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strategies for nonprofits

Acquiring New Supporters: 9 Strategies for Nonprofits

While we wish that nonprofits could retain every donor they come across, that’s just not feasible. There are all sorts of reasons for donor attrition. This is especially true now as many donors experience financial hardships in a troubled economy.

Therefore, nonprofits need to find the perfect balance between retention strategies and acquisition strategies. Your nonprofit should be focusing on both in order to grow your fundraising revenue.

The first thing your nonprofit needs to do is to make sure you have the systems in place to collect and manage data from the different acquisition strategies you put into action. Then, when you acquire your donors, you have the tools you need to retain them.

But what are these acquisition strategies? We’ve put together some of our favorite strategies below:

  1. Local Events
  2. Online Petitions
  3. Peer-to-Peer Fundraising
  4. Crowdfunding
  5. Website Optimization
  6. Social Media
  7. Effective Email Outreach
  8. Prospect Research
  9. Partnerships

In order to effectively acquire new donors, you’ll need the best fundraising tools, donor management software, and marketing platforms. Let’s explore how these tools and an effective strategy will help your acquisition strategies.

1. Local Events

One of the best ways to encourage new audiences to become nonprofit supporters is to host a nonprofit event. Events are an incredible way to bring people together and introduce new community members to your mission.

While we can’t hold local events right now due to social distancing guidelines, your organization may consider hosting virtual events instead. This allows your supporters to “gather” online, interact with each other, and stay connected with one another as well as your mission.

Most nonprofits do a great job promoting their events to their existing nonprofit supporters. However, to make sure your event is a success and attracts new supporters, you’ll need to promote it in new and innovative ways. We recommend:

  • Choosing an easy-to-use ticketing system: When it’s easy to sign up for your event, you’ll find that you have a lower customer abandonment rate. Make sure you can customize your event page with your images and organization’s logo.
  • Using social media event discounts: Run a social media campaign to gain more traction for your event. Then, offer a discounted rate for those who found or shared your event on social media. This encourages people to get the word out to the entire community rather than centralizing around current supporters.
  • Using old-fashioned promotion strategies: Does your community have a local coffee shop where people tend to congregate? What about a bar? A dedicated community event website? These community favorite locations are a great place to (with permission) post an old-fashioned flyer about your upcoming event.

Be sure to ask for email addresses or other contact information from the community members who sign up to attend your event. This way, you can reach out to them for future engagement and retain their support for the long-term.

2. Online Petitions

Often, nonprofits have the bad habit of treating their supporters like ATMs. There are some potential supporters who want to show their involvement with your organization, but don’t want to give financially yet.

Creating a petition online is a great way to capture the attention of this audience. Salsa’s nonprofit advocacy example guide explains that online petitions offer advantages such as:

  • You can engage supporters without asking for money: Instead of treating your supporters like ATMs or failing to capture someone’s attention because of a funding request, petitions provide a free opportunity for people to show they support your mission.
  • Your nonprofit’s voice is unified and strengthened: Although collecting signatures is fast and free for supporters, it still drives value for your mission! Your nonprofit’s voice is strengthened and unified as more and more people sign the petition.
  • Signing a petition is time-efficient for your supporters: It’s a quick and easy way for them to show their support. Someone who has just heard about your organization can simply sign the petition to show that they care about your cause, then go about their day-to-day life.

Make sure to use an advocacy software solution that allows your organization to capture the contact information of those who sign your petition. You can save this information to your nonprofit CRM and further engage these supporters later as well.

3. Peer-to-Peer Fundraising

Peer-to-peer fundraising is a great way to engage your current supporters, reach new audiences, and raise money for your nonprofit all at the same time. Here’s how it works:

  • First, create a core fundraising page with your overall fundraising goal.
  • Encourage supporters to make their own personal fundraising pages customized to explain their connection with your nonprofit.
  • Ask these volunteer fundraisers to share their pages over email, social media, and other online platforms.
  • Finally, their friends and family will give to the campaign in support of the individual.

Peer-to-peer fundraising uses social proof to engage those who have just one degree of separation from your nonprofit.

This social proof is a great tool to expand your donor network. 55% of first-time donors reported they gave because they wanted to support their friend in a campaign.

Right now, many nonprofits are taking advantage of the digital nature of peer-to-peer fundraising in order to raise money for #GivingTuesdayNow in support of COVID-19 relief operations.

4. Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding spreads the word about your organization in a similar manner to peer-to-peer fundraising. However, it gives your organization more control over the promotion of the campaign.

Instead of asking supporters to raise money on behalf of your organization, your organization promotes your fundraising page on social media and email platforms, then supporters give. You should also encourage supporters to share the fundraising page with their friends and family as additional campaign promotion.

Here are some tips to maximize your crowdfunding campaign:

  • Offer incentives to give: Little trinkets like a T-shirt, button, or badge incentivize more people to give and lead to a more successful campaign with a wider reach.
  • Post a fundraising thermometer: Fundraising thermometers keep supporters updated on your progress and allow for individuals to see the direct impact they have toward your campaign goal.
  • Use effective imagery to best help supporters visualize the mission or project you’re fundraising for. For instance, an image of your constituents can drive engagement for the campaign.

When you use crowdfunding effectively, your nonprofit will raise money from both current supporters and new audiences. This is a great tool for attracting new supporters because it’s a low-stakes campaign. You don’t expect major gifts to be given in a crowdfunding campaign.

5. Website Optimization

Optimizing your website ensures that those interested in your campaign can easily learn more about your campaign and the opportunities you offer.

Consider the following example: Your nonprofit is promoting your upcoming charity food truck festival. You’ve finalized all the details and left event flyers in the favorite local coffee shop. An interested community member picks up the flyer and wants to see what your organization is all about. But when they go to your website, they can’t find your “about us” page to learn more about your nonprofit’s mission. They then close the window and forget about the event.

This is why it’s so important to make sure your website is well organized and optimized so new supporters can find what they’re looking for. Consider the following strategies:

  • Make sure your organization’s mission is front and center on the website.
  • Use the navigation to connect potential supporters to your online event pages.
  • Ensure the website is mobile-responsive so supporters can use their phones for nonprofit research.
  • Implement SEO best practices so your nonprofit can be found through search engines.

Given the difficult circumstances today, your organization may consider adding a dedicated COVID-19 resources page for your website. This should dive into your nonprofit’s response to the pandemic, guidelines you’re adhering to, and what you’re doing to help.

An easy-to-use website is a cornerstone of online engagement, especially for new supporters. This is where they learn about your organization and decide whether or not they want to engage further with your mission. Therefore, make sure yours is easy to navigate and effective.

6. Social Media

We’ve discussed briefly about marketing events and campaign opportunities through social media. However, your presence on these platforms should run deeper than simply promoting other opportunities.

Your social media presence should be engaging and informing so new supporters can learn more about your nonprofit. Similar to your website, new prospective donors and supporters may use your social media platforms to research your nonprofit and decide whether or not you’re deserving of their support.

When it comes to managing your social media platforms, your organization should make sure to:

  • Use images that represent your organization: Include images of your staff members, volunteers, and constituents on your social media account so supporters can see those who work closest to your nonprofit.
  • Include a link to your website: Make sure social media visitors can learn more easily by clicking on a link that will direct them immediately to your website.
  • Post regularly: Staying active on social media shows your supporters that you’re actively engaging with your audience and want to reach people on that platform.
  • Use hashtags effectively: Using hashtags is a great way to reach new people online. Use existing hashtags to find new audiences and create your own for supporters to use at your events and activities!

Social media is a powerful tool in today’s world. Make sure you’re using it to post regularly and to promote your latest events, advocacy campaigns, fundraising opportunities, and more.

7. Effective Email Outreach

Email outreach is a standard tool for nonprofits to use to reach new audiences. When you collect signatures from your petition or donations in your crowdfunding campaign, you’ll want to save their contact information for the future. Specifically, hold onto the supporter’s email address.

That’s because a new supporter’s email address is incredibly valuable contact information. It allows your organization to further engage these supporters in the future.

There are some opportunities that you can include directly on your website to collect these emails as well. For instance, you might offer opportunities that supporters can sign up for like:

  • Blog subscription
  • Nonprofit newsletters
  • Informational sheet downloads

Once people enter their emails to receive this information, make sure you upload this data into your nonprofit CRM. From there, you can add information to the CRM as you learn more about those supporters.

For instance, save data about your donors’ pet names, birthdays, event attendance history, and volunteer history. This guide defines more useful information you can save to your database.

8. Prospect Research

Prospect research is another tool that can help you learn more about your supporters and get in touch with valuable prospects. Prospect research tools help you learn information about individuals that indicate their potential for giving to your organization.

DonorSeach’s article analyzing affinity to give explains that you should take into consideration an individual’s:

  • Past charitable history: If they’ve given to similar organizations in the past, they may be more likely to give to your nonprofit.
  • Political giving: Those who give to political campaigns are more likely to also contribute to nonprofit organizations if they feel compelled.
  • Involvement in other organizations: If an individual has served on the board for a similar organization or frequently volunteers with one, they’re likely to be interested in helping your organization as well.

These indicators show how potentially invested a supporter will be in your organization’s mission based on their history. The greater the affinity to give for an individual, the more likely they are to say “yes” to supporting your organization if you reach out to them.

9. Partnerships

Establishing partnerships with other organizations is a great way to get the word out about your opportunities for engagement. You may decide to partner with another nonprofit or with a local business in order to spread the word about your organization’s engagement opportunities.

Your partnership may look something like the below examples:

  • A local business may sponsor your upcoming event. In this situation, you may provide free advertising to the business at the event in exchange for the funding that makes the event possible.
  • If another nonprofit organization in the area has a similar mission to yours, you might consider collaborating on a nonprofit fundraising campaign. Host an event together or work together to complete a project that will benefit you both.
  • Restaurant nights are a great example of how you can partner with a for-profit in the area and split the profits. You encourage supporters to go to a restaurant on a certain day and the restaurant agrees to contribute a portion of the profits to your organization.

Partnerships are great opportunities for outreach because they allow your nonprofit to tap into the partner’s audience as prospective supporters.

When you’re looking for partnerships, check out the connections you already have existing in your CRM. For example, if a supporter owns a small business in the area, they may be a good person to reach out to for a partnership.

While we wish we could achieve a 100% donor retention rate, the truth is that this is not a sustainable goal. Instead, we need to focus on striking the balance between retention and acquisition.

With these strategies in your back pocket, your nonprofit should have no problem acquiring new supporters. Keep up these efforts, even during difficult times.

The next step? Establish relationships with these new supporters and encourage them to stick around to contribute to your organization long-term as retained donors.

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About the Author

Gerard Tonti is the Senior Creative Developer at Salsa Labs, the premier fundraising software company for growth-focused nonprofits.

Gerard’s marketing focus on content creation, conversion optimization and modern marketing technology helps him coach nonprofit development teams on digital fundraising best practices.