Tips for Increasing Your Donor Base

Growing your donor list and increasing your fundraising numbers are a must for organizations in every industry. Expanding a donor base may sound like no-brainer, but organizations often overlook the growing pains that come with having more donors and increased fundraising efforts.

I’ve seen a good number of fundraising and donor growth plans fall flat. Many times they are doomed from the start because of poor planning, unrealistic goals, and a failure to understand that the fundraising market can jeopardize a client’s goals from the beginning. There’s some important strategic planning—and soul searching—that needs to happen inside an organization before they reach out to a fundraising company.

You may think your organization is safe or has a good, solid group of donors. Why change anything? If your organization is serious about growing the donor base and investing in fundraising, consider the following before talking to a fundraising company.

If You’re Not Growing, You’re Shrinking

arrowThis may sound so cliché and stereotypical that it seems pointless to mention, but this is often the first hurdle when starting to expand your donors and fundraising. If your donor base and fundraising aren’t always growing, then they are shrinking. Too many organizations are stagnant with their donors because they hit their benches or become “comfortable.”

Don’t ever get comfortable or romanticize a donor base or fundraising amount. If you have a small but responsive donor list, that’s great. But there always needs to be the push for new donors.


One of the main pieces of information that a fundraising company will need to know is how much they want to spend on donor acquisition and fundraising. Unless there’s an unlimited amount of money, not having a budget is a sure-fire way to scuttle an organization’s efforts before they start.

No Follow-Up

Is your organization ready to hit the ground running? Great! Have you considered the logistics of how you’ll track, record, and reach out to all the new donors you will get?

Getting a larger donor list is only one step in the process. Nothing frustrates fundraising companies more than an organization that isn’t ready for their own success. Which leads into the next point. 

Know Where You Are

Do you know the “life cycle” process of acquiring a new donor (what list they are added to, how many times they receive correspondence, etc.)? Can you identify problems in the process?

Do you have processes in place to deal with different types of donors and fundraising efforts? Before you go to someone and say “get me more money and donors,” the organization needs to know where it stands.

It’s incredibly difficult for organizations to audit themselves and bring any problems to the forefront. But doing so will help you further down the road and make interactions with potential customers more successful.

Expand the Mediums

Fundraising and donor acquisition has been regimented to phone banking and emailing in the past. Facebook, Instagram, and Internet radio stations like Pandora are changing how consumers are reached.

You shouldn’t be afraid to use digital mediums to reach out to donors. Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat are fast becoming massive content channels that clients can no longer afford to ignore. A fundraising company might push you to use one of these mediums. Don’t be afraid to try something new.

Costs of Donors

If you can’t answer how much it costs your organization to acquire a new donor, then you have some work to do. The cost of keeping a donor versus how much it takes to get them is a crucial ratio for fundraising. Any half decent fundraising group will want to know how much you’re currently spending. If you don’t have a clear picture of that, then how are you going to show positive growth?

An organization should do some quality research before looking into growing their donor base and fundraising efforts. You should always be expanding your organization with new donor programs, monthly recurring gifts, and even legacy programs.

But before you go get help and acquire more donors, an organization needs to “right their ship” before setting sail. Understanding the processes, logistics, and operations of your current donors and fundraising will set the stage for growth in the future.

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Evan Harris

Evan Harris

Evan Harris is a political consultant and former communications consultant for the California State Legislature. In his free time, Evan loves catching up on political and military history, trail running, and cooking.


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