Nonprofit Donor Acquisition: Gaining donors and dollars in 4 Steps


By Robyn Furness-Fallin and Nathan Sprenger

Dollars and Donors – Donors and Dollars. 

When you look at fundraising reports, what do you look at first? The dollars or the donors?

Any giving dashboard report should reference both the amount of dollars raised and the number of donors who gave.

Many people, including our nonprofit boards, tend to focus on the dollars, but data tells us that we should be paying equal attention to the number of donors. Growth in one does not always translate to growth on both sides of the equation. And a healthy and sustainable development program needs both.

According to new data from Fundraising Effectiveness Project, giving was up 4.7% in the first three quarters of 2022, but the number of individual donors contributing was down 7.1% compared with 2021. 

This continues the trend of consistent decline in giving participation – one that indicates a drop of at least 17 percentage points since the year 2000.

Using these data points, a nonprofit can develop a plan and implement strategies and tools to close a gap and elevate overall fundraising.

Here’s an example of how data can help lead to a plan. This data reflects Donor Acquisition from one organization as seen on its Fundraising Fitness Test.*

Donor Acquisition Table Example*
  Total Acquired    Under $100 $100-$249 $250-$999 $1,000-$4,999 $5,000+
New Donors 309 99 116 69 17 8
New Donor Acquisition Rate 11% 22% 9% 13% 6% 7%

Best practice benchmarks indicate that a donor roster should show a mix of 20% New Donors, 50% Retained Donors, 20% Upgraded Donors and 10% in the “Other” category (gave the same or downgraded).

Using those benchmarks, we see this sample organization has an 11% New Donor Acquisition rate which is well below the 20% benchmark. But, using the rest of the data, we see that the tactics being used to bring in new donors giving $100 or less seem to be working fine. The biggest gaps are in the categories of $100-$249 and $1000+.

Here are a few options for stopping the decline and elevating the number of donors.

1. Make it Personal

Take a look at the 116 donors acquired in the $100-$249 category. Look at:

  • how they made their gift (online, direct mail, a Giving Day, etc.?)
  • did they give to a specific appeal (Send A Kid To Camp, Year-end, etc?)
  • have they been a part of your organization before the gift was made? (Attended, volunteered, joined, etc.)

Knowing a bit more about them will help you reach others “like them” in the upcoming year.

2. Set a Goal

What number of new donors will be needed to raise the acquisition rate?

3. Pick Your Channels

Direct mail, digital engagement using social media, peer-to-peer campaigns (crowdfunding), a Giving Day, phone solicitation, email and events are all tools you can use. Based on what you learned about your group after Step 1, select up to three tactics you can implement to reach more new donors this year.

4. Look at Your Online Giving Page

If you can accomplish one thing first to reverse donor decline, having a thoughtful and clear online presence that focuses on creating a positive donor giving experience will be the most effective way to boost your donor acquisition efforts.

Donor numbers have been declining for two decades now. Reversing that for your organization will take some time. Within an uncertain economy, you can use data to help you focus and change the direction for at least one category. And with each change you make, you can impact your fundraising now and potentially for the long term. Every donor you acquire this year can help plug a hole in your pipeline and set your Donor and Dollar numbers up for continued growth.

* At DBD Group, we value the Fundraising Effectiveness Project and its primary tool, the Fundraising Fitness Test (FFT), as a respected resource that helps organizations objectively see the gaps in their overall development program.

11-2This Month's Focus

We can all agree that it's important to stay sharp. This means committing to lifelong learning as nonprofit leaders and staff. As the world changes there are new needs and new solutions to be discovered. This month we will share lessons and resources to keep us all on track as a part of our Never Stop Learning theme.



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