Five Easy Ways to Grow Your Donor Base

Special to the Philanthropy Journal

By Karrie Wozniak

Americans like to give to charity. In fact, more than $390 billion was donated to causes in 2016 alone, according to GivingUSA. So, it may be surprising to learn that nonprofits lose about half their existing donors every year.

Competition for donors can be fierce. With more than 1.5 million nonprofits registered in the United States, nonprofits must work hard to retain current donors while simultaneously engaging new potential donors in order to survive.

Despite these daunting numbers, growing your donor base doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are five easy ways to start engaging with more donors:

Understand your donors. Having a good understanding of who your donors are and what motivates them is a crucial first step in retaining and building a donor base. This can be done by creating donor personas that detail the socioeconomics and demographics of donor personalities, as well as understanding the programs they engage with (galas, walks/runs/bikes, social fundraising), how they like to give (method of giving, size of donation, giving channel) and where they get their information (social media, email, traditional newsletters, etc.). Organizations should map out their programs and then align the donor personas to make sure they have the offerings and engagement channels to support each donor type.

Post daily on social media. Maintaining an active online social presence is one of the most efficient ways to expand your reach to new and existing donors. This is especially true when trying to reach millennials. Make it a goal to update social media channels daily. This doesn’t mean that original content is needed for each post. Reposting and retweeting relevant content is an efficient and effective way to stay in front of donors. Compelling photos and graphics can be especially impactful, as can posts that humanize your volunteers and staff. Photos of engaged volunteers in action help tell the story and are very likely to be shared.

Give supporters something of value. Your supporters give generously to your organization, so it’s a good idea to give something back. For example, Autism Speaks, an organization dedicated to promoting solutions, support and advocacy for individuals with autism and their families, emails supporters helpful tips and provides best practices for caretakers of individuals with autism. Other items that supporters value include specific information on how donations impact a life, plans for new projects, upcoming volunteer opportunities and community events. Videos with this information are great tools to engage donor and videos can be used across channels – embedded in email, on social, on website.

Encourage and empower enthusiasm. As enthusiasm grows for your cause, empower individuals, supporters, families and businesses to branch out with their own events. Support these grass roots events with inexpensive and easy to use Do It Yourself fundraising software to manage events, including ticketing, mobile bidding, online donations allowing them to them to fundraise “their way” with their own family, colleagues & social networks. EB Research Partnership, a nonprofit that funds research to treat and cure Epidermolysis Bullosa, was able to expand its initial ACTion for Jackson event in New York to several other major cities without adding staff by training local organizers and outfitting them with a DIY fundraising platform.

Turn donors into walking billboards. People like to wear items that promote causes they support. Unique, well-designed t-shirts, hats and other merchandise will appeal to donors and will be seen by others. Merchandise can be used to outfit event participants, can be offered as a gift for a donation, and can be sold through your website or at merchandise tables at your events. Feature people wearing your “merch” on social media and encourage supporters to send selfies when they are wearing your apparel.

Expand giving through social fundraising. Many nonprofits rely on a major event to raise annual funds. Expand this event “beyond the ballroom” to reach others in the community. Social fundraising is a great way to do this. Also called peer-to-peer (P2P), social fundraising gives supporters the tools they need to promote their involvement with your cause and tap friends to also get involved. Dream on 3, a Charlotte, NC-based dream-granting organization, supercharged its annual gala by including social fundraising and partnering with seven well-respected local businesses to help raise funds. A team from each company secured silent auction donations from the community and promoted item links to their social networks once the auction was launched. This gave the organization a larger reach, competition for bidding among the teams and also more strongly connected the corporate teams to the cause. Dream on 3 was able to increase donations by a whopping 784 percent.

It doesn’t take fancy or expensive plans to grow the reach of your organization. The best way to get started is by looking at your current efforts through the lens of reaching new supporters. Look for new ways to leverage current supporters to promote your cause, and use social fundraising tools to amplify your efforts.


Karrie Wozniak is vice president of marketing at OneCause, a cloud-based mobile fundraising software company.

2 responses on “Five Easy Ways to Grow Your Donor Base

  1. Philanthropy Fundraising says:

    Using social fundraising tools is a great way to to build awareness, raise funds and spark lasting change on a significant scale.

    Philanthropy Fundraising

  2. Linda M George says:

    The INNER HEART FOUNDATION is positively and permanently transforming the paradigm of CARE in America and around the world.
    We are measurably impacting the lives of those with debilitating neurological challenges, and their families.

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