Three tips to hone your donor prospecting skills

Photo of David Cobb

By David Cobb
Senior Vice President of Campaigns, and Senior Consultant

Whether your nonprofit has a built-in donor base – such as a hospital with grateful former patients and their loved ones, or a school with loyal alumni – or your organization relies on the goodwill and affinity of people in the community, there’s always work to be done when it comes to growing your supporter base and ensuring long-term sustainability.

The real sweet spot is identifying donors with interest and appreciation for the work your organization does and who also have significant ability to give. This is where “quality over quantity” comes into play; I would argue the number of donors in your database is less important than the donors’ giving capacity and feeling toward your nonprofit.

I recently had a chance to speak with members of the Association of Fundraising Professionals – Bluegrass Chapter in Lexington about this very topic. I’m sharing some brief thoughts around three main phases of donor acquisition here, but I’d be happy to speak in more detail to your nonprofit or group – reach out anytime!

Step 1: Take a look inside. First, you have to get really honest about where you are as an organization. Do your development and leadership teams have the right people and enough capacity to make a concerted effort in donor prospecting and acquisition? What do you have, what do you NOT have, and what do you need? What are your strengths and gaps? How complete and current is your existing donor data? Consider conducting a mini SWOT analysis.

Step 2: Get strategic and commit. Once you’ve determined your internal capabilities, it’s time to create a real plan, focus on one area, keep it simple, and run the play completely. Trust the process! Don’t let early setbacks or slow progress discourage or distract you.

Step 3: Get by with a little help from your friends. Consider starting with active donors, volunteers, and board members. Ask them to connect you with people who might be interested in getting to know your organization – and, even better, engage them in the process. They will usually have a good idea whether someone is primed to become a donor. Additionally, look at fellow nonprofits’ donor walls, newsletters or annual reports, event participants, board members, and others who engage with those organizations. Are there potential leads there? And don’t overlook your social media followers – that’s usually a sizable group that could be ripe for conversion from love to money.

Bottom line: Regardless of whether you have built-in “friends” of your organization, you always need to be looking for ways to welcome more potential donors into the fold.

Interested in learning more? Contact me!