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How To Attract New Potential Donors With 3 Questions And A 6-Step Process

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Consistently attracting new potential donors is vital for you to expand your mission and, more importantly, to have the funding needed to make it through unexpected times.

Unfortunately, if you can’t have in-person events or if you don’t have a big marketing budget, finding new donors can be difficult. 

This is why a fundamental shift in your approach to marketing, to fundraising, and even to your mission is needed. When marketing can align your mission and fundraising efforts, fundraising becomes less stressful and overwhelming. At the same time, marketing becomes exciting when it can fit in to and even expand your nonprofit’s mission.

But how can it do this?

Understanding and Meeting Donor Needs

Here are three questions whose answers will give you guidance on how to start serving donors.

Question 1: What are our donors’ needs?

If you want to serve donors, you need to know their needs. To learn donors’ needs, you need to understand them as a whole.

A helpful concept you can use here is the donor persona: a representation of your ideal donors, based on insights you can gather from actual donors and from market research. 

Characteristics of a donor persona include: 

  • demographics
  • online platforms they use
  • interests
  • needs 
  • behaviors

To get a better picture of who your donors are and how you can help them, talk to your development team (anyone on the front lines), your donors, and use data tools that provide donor profiles.

Question 2: What is your core belief and expertise?

Knowing your core belief is different from fulfilling your mission, and the distinction is important.

If two nonprofits have the same mission but different underlying core beliefs, how they fulfill their mission will look very different. See the table below and compare the differing core beliefs of the two fictional organizations and how that leads to very different methods to fulfilling their mission.

Same mission, two different core beliefs, two different approaches to fulfillment:

Organization A Organization B
Overall mission provide clean water by building wells provide clean water by building wells
Core belief saving lives is the highest goal: get people access to clean water quickly long-term community change is the highest goal: people must be equipped to help themselves
How the mission is fulfilled raise money as quickly as possible to build more wells partner with people in their own communities to help them build and maintain their wells

You can see why considering your core belief is important at this stage. The next thing to consider is your organization’s expertise (skills, knowledge, strengths, history, etc.). What do you use and have at your disposal to fulfill your mission?

Together, your core belief and expertise will enable you to narrow down donor problems you can solve. These will be problems that will be the same or similar to the ones you address through your mission!

Question 3: Where does our belief and expertise overlap with our donor’s needs?

This diagram illustrates the important area to identify in this last part of your meeting: Where do your potential donor’s needs align with your areas of expertise?

Once you’ve identified an area (or areas) of need for potential donors and where you have the experience, skills, or expertise to help them, you can start creating a system to consistently attract them.

A 6-step process to consistently attract new potential donors

Steps 1 and 2: Validate and Create

In these first two steps, you need to plan and validate the right resource you’ll create that will serve and be seen as helpful to potential donors.

Validating proposed resources by asking your audience to vote on the idea that has the most (perceived) value will ensure you create something that potential donors will appreciate.

The beauty of creating a digital resource like an eBook, video, or online course is that you create it once and use it over and over again. It doesn’t have to take away valuable resources from your team in fulfilling your mission, fundraising, etc.

In the full guide I link to at the end of this post, you can find more than 20 ideas (from seven different nonprofit sectors) of resources to get ideas flowing. 

Here are some examples:

  • A quiz to help your family pick the right kind of pet for you (Animal Shelter)
  • An eBook about how to help a loved one with a disease (Human Services)
  • 5 easy ways to reduce electricity use and save on your bill (Environment)

Step 3: Offer and Thank

Once you’ve created your resource, you need to offer it on a page that connects with the visitor’s issue, introduces the resource, and leads them to subscribe via email to get it. 

Your landing page should:

  • Communicate understanding about the problem your visitors have
  • Show how your resource can help them solve the problem 
  • Provide a simple way for them to get it if they subscribe (opt-in form)

After completing the form, your new subscribers should be sent to a Thank You page. The importance of this page cannot be overstated! 

There are three main goals to accomplish on this page are:

  • Affirm and confirm: In one or two sentences, affirm the visitor’s choice and let them know they don’t have to do anything further to receive your promised resource. Ex: “It’s on it’s way to your inbox!”
  • Transition: In one sentence, transition from thanking the visitor to inviting them to take the next step. Use a sentence like this: “Before you go, open the eBook. We’d like to share something with you…”
  • Invite: Let the visitor know the resource was made possible by donors, and that, in fact, your entire nonprofit’s mission is made possible by donors. Invite them to help you get this resource out to more people and give a few suggested donation options (with an embedded donation form right on the same page). 

Using this format will enable you to immediately convert brand new visitors into first-time donors.

Step 5: Welcome and Promote

Once someone has become a new subscriber, you’ve hit your first goal. The reason this is significant is because you own your email list (whereas, for example, you do not own your social media channel or own the right to reach your followers there). There’s also the fact that email is a powerful and cost-effective way to build relationships with donors.

Use a Welcome Series—an automated series of 5-7 emails—to introduce your organization while continuing to serve these new subscribers and invite them to take a next step.

Finally, when you’ve planned and created the steps that new potential donors will take to subscribe, get your resource, and grow in relationship with you, you need to put the resource in front of new people.

There are many strategies for promoting your resource. Here are just a few of them:

  • Google (Grant ads, paid ads, SEO)
  • Social media (organic posts, ads)
  • Partnerships
  • Cold email or direct email
  • Virtual events

Of note: Google Ad Grants is a great program to get your resource in front of new people. This is because there is both no cost to the ads and you already have an idea of potential demand by researching how many people are searching Google for issues related to what your resource addresses.

If you’re curious about Ad Grants, take this quiz to see if it’s a good fit for your organization.

Regardless of how exactly you go about serving donors, whether you use this process or something else, the heart of this approach is to expand your nonprofit’s mission by serving people. In doing this, you will naturally attract new people, some of whom will donate because they appreciate how you’ve helped them and want to pay it forward so you can reach others.

In fundraising and marketing, we always talk about the importance of sharing stories about your mission with donors. 

Just think how much more powerful will it be if your donors have experienced this story personally, such that the story of your mission has also become their own?

You can learn more about this topic in this detailed eBook on how to attract and serve donors. 

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