent gifts. 


Donor Retention Rate 

These data points show you how many donors your nonprofit retains annually. Increasing the donor retention rate reduces the costs of acquiring new donors. Tracking retention rate reveals the following insights about your nonprofit's fundraising and donor acquisition performance.

  • If your communications channels are effective.
  • If your content strategy is successful.
  • If your recognition tactics are sufficient.
  • Which donation methods do your returning donors prefer to use.

Other Important donor relationship KPIs to track include the following metrics. 

  • Churn rate or Lapsed donor rate.
  • Outreach rate or the frequency of contacting donors.
  • Social media ad or campaign conversion rate.


Challenges in Donor Acquisition

Nonprofits inevitably experience bottlenecks and issues with their donor acquisition campaigns. Some of the common problems these organizations encounter include the following. 


Don't make the mistake of failing to follow up with donors after they donate. You should be quick to notify them of your gratitude. Send a text within minutes of receiving the donation thanking them for their support. 

Follow up with an email an hour later, consisting of information about their donation and what you'll do with the funds. Keep them in the loop using a drip campaign to show them the difference their contribution makes to your work. 


Don't discount any feedback from donors, no matter how small. Attend to every ad reply, comment, complaint, inquiry, or request as soon as possible, and don't leave the donor or prospective donor without solutions to their problem. 


Effective donor list segmentation is the key to sending a personalized content strategy that drives more donations. 


Proper stewardship of funds and maintaining the donor-nonprofit relationship are critical to ensuring the donor is inspired and willing to continue contributing to your cause. 


Ensuring your organization operates with the highest ethical integrity, trustworthiness, and credibility standards captivates and cultivates confidence in your donor base. 


Adapting to Changes in Donor Behavior and Technology Innovations

The nonprofit market continues to see huge shifts in marketers' and donors' operations. The advance of the internet, mobile technology, and social media changed the donation appeal game for nonprofits and their ability to acquire donors and raise funds. 

Nonprofits must adapt to these changes in the fundraising environment to continue to see success with their campaigns. Learning how to leverage AI-based systems can improve campaign results and remove much of the work involved in planning and executing campaigns and live or virtual events. 

The advent of technology and improvements in communications means nonprofits can broaden their donor acquisition efforts globally, cultivating an audience in countries worldwide. Payment processors can convert social media and web traffic to your donor campaign, giving you a wider net to cast. 


Budgeting for Donor Acquisition

Calculating and tracking expenses is one of the most challenging aspects of running a successful marketing campaign. The direct and indirect costs absorbed by the organization must be efficiently tracked to ensure the integrity of the data results. 

Allocating indirect costs can be the most challenging part of this financial process. They vary in complexity and can depend on the situation. It's also important to note that many nonprofit funders have independent regulations and exceptions, creating a restrictive regulatory mess on the organization's efficient use of its budget. 

When nonprofits can't manage the indirect costs of properties, they inaccurately quantify the sustainability and profitability of the organization. This may also result in compliance problems, violations, or issues with state and federal regulations. 

Nonprofits might also under-recover administrative costs from funding sources, forcing them to use unrestricted donations to cover losses. Organizations must evaluate factors determining the most cost-advantageous allocation methodology and how to categorize indirect and direct costs.


Compliance Requirements for Donor Acquisition Campaigns

Nonprofits need to think of compliance issues when allocating direct and indirect costs. Funders may stipulate indirect rate caps or other rules on what is considered direct. Sometimes, the donors refer to federal regulations such as 2 CFR Part 200, or they might create rules out of thin air.


The Financial Advantages of Donor Acquisition Campaigns

When planned meticulously and executed flawlessly, donor acquisition campaigns can have a powerful impact on a nonprofit organization's financial health and goals. However, there's a difference between a nonprofit creating real, measurable results and just throwing cash in a money pit with the claim of seeing future results. 

But when things do go right, organizations can look forward to more capital to grow their organizational framework and expand their targets. With a capital injection from fundraising and donor acquisition campaigns, the nonprofit gets the opportunity to spread more awareness of its cause and reduce future donor acquisition costs. 


Legal and Ethical Considerations of Donor Acquisition Campaigns

Improving transparency between your nonprofit and donors is essential for building trust and confidence. Nonprofits must show their commitment to ethical fundraising practices and stewardship of funds collected. Nonprofits must conduct accurate reporting and ensure they issue all tax donation letters to donors timeously.


A Guide to Donor Acquisition – FAQs


Q: What is donor acquisition?

A: New donor acquisition is the process of acquiring new donors to your organization who can contribute financially to your cause. It's the first stage of a fundraising strategy, and its correct execution is essential in cultivating a lasting donor relationship. 


Q: How do you acquire new donors?

A: Donor acquisition campaigns rely on extensive research to produce optimal results. Forming a relationship with the donor before moving in for the ask is important to keep them on the same page. You can communicate to prospective donors through a multi-channel strategy using social media, email, and the phone. 


Q: What are the best strategies for donor acquisition?

A: Conduct effective research on prospective donors. Leveraging social media goes a long way to improving your campaign reach and drilling down your donor profile. Leverage your existing donor base and ensure you segment the donors with your content strategy to keep them engaged in your organization. Build strategic partnerships and sponsorship grant deals with corporates and turn your website into an inbound marketing machine.


Q: How do you measure the success of donor acquisition?

A: Track the following metrics to gauge the success of your donor campaign. 

  • Retention Rate – Attract and retain your donorbase.
  • Repeat Giving – Build a legacy and inspire loyalty. 
  • Upgraded Giving – Amplify your contributions.
  • Engagement Rate – Identify highly engaged donors.
  • Average Gift Size – Assess the contribution level of your donors. 



Donor acquisition is the lifeblood of any nonprofit. Ensuring you have an effective strategy to meet your donor acquisition goals is imperative to achieving the desired results from your campaign. Donor campaigns can run year-round, but they're most effective during the year-end giving season, from Giving Tuesday through to the new year. 

Planning and executing a successful donor acquisition campaign requires a professional approach. The many strategies and tactics involved with effective campaign planning require many different talents and skill sets. Organizations with limited human resources to manage these campaigns must consider outsourcing these strategies to partners who understand how to deliver results. 

Hiring consultants to help you plan a donor acquisition strategy can bolster your campaign results and attract more qualified donors to your list and your cause. Reach out to the PayBee team, and we'll help you plan and execute your donors acquisition strategy.


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