Donor Acquisition: 10 Simple Strategies for Growing Your Donor Base

We all understand the importance of donor retention. It’s a well-understood fact that the value of a donor retained is generally far greater than the value of a new one acquired. A strong donor retention program is critical to your nonprofit’s success. But what about donor acquisition?

You still to focus on donor acquisition, because you can never really have too many fish in your pond.

Acquiring new donors can be a lot like fishing.

You could spend loads of money purchasing a list of ALL THE PEOPLE from a list broker, but you might as well close your eyes, cast your net wide, and hold your breath.

You’re catch will be far superior in value if you zero in on a specific type of donor, understand what type of “lure” they’re attracted to, use reliable rod and reel, and exercise a bit of patience.

[ctt template=”3″ link=”7fL2X” via=”yes” ] Check out these 10 simple strategies for growing your donor base.[/ctt]

Here are 10 simple strategies I recommend for growing your donor base:

1.Peer-to-Peer Fundraising: With 1/3-1/2 of all online donations coming through crowdfunding campaigns, P2P fundraising is undeniably one of the smartest strategies for raising funds and reaching new networks of people you wouldn’t otherwise have access to.

Ask some of your more passionate supporters to run a P2P campaign on your organization’s behalf. Asking for a small amount of money ($10-$20 gifts) will result in lots of little donations. And in this case, since your goal is donor acquisition, that’s a good thing.

Water is Basic board member Evan Shaver launched a P2P campaign called the “10-4-10 Challenge” through Facebook in which he asked 10 friends to donate $10. Thirty-six people ended up contributing $1,905 to his campaign.

peer-to-peer funding, crowd funding

And this was one of 12 different 10-4-10 campaigns in the works for Water is Basic. Within just a few weeks, Water is Basic acquired 199 new donors!

The organizaiton made the “10-4-10 Challenge” easy for their supporters to implement by providing them with images, copy, and advice for launching their campaigns.

You can do the same. Start by asking 10 passionate supporters to run small campaigns and watch your donor list grow. (Don’t forget to ask them to share their donor’s contact information with you.)

2. Cross-promotion: Expand your reach to entirely new audiences by tapping into another organization’s network.

Promote the work of your partners, corporate sponsors, organizations that offer services that complement yours, along with thought leaders in your space. Then, ask them do the same for you!

I love how the Austin Fire Department (AFD) and Austin Humane Society have partnered to promote each other weekly through their #AFDFurryFriday campaign. Check it out:

#AFDFurryFriday cross promotion Cross Promotion Campaign

Make it extra easy for partners to promote your mission by providing them with pre-produced post suggestions, photos and videos, or a heads-up when you post something they can share or retweet.

Don’t limit cross promotion opportunities to social media. Exchange short stories, photos and news updates you can share in one another’s newsletters, websites, and other platforms.

3. Go for the Low-Hanging Fruit. Launch a “first gift” campaign targeting those who already know you and love you but have yet to give.

Perhaps this includes people who already receive your newsletters, volunteer with you, engage with you regularly on social media, or attend your events.

Whoever they are, they know you, they see your value, and they’re clearly interested in your work. They’re more halfway there. They just need an extra nudge to make that first transaction. A little extra attention and a friendly but firm call-to-action may be all they need to make that first gift!

4. Share Donor Testimonies. We’ve all heard the phrase, “people give to people, not organizations.” Turns out people like to give to organizations that people they trust or admire support too.

Ask long-time supporters to submit a 30-second video about why the support your organization. If they’re not comfortable with video, have them send you a 2-3 sentence testimonial along with an individual or family photo.

Knowing that his testimony might inspire others to give, Refuge and Hope International Supporter Curt Stokes was happy to provide a testimony during one of the organization’s fundraising campaigns.

Acquiring new donors through donor testimonies

Inspire others to give by sharing testimonies on social media, in your newsletter, on your website, and in marketing materials. Make a habit of doing this at least once a month!

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5. Target new email subscribers: Every new email subscriber is a qualified lead you should passionately pursue. They’re already interested in your mission, all you have to do is convince them to make that first donation.

Develop an automated email series for all new email subscribers. I recommend a four-series email campaign with the following objectives:

  • Email 1: Welcome them to the family to foster a sense of community
  • Email 2: Share a story to induce an emotional connection
  • Email 3: Demonstrate the impact a gift can make through a donor/client story
  • Email 4:  Facilitate the first (of hopefully many) gift(s) with a clear CTA

6. Seek Media Coverage. Pitch a story about your organization, your founder, a donor, or even a volunteer to your local newspaper. A strong local hook, an interesting angle, a client who’s willing to share his/her testimony, and timeliness are key to securing local press coverage. Everyone loves a good story, so focus on the human-interest elements as opposed to campaigns and organizational updates.

Austin Family, an Austin, TX-based health and parenting magazine, ran a Q&A with a local chef who climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro with his 12-year-old daughter to raise money for Water to Thrive. The article resulted in positive exposure for both the chef and Water to Thrive! Check it out:

Other PR Options

Are you an expert in the field you’re working in? Are you well-versed in the issues surrounding the cause you’re championing? Establish yourself as a valuable source that reporters can rely on when covering a particular topic. An invitation to your offices or a local coffee shop for a 30-minute discussion may be all it takes to establish a relationship. Follow-up regularly with interesting industry insights, feedback on articles, etc.

Finally, consider submitting by-lined articles to industry-specific magazines, blogs, and local new sources.

7. Take Advantage of Free Google Ads. Forgive me if I sound like an infomercial here, but this is one advertising opportunity you’d be remiss not to take advantage of. It’s a highly effective way to boost awareness and drive traffic to your site. And it’s free! Here’s the pitch:

Google Ad Grants offers all 501© (3) organizations the opportunity to receive up to $10K/month (or $329/day) in FREE Google ads. It’s a great deal that few nonprofits take advantage of.

With $10K/month in free ads, Google says you can expect to see as many as 5,000+ more monthly site visitors. And the majority of the people who find your site will be first-time visitors.

Set your conversion goal to drive new online donations and watch your donor list grow. Learn more about how Google Ad Grants work at

8. Hyper-Targeted Facebook Ads. Ever since Facebook changed its algorithms to promote more dialog between friends and family, its become increasingly difficult to be seen by your own followers. In fact, as a nonprofit, you’re now less visible to your social media audiences than Waffles the Cat.

You can and should ask your supporters to share your posts. But let’s face it, unless you have a massive following with legions of people sharing your content on a regular basis, you probably won’t make much of a dent.

If you have some budget to work with (and just about any budget will do) Facebook Ads can be a highly effective means of reaching new people whose interests align with your cause.

You can target just about any segment of Facebook’s users with hyper-targeted ads focused on specific locations, demographics, interests, and behaviors.

Using Facebook Ads to grow your donor base.

The African Children’s Choir routinely uses Facebook Ads to promote its concerts.

Since they target people in specific locations (and Facebook loves to promote local events) their FB ads show up higher in the newsfeeds of the people in the location targeted by the ads.

You can create a target audience around just about anyone. Target women with children, aged 29-49, who attend church, are interested in social justice issues, and living in Des Moines, IA.

You can also create “look-alike” audiences that mirror your existing supporter lists.

Learn more about how Facebook Ads work here:

9. Hyper-Targeted Instagram Ads. If your objective is to appeal to younger audiences, consider Instagram Ads as well. The process of creating Insta Ads is almost identical to that of Facebook Ads. And, like Facebook Ads, you’ll be able to target your ads to audiences based on demographics, behaviors, interests, etc.

10. Host an Event. It doesn’t have to be huge or expensive. In fact, you’ll cultivate more relationships and qualified leads through smaller, more intimate gatherings where you and your colleagues can interact with each attendee on an individual level.

Ask board members, staff members, or long-time supporters to host a small event for friends and friends-of-friends who don’t currently support your organization. It could be a casual “sip-n-share” type of event where attendees enjoy coffee or cocktails while you share an overview of your organization’s work, along with a few compelling stories about the people/pets/environment you work with.

Refuge and Hope International, which works in Uganda, asks volunteers who visit their mission to host “African Tea Parties” for friends when they return home. Armed with a tea party tool kit, the hosts have everything they need (from a ginger-spiced tea recipe, to African print napkins, brochures, donation cards, and their own unique testimonies) to host affordable events that results in new donations and contacts for their database.

Refuge and Hope International's African Tea Party

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What are you doing to acquire new donors? I bet you have some great ideas. I’d sure love to hear them! Share them in the comments below or shoot me an email at:




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