Donor acquisition is one of the most important functions of nonprofit fundraising. Your donors make the good work you do possible. Without a regular and tactical practice of enlisting new donors , both socially and financially, your organization would be challenged to stay afloat.
It goes without saying that stewarding your current donor base is essential—they’re the ones who’ve continued to champion your cause and are more likely to give consistently, and grow their gifts, over time.
Conversely, compelling new donors to give is more difficult than maintaining a relationship with a regular donor. However, it’s important to not leave donor acquisition efforts for hard times. Your donor base is constantly changing, and your approach to acquiring new donors should be constant as well.
Connecting with Out of State Donors
A significant component of attracting new donors, and maintaining current donors for that matter, is conveying a clear value proposition that you deliver. What ties them to your cause? Your organization? Your purpose? How you talk to donors depends largely upon what messages they are receptive to.
For nonprofits that serve a local community or an entire state, it’s likely that the bulk of your donors live locally. However, over time your donor base will change as people change employment, retire, and transition to out of state residence, either full-time or seasonally.
You may currently have or want to reach out to donors who you determine have ties to your service area. A good place to start is with former residents and also part-time residents who regularly visit your area but live elsewhere seasonally.
It’s easier to determine motivation for contributors who live near your organization. You may see them at events, and their contribution could be a natural desire to create a better community where they will live and work.
But out of state donors can be more elusive. And the message you use to reach them will probably need to be different than those of local constituents. Determining their connection to your organization or location is a critical piece of that message.
To acquire these non or semi-local donors, you need to dig a little deeper to try to make a connection with them due to their removed primary residence. Why have they decided to pay additional property taxes to maintain a presence in your locale? An important set of data for acquiring donors near and far gets personal. Ask questions such as:
- What social values are important to you?
- Why do you give?
- What does it mean to you to contribute to your community?
- What is unique or memorable about the community you once resided in before moving?
- What location, community, financial, family or other qualities influence your decision to have a second home here?
- What does “making a positive difference” mean to you?
These kinds of questions can be asked of both current and potential donors to better understand your out of state donor base and where you fit into their lives. You may not ask these questions in such a direct manner. But you’ll want to get people thinking about these topics in a way that initiates a response with the information you’re looking for.
Acquiring Donors with Direct Mail
So how do you do this? As with any campaign, you first need to know what you want to achieve. Evaluate past data to set clear, specific goals.
Do you want to acquire a specific number of new donors? Do you want to increase donor acquisition by a percentage from year to year? Even if you’re seeing positive trends regarding new donors, it’s important to keep improving. When you have a goal in mind for a campaign, it’s easier to judge whether the campaign was effective. Goals also allow you to understand how your data is changing over time.
Whether you’re looking to acquire new donors or bring lapsed donors back into the fold, the easiest way to determine what matters to them is to simply ask. While much of your fundraising content may focus on asking for a financial gift, you could approach this kind of campaign without addressing that angle.
Instead, use direct mail as the basis for an introduction or reintroduction to the potential donor. If you can, acknowledge their connection to you and to your region. Maybe they own property here, or have business and investments tied to the region. Also speak to your role. What do you do for your community?
Use that connection to promote a compelling reason/purpose for these individuals to give. Develop a short series of questions that will help you to better understand what matters to these potential donors and what your organization means to them. A best practice with this kind of campaign is to create a landing page on your website tied to the direct mail piece, where recipients can go to submit their responses.
You can build upon this initial mailing with subsequent mailings to engage the donor, build awareness and trust, and make the ask for financial contribution.
Building a list of potential donors and effectively reaching them with a compelling campaign takes time. Donors will interact with you multiple times before making a gift. It’s important to keep up a consistent strategy, so that your message is sure to be heard.
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