How to Grow Your Individual Donor List

Behind every great nonprofit is a great group of people who make it all happen. For all the grants you apply for and donations you receive, there’s a single contributor who invested their own time and money into funding your mission. At the root of your nonprofit is achieving that mission, and loyal donors who contribute major gifts are there to help you.
We’ve written before about the different options you can explore to fund your nonprofit and how silly it is to rely solely on grants. Of these options, your most reliable and most important is to continue building a donor base.
Here are some tips on how to grow your individual donor list so that you’re not just leaning on outside foundations or banks.

Milk what you’ve got

Amy Eisenstein suggests that when creating a “prospect” list of those you feel would be interested in donating to your cause, start with board members and staff who already understand what you’re doing and why you do it. Reach out to them and remind them why they work with you. If your organization is able to stay afloat financially, not only is it furthering your mission, but it’s job security for them too.
Don’t be afraid to ask friends and family who know how near and dear the cause is to your heart. These people see the everyday ins and outs of what goes into running a nonprofit and understand how even the smallest contribution can go a long way.
You likely already have a list of donors, be it big or small. Planning campaigns and events for continued engagement, appreciation and communication will help solidify advocates and keep them around for the long-haul.

Recruit new donors

The key to capturing new donors is getting them to understand your mission. Often times meeting with them in-person is a great way to do this—but not always! The more they get to know the people behind the organization, the more likely they are to engage. Before sitting down with a potential donor, do some extra research to find out what they care about and what problems they are passionate about solving. See what you have in common with them, and how you can connect to them. From there, you can make the ask.
Here are a few ways to recruit new donors:

  • Plan a social media campaign (we recommend starting with Facebook) to attract more small to medium-sized donations—keep track of those who donate!
  • Strategize an exciting (and on-mission) fundraising event to gain one-off donations of all sizes. This also adds the fundraising potential of ticket sales, sponsorships and establishing a strong public presence.
  • Develop a storytelling donor newsletter, be it a print or digital publication, showing the impact of the work you do to target donors.

Stay engaged

Both you and your contributors reap the benefits of working together. When a new donation is made, you’re closer to achieving your mission and they feel good about being part of the process. And the best way to keep a donor around is to make them feel important and keep them in the loop on what you’re able to accomplish with their help.
Engage with them on a regular basis (without being annoying!) and thank them for what they do. Make sure to do so on a personal level. Yes, that means you should be segmenting your list and strategizing your messaging to be specifically targeted for each group! When a contributor feels appreciated and like they’re making a difference, they’re more likely to come back and contribute again.

grow donor list
Amanda Cummins Photo

Hana Muslic

Hana is a recent graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, putting her journalism degree to use by writing articles for the Hub’s national publications and overseeing the national social media accounts. Hana is dedicated to the nonprofit sector and giving back to the community that has given so much to her. If you need some last minute plans, she will most likely join you in impulsively buying concert tickets right before the show.

January 23, 2018

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