Monday, January 24, 2011

Nonprofits and New Blood

To be a great fundraiser you need to be able to tell a great story!  You need to be creative, grateful and interesting.  But to be a great fundraiser you also need someone to market to!  Just as any small business needs a constant stream of new customers, nonprofits need a steady flow of new donors, members, volunteers and advocacy supporters. 

In fundraising, the practice of finding “new blood” is called ACQUISITION. 

Direct mail has long been the staple of the acquisition diet for nonprofits, especially for the big guys.  (It’s why you get all those appeals in the mail from nonprofits you’ve never donated to.)  But for the small guys - with small budgets - direct mail is often out of reach. 

In addition, in case you haven’t heard, direct mail is in trouble. For example, a report from Blackbaud, the Target Analytics 2009 Index of National Fundraising Performance for the Third Quarter, shows direct mail declining rapidly in effectiveness as a way to acquire new donors. According to the report, in the past five years, new donor acquisition from direct mail has declined almost 20 percent!

What’s a nonprofit to do?

If you’re short on cash and worried about the effectiveness of direct mail, online acquisition may be right for your nonprofit.  Here are 6 techniques for “filling your fundraising pipeline” and finding new prospective donors online. 

1. Put a sign up box on the home page and other key pages of your website.  This should be a no-brainer, but from my review of many nonprofit websites, it’s not. 
Give folks an opportunity to give you their contact information in exchange for something – a new piece of research, a great whitepaper, access to your e-newsletter, etc.  The key hear is to make it EASY for folks to sign up.  ONLY require First Name, Last Name and Email Address.  (See above.)  Requiring a prospect’s first name will enable you to personalize your communications to your new recruits. One caveat: If you think you'll do direct mail in the future, require Zip Code as well.  This will enable you to append postal addresses so that you can forward your print communications.

Some nonprofits are bold and actually show an email sign-up before you enter their website.  (Remember Obama for America?)  Sometimes called a “splash page” or an “interstitial,” this pop up box prevents a reader from entering your website until they “give up goods.”  The key here is to enable readers to skip the splash page if they don’t want to complete the form.  Also, be sure to use this tactic conservatively as it can turn some readers off. 

2. Ask people for contact information at your events.  Simply add a column for "Email Address" on your intake form or event collateral.  The key hear is to be clear with folks about what they can expect to receive from you and to honor that promise. 

3. Include an email sign-up box on all of your print materials, including donation appeals, print newsletters and annual reports.  Think about all those catalogues you receive in the mail.  They ALWAYS encourage you to go online and provide information about how and why you should visit their website. 

4. Use your email signature to drive people to your website and encourage them to share their contact information.  Again, entice them with access to great content, a FREE webinar, report, your e-newsletter, etc.  Email signatures are a great, FREE marketing tool!

5. Use advocacy as a tactic to engage new “leads.”  Even if your nonprofit doesn’t pursue advocacy as a program strategy, you can still start a petition or pledge to get people involved with your work.  At Care2, we will host your petition.  You can link to it from your website and use your email newsletter to promote it. Check out the Activist Toolkit on Care2 to get some ideas about how to position your cause and use advocacy to engage more people in your work.

6. Encourage your current supporters to market for you!  As any business knows, the best source of new leads is referrals from existing clients.  Be sure to make it easy for your donors to tell their friends about your work.  Include "Tell-a-Friend" opportunities on your website.  See example above.

In summary, all businesses need to find new customers or die.  It’s no different for nonprofits, whose lifeblood is the constant flow of new donors, advocates, volunteers and members.  There are numerous ways to acquire new prospects to fuel the work you do.  I hope some of these tactics help.



Sue Anne said...


As someone who has done a lot of email marketing in the past, I would encourage people to use a zip code field. Whether its advocacy or an event, having that zip code makes targeting and segmentation *so* much easier.

Also, test your form to see what visitors to your website will tolerate. When I first started working for my previous employer -- a nonprofit -- the form was only collecting email addresses. Everyone had been told that simpler was better and that we would see a significant dropoff if we added more. We decided to add first name / last name and didn't see much of a dropoff at all. I wish we had added zip at the same time. Most forms like these are fairly easy to update. Add the additional fields and track the numbers for a few weeks. If you aren't getting the same amount of email addresses, go back to a more simple form.

Jocelyn said...

Hi Sue Anne,

I think you're right. It makes a lot of sense to include Zip Code as a required field on your email sign up form. The main point is NOT to ask for my first born and make me want to ditch the page vs. share my contact info with you. Would you agree?


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