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Nonprofit Strategies

How to launch a donor prospecting campaign in 6 easy steps

Hit your campaign goals with this guide to successful donor prospecting. Learn how to craft a compelling pitch, create an intuitive donation page, and track your progress.

Rachel Mills
July 1, 2021

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To hit your campaign goals, you need to broaden your supporter base. But how can you reach new donors if they never interacted with your organization in the past?

Gifts from individuals — not corporations — make up the vast majority (72%) of charitable contributions. This creates a large incentive to revitalize your donor prospecting strategy to increase individual contributions.

Donor prospecting is the process of reaching out to new donors to support your cause. When it comes down to it, donor prospecting is no different than sales and marketing. To reach new people, you’ll need to leverage multiple communication channels, launching both one-to-one and one-to-many outreach efforts.

Below, we explain what donor prospecting is, how to begin, and the tools you need to make your prospecting efforts a success.

What is donor prospecting, exactly?

donor prospecting: Charity Glastonbury GIF By WaterAid

Donor prospecting involves the research, outreach, and (hopefully!) conversion of new donors.

From a high school sports team to a global nonprofit organization, virtually any organization needs a prospecting strategy to broaden their donor base. There are two main routes to approach donor prospecting:

  • One-to-one conversations (sales): One-to-one conversations include cold calling, handing out flyers, knocking on doors, sending texts to friends, and emailing neighbors about your cause.
  • One-to-many conversations (marketing): One-to-many campaigns involve social media posts, paid advertising (like Google Ads), email drip campaigns, and a mass direct mail campaign.

There are advantages and disadvantages of each approach. For example, while marketing campaigns are easier, more cost-effective, and reach more people in a limited amount of time, having a one-to-one conversation with someone is more personable, thereby creating a higher conversion rate.

The most successful prospecting strategies harness both methods, which moves potential donors down the pipeline.

How can you start a donor prospecting campaign?

You don't need a sales or marketing background to launch a donor prospecting campaign. Prospecting, at its core, is about forming relationships. With this in mind, use the following fundraising strategies to reach new donors.

1. Craft your pitch ✍

What attracted you to your cause in the first place? What change or impact do you make in the world? How will you use donor contributions in the future?

Before you begin any outreach, pause to write down your pitch. If your supporters fall under different segments (i.e., you’ve identified multiple donor personas), you might want to write several versions to best peak their interest.

2. Conduct prospect research 📈

While there are plenty of paid-for prospect research tools available, you can easily go the do-it-yourself route.

Start brainstorming individuals or groups of people who might be willing to donate to your cause. Donor research starts with thinking of people who share the same location, interest, demographics, education, and income level as your current donors. Could you build a donor profile of your target prospect, then develop an outreach strategy tailored to those groups?

Note: Many consultants advise looking at various wealth indicators to determine which individuals have the most financial capacity to give. This approach is known as "wealth screening," or limiting your search to those employed within legal, healthcare, real estate, or other high-income industries.

But keep in mind that major donors aren’t the only ones with the giving potential to support your cause. After all, the average online donation to charity is $128 — meaning small- and mid-level donors can make a big impact for your organization. Major gift prospects are constantly solicited for donations, and there's no guarantee they'll align with your cause. Instead, look at a variety of factors — not just wealth markers — when building your prospect list.

3. Write a potential donor list 📒

With your research done, put together a list of potential donor prospects. For example, if you're a high school soccer team, include parents, grandparents, or friends of the players. If you're a local food bank, make a list of people within a two-mile radius of your location who may drive past your front doors each morning, or friends, neighbors, and relatives of your volunteers.

When writing your list, separate low-hanging fruit (such as prospects you know personally or have a shared connection with on LinkedIn) from those with whom you don't share an affiliation. Reach out to those within your shared connections group first to quickly reach your fundraising goal.

4. Ask for referrals 👯

Each year, poll your current donors and most loyal volunteers, asking for donor referrals. Do they know people in their network who might connect with your cause?

Your current supporter base and volunteer group share a passion for your organization. In all likelihood, they know people who share your same core values and mission, and would be happy to donate.

5. Track your progress 📌

Donor solicitation requires multiple team members and communication channels. To track your progress and avoid asking the same person twice for donations, log all data within a donor database.

A donor database is a CRM system where donor data and contact information is stored. Integrate your CRM system with your email and fundraising platform to automatically track all communication with prospects.

6. Don't forget to follow up 📲

When conducting prospect outreach, remember to follow up. Sending a follow-up call or email is not annoying or rude (if done right). People are busy, and they might not have noticed, read, or had time to respond to your first touchpoint.

Tools to make your prospect outreach a success

Barney Stinson highest of fives GIF

Once a connection is made, make it as easy as possible for the new donor to research, understand, and ultimately give to your organization. Here are several tools to convert potential donors to a long-standing relationship.

1. Create a beautiful landing page 🎉

To attract new support, create a beautifully branded landing page to rally your donor base. Include photos, videos, and GIFs to educate your prospective donors on your cause. In addition, create an active supporter feed where new prospects can engage with board members, current donors, and volunteers.

To make your landing page easily accessible, consider embedding your fundraising platform directly into your current website.

2. Make it easy to donate 💸

One of the best ways to meet your fundraising goal is to accept a variety of payment methods. Use a fundraising platform that enables supporters to give however they wish, whether it be through Venmo, PayPal, ACH, texting their donation, or even by mailing a check.

3. Invite your friends 👋

Transform your staff, volunteers, and loyal donors into your own outreach team. Through one-click social sharing, custom branded emails, and text message invites, you make it easy to expand your current network.

4. Turn a one-time donation into a lasting relationship

Finally, try to transform one-time gifts into recurring donations. Research shows that donors who receive a thank-you note within 48 hours are four times more likely to make a second gift. Use automated thank-you messages to thank new donors as quickly as possible.

Lastly, make it easy for supporters to make monthly, quarterly, or annually recurring donations toward your cause.

Use Givebutter to attract new donors

Donor prospecting is an outreach strategy where you try to broaden your supporter base.

Attracting new donors can boost your fundraising efforts and help you reach your goals.

To attract new supporters, leverage both your marketing and business development teams to create new connections. Take advantage of a number of communication methods, including canvassing, email campaigns, social posts, and direct phone calls.

To increase your chance of converting prospects to loyal supporters, use Givebutter for your next campaign. Givebutter offers 70+ features including beautifully branded pages, automated thank-yous, limitless giving options, and recurring donations to rally your supporters.

Ready to launch your next campaign? Sign up for your free Givebutter account to get started.

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