Your Guide to Donor Acquisition: Key Strategies for Finding and Retaining Donors

It’s no secret that donors are the heartbeat of any nonprofit. From spreading awareness for continued growth or re-engaging those who have lapsed, your donor acquisition strategy boosts your nonprofit’s health.

With so many key fundraising initiatives at the top of your to-do list, creating and refining your donor acquisition strategy could fall by the wayside. Keeping it top of mind throughout the year starts with creating an effective strategy.

Not sure where to start when looking to build or improve your donor acquisition strategy? We’ve got you covered! Learn how to calculate acquisition rate and cost, key strategies for gaining new donors, and actionable tips for retention.

What is Donor Acquisition?

Building an effective fundraising strategy starts with donor acquisition, the process of bringing new or potential donors to your nonprofit via marketing or networking. Your nonprofit can do this in several ways, like leveraging existing donor networks to reach out to an audience you’ve never contacted before.

Acquiring new donors doesn’t happen magically – it requires strategic planning and consistent engagement efforts. As you plan out your campaigns for the year, make donor acquisition a quarterly goal so you can work in tandem with your fundraising goals.

How to Calculate Donor Acquisition Rate

Once you set your donor acquisition goals, track your acquisition rate to ensure you’re on track. Donor acquisition rate is the metric that helps you gauge how effectively your nonprofit is engaging with new supporters and provides insight into what outreach campaigns are most effective.

Donor Acquisition Rate

To calculate your donor acquisition rate, divide the number of new donors by the number of all donors, then multiply by 100.

Consider calculating this rate quarterly or after every campaign to see how well it performed. Your donor acquisition rate can provide key insights into when potential donors are feeling generous, leading you to build stronger campaigns around the times of year when supporters are ready to give.

But your donor acquisition rate isn’t the only metric you should keep a pulse on. Your donor acquisition cost tracks how much your nonprofit spends to acquire a new donor. This calculation considers the cost of marketing or fundraising efforts against the number of acquired donors.

Donor Acquisition Cost

To calculate your donor acquisition cost, divide your total cost by the total number of acquired donors.

Your donor acquisition cost helps you forecast your nonprofit’s budget for the year. You should revisit your budget quarterly to make sure you’re on the right track. If you’re focused on creating a few awareness campaigns, this can be especially helpful.

When formulating your donor acquisition cost, you should consider every expense, such as the salaries of your staff who are working on your marketing efforts.

If the number is low and you’re struggling to bring in new supporters, this is an indication that you should be spending more to reach a larger audience.

By calculating your donor acquisition rate and cost, you can make more informed decisions and understand where to allocate resources based on your goals. Pinpoint which efforts are working, make tweaks to campaigns that show promise, and cut off efforts that may be too costly for you to maintain.

Donor Acquisition Strategies

While goal planning is an important part of the acquisition strategy, nonprofits also leverage other key tactics to bring in new donors. Here are seven to help get you moving in the right direction.

Leverage your data

To acquire new donors, you must first understand your existing donors and why they donate to your cause. Use this information to target prospective donors who share similar characteristics.

Utilize direct mail

Direct mail is a tried-and-true way to engage potential donors. It acts as both a way to introduce a new audience to your mission and educate them about your goals. Make sure that your appeal letter uses compelling copy and storytelling tactics to ignite the desire to give!

Develop email campaigns

Email marketing is a great way to connect with new supporters, but be aware that it can be more vulnerable to poor open rates or potential unsubscribes. To grab your audience’s attention and keep it, enrich your email appeals with engaging subject lines as well as images of your mission in action, testimonials from beneficiaries, and information about upcoming events.

Leverage ambassador networks

People love supporting a cause that’s close to a friend or family member’s heart. Leveraging your ambassador network can help you introduce your mission to potential new supporters and bring in more revenue. Make sure to provide your ambassadors with a strong media kit so they have everything they need to represent your nonprofit well!

Improve storytelling

To help connect your prospects with your mission, tell the story of your nonprofit. This goes beyond simply explaining your mission and values. Make sure to highlight how your donors make a direct impact on your cause or add vivid impact stories from beneficiaries to your marketing collateral.

Promote corporate sponsorships

Corporations are constantly investing in their social responsibility, which makes them the perfect partner for your nonprofit. Through a corporate sponsorship program, you can reach a whole new audience of potential donors and volunteers.

Stay active on social media

Social media is an excellent tool for nonprofits to introduce new donors to their cause in a fun and engaging way. Not only can you share photo proof of the excellent work you are doing in your community, but you can tag relevant accounts that would be interested in spreading your message. Converting your followers to new donors starts through strong engagement.

Feel free to mix and match your donor acquisition strategies to find what works best for your organization. Remember to track how well your efforts are performing and make adjustments based on what resonates with your audience.

Strategies to Retain Your Donors

According to the 2023 Giving Experience Study, 39% of lapsed donors reported donating again once the nonprofit reengaged with them. Constantly evaluate and improve your engagement and re-engagement strategy to maximize retention.

Donor retention measures how many donors gave to your nonprofit and continue to do so.

Donor Retention Rate

To calculate your donor retention rate, divide the number of donors that gave this year by the number of donors that gave last year, and multiply by 100.

Donor retention can also prove to be cost-effective. Consider your donor acquisition cost; usually, it is less expensive to retain a donor than it is to find and convert a new one. Let’s look at five strategies you can implement to keep your donors happy and engaged with your cause.

Offer multiple ways to give

No two donors are alike, especially when it comes to how they give. While 52% of donors donate with credit or debit cards, digital wallet options are increasing in popularity. Find donation software that lets you stay flexible in your payment offerings, including ACH, Apple or Google Pay, and credit/debit.

Personalize your messaging

When donors provide their support, they want to be recognized and shown they are appreciated. Make an effort to thank your donors personally through personalized notes, phone calls, emails, or social media shoutouts. You can remove the burden from your staff and address this at scale through the help of AI.

Engage beyond just donations

Offer multiple ways for your supporters to interact with your mission. Promote upcoming events, volunteer opportunities, free workshops, or data about how you’re tracking toward your fundraising goals. The more your supporters interact with your organization, the stronger the connection they will form.

Leverage self-service donation software

Sometimes donors lapse not because of a lack of desire to give, but because their credit card expired, they moved, or they fell out of connection with the nonprofit. Put the power in your supporters’ hands by using fundraising software that allows donors to adjust the way they give, how often they give, and update their information when needed.

Ask for feedback

Asking your donors for feedback can go a long way toward improving your donor experience. Send out surveys to your new and long-term donors alike to gather their feedback and suggestions. Even if you can implement every idea, you’ll have a stronger understanding of your supporters’ wants and needs to improve future fundraising programming.

Keeping your donors engaged is essential for your nonprofit’s growth. As you plan your donor acquisition strategy, make sure to prioritize donor retention initiatives to keep your donors connected and giving.

Wrapping Up

Donor acquisition and retention are crucial to your nonprofit’s lifecycle. By connecting with potential donors, implementing ways to engage them, and leveraging strategies for long-term retention, you can expand your nonprofit’s impact.

As you navigate this journey, rely on your fundraising software for support every step of the way. From launching peer-to-peer campaigns to creating a smart and accessible donation page, the OneCause Fundraising Platform can help you unlock your donor acquisition potential.

Ready to keep learning? More fundraising resources are just a click away.